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