This short email was written by Marnie to the initial donors of the PARSA Farm – The Linda Norgrove Foundation with support from Dr. Sophia Wilcox. It dates back to last fall, just before the farm went through its first winter. It is amazing how much of a success the farm has become, and how much life it has given to PARSA. Read on!!
For those of you who have not visited PARSA, we are lucky to have our offices located at Marastoon, a twenty acre spread on the outskirts of Kabul with fruit orchards and tree lined lanes and a considerable amount of land available for agricultural programs. Over the years, as we expand our programs to meet the needs of poor communities we have worked to use the land for the benefit of poor women in the local community.
This year, thanks to a donation from the Linda Norgrove Foundation and support from Dr. Sophia Wilcox, Yasin, our country director has started a small farm animal project with 10 local women. It was a happy day when we bought our first milking cow and our chicks for our poultry program. 10 women from the surrounding area, now tend four cows and the chickens taking home milk and eggs to sell to their neighbors earning badly needed cash for their destitute families. It has brought changes to our compound, and many a Friday (our day off) comes when I hear early in the morning, a lowing cow waiting to be milked. I text message Yasin “The cows are yelling! Who is milking them today?” and he responds “Me! I am on my way!”
What I did not expect from this project was the excitement that our farm animal program would generate in our staff. I have learned that Afghan’s really like farms and love enterprises. They are a culture of merchants, which is why so many economic programs now are focusing on supporting the development of micro-enterprises. Now, in the afternoon, it is typical to see many staff go home with their bottle of fresh milk or eggs that they have purchased from the women. Yasin even found five chickens in a poor neighbor’s house that were not being fed, because they did not have the money. He bought them and brought them to our chicken coop, and put his son, Osman in charge of caring for them- our first “rescue chickens”. They are now benefitting from a soy feed mixture of feed, that we learned about through our soy flour distribution project and they are laying eggs to Osman’s delight. Yasin is preparing to teach children in our programs how to care for small poultry coops.
The nights are getting cold and I fully expect to see the cows sporting colorful winter blankets, typical of Afghan farmer’s who value their animals. Plans for next year include expanding into beekeeping in a four-acre field. Next week, Dr. Sophie is helping us buy two sheep and then we will have a full training program for our local women. You might ask how this program works in an urban city like Kabul of five million residents? You would be amazed at how many back yard farm animals there are in the city as well as herds of goats and sheep roaming the streets eating from garbage heaps. Healthy animals like a cow can augment a family income up to $60 a month, which is a lot money for many families who try to scrape by on $40 a month through wages. Congratulations to Yasin and our program staff who have developed a very relevant program, using our donation investment well. As the program grows it will sustain itself through the income generated from our small farm products as well as support the community women as they earn money from their work on the farm. Big thank you to our donors!