KABUL -- The World Food Programme (WFP) has been implementing dozens of projects aimed at supporting Afghan women, including one that provided critical agricultural tools to help them feed their families and gain some income.
Some 98% of female heads of household in Afghanistan are currently facing food shortages, according to the WFP.
"Women and girls are extremely vulnerable and disproportionally impacted by violence or the effect of the economic crash," Philippe Kropf, spokesman for the WFP in Afghanistan, told Salaam Times.
"Women's education and livelihood opportunities have diminished, and food insecurity is putting women at disproportionate risk of malnutrition due to their unique nutritional needs during pregnancy, breastfeeding and adolescence," he said.
To help vulnerable Afghan women and girls, the WFP has implemented projects in 27 provinces in support of vulnerable communities, especially women and farmers, Kropf said.
One such project has helped female farmers use their backyard space to grow food -- not only for their household consumption but also as a source of income, he said.
The WFP and an NGO partner, Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Community Development Organisation (SARCDO), "distributed 35 fruit and vegetable solar dryers for 20 women in Laghman province and 15 women in Nangarhar province," said Kropf.
The purpose of the project and others like it is "to provide support to vulnerable women who are also mostly internally displaced persons (IDPs) to produce processed fruits and vegetables for home consumption and sell the excess to local market," Kropf said.
Vegetables and fruit such as potatoes, apricots, plums, apples, grapes, tomatoes and okra are commonly grown in Laghman and Nangarhar, where the drying machines have been distributed, he added.
"The solar drying of fruits and vegetables overcomes the drawbacks of traditional open sun drying such as contamination from dust, insects, birds and other animals; the lack of control over drying conditions; and the possibility of spoilage due to long drying," he said.
The technique also yields high-quality processed foods with long shelf life, he added.
"We have distributed agricultural inputs for two seasons, some agricultural tools, and fruits and vegetables drying machines to 20 women in Laghman," said Haji Tahmas Hafizi, the director of SARCDO.
Each fruit-and-vegetable dryer cost 58,000 AFN ($656), Tahmas said.
"The farmers' work is good, and some have already picked their harvest. They consume some of the output at home and sell some of it to their neighbours to make money," Hafizi said.
"We have also supported backyard gardens for 20 women in the Khewa district of Nangarhar, providing them inputs and necessary tools for the summer and fall seasons," he said, providing a higher number of Nangarhar recipients than Kropf did.
"They have already cultivated for autumn and picked the outputs as well," he added.
Reaching 12 million women
The WFP has expanded its humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan in 2022, according to Kropf.
"In response to unprecedented food needs and vulnerability levels, WFP drastically scaled up assistance operations in 2022 to reach 23 million people in need, including 12 million women and girls," Kropf said.
"WFP provides humanitarian support to vulnerable communities through unconditional or emergency food assistance, cash-based assistance, nutrition support, school feeding, resilience and livelihood support," he said.
Women are more vulnerable in the current situation, said Khairullah Muhammadi, an economic analyst in Afghanistan.
"Women are under more pressure in the economic crisis that our people are going through, because they are not allowed to work and their education rights are limited," Muhammadi told Salaam Times.
"Work in public agencies is very limited for the country's educated class. International assistance to women engaged in agriculture and small enterprises is appreciated, and it is useful for them and for the country's economy," he said.