PARSA Farm Training Center: A Social Enterprise
Our PARSA Farm is located just outside the doors of our main office and is a major attraction for anyone living in Kabul to come out and visit PARSA. For most people living in the city – Afghan or international – it is their only opportunity to spend time in a wide-open green space with farm animals, fruit orchards and space to walk around, feel safe, and connect with Afghan heritage.
Afghanistan is a country with thousands of years of agricultural history where the majority of Afghans traditionally earn a living through farming and livestock. However decades of war have devastated the agricultural economy and caused the loss of both traditional farming knowledge and the modern knowledge that was emerging in Afghanistan in the 1950s.
The PARSA Farm was primarily established with the goal of becoming a training center in modern urban agriculture, and was constructed to be simple, inexpensive and based on the country’s traditions, but with modern adaptations such as ensuring animal care is humane and that up-to-date healthcare practices are adhered to. As a social-enterprise cooperative, most of the animals are owned by individuals and the farm buildings and equipment have been bought with those individuals’ investment. The farm is maintained by PARSA-employed beneficiaries, and their wages along with the cost of animal upkeep (food, medicine, etc) are paid for with the revenue from the farm (selling milk, eggs, yogurt, etc).
Over the last two years, the farm has grown significantly and has become a very special part of our work here because it is emerging as a program that ties in with every aspect of the work we do at PARSA (youth leadership, women’s economies and psychosocial development) and is also a wonderful moral booster for our staff and for our Kabul community. The ways that the farm connects to each branch of PARSA programs follows:
Building Economies for Women: The farm has been used as a “Learn and Earn” program where groups of women spend the summer working on the farm and learning the valuable agricultural and economic skills necessary to establish their own farms in their communities. They earn small wages and get to keep a portion of the agricultural products to support their families, and the following year are given seeds and the tools necessary to start their own farms. Read more here.
Building Healthy Families: regarding the psychosocial branch of our programs, the farm is used as a therapeutic program for orphans, including those from an orphanage for disabled children, where the children come out once per month to spend time with the animals and learn about their care. This includes riding horses, and spending time with the cows, goats, sheep and chickens. Afghanistan is traditionally an agricultural society, which Afghans are proud of, but many young people who grow up in the city or in orphanages have never had a chance to spend time with animals or on a farm.
Building Youth Leadership: We are working on establishing a strong connection between our youth initiatives and our farm by initiating an Afghan Scout “Farm Badge” based on the American “4H” youth agriculture initiative, where the Scouts will learn about modern agriculture practices and animal care.
Besides these key programs, we also have several additional initiatives for our PARSA community in Kabul that will serve both to generate revenue and donations to support the farm programs, and to provide a positive location for Kabul residents to reconnect to the agricultural roots of Afghanistan. These initiatives include including:
- A “Horse Club” where members pay a monthly fee to ride horses, which will help fund the horse’s care and our program for disabled orphans.
- A monthly “open house” where local families can come out to PARSA for an educational tour of the farm.
- Weekly farm tours as part of our community Friday Brunch.
- School trips where children come out for an educational “afternoon on the Afghan farm”.
- A location that organizations can rent for conferences and meetings (in association with our restaurant’s rentable conference room/catering service).
- A “pick-you-own-veggies” program where our community can come to the farm and purchase fresh vegetables that they harvest themselves.
All the revenue and donations received in connection with these initiatives goes back into the maintenance and improvement of the farm, the operation costs associated with each aspect of the program, and funding PARSA’s core programs.