Saffron offers a viable and legal alternative to thousands of Afghan
farmers economically dependent on poppy cultivation to make ends meet.
ICARDA's saffron program is a joint initiative in partnership with
Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, and the
Center's implementing partners under the RALF Program: Danish Committee
for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR, a consortium of Danish NGOs),
Washington State University, and Catholic Relief Service.
The project has established links with saffron research centers in Iran,
which will provide training to Afghan farmers on seeding methods (corm
selection), crop management, and harvesting and drying methods.
The project's capacity building efforts also target research and
extension staff from Afghan universities and the Ministry's Provincial
Departments. Gradually, a platform is being built for the development of
a sustainable, profitable saffron industry in Afghanistan.
At a national workshop in Herat in November 2006, recommendations were
made for a national strategy on saffron. The new strategy aims to
consolidate and disseminate results from various saffron projects, and
resolve specific technical issues e.g. quality control standards for
exports, phytosanitary requirements for import of bulbs. There are plans
to expand demonstration trials in different parts of the country,
provide support to producer cooperatives, and establish village level
service centers for cleaning and drying of saffron.
The involvement of women in saffron production and the economic impact
this will have on them is briefly considered.
ICARDA Caravan No. 24, pp.17-20
Harvesting Red Gold in Afghanistan