Women in Afghanistan have far lower financial capacity and resources compared to men. They have little access to bank loans, as banks require financial guarantees that most women cannot provide. In addition, while male-owned businesses can enjoy market support by purchasing goods on credit, women-owned businesses in Afghanistan face significant challenges and are rarely able to enjoy the same business facilities as men.
With all the difficulties that women-owned businesses face, there exist many uncaptured opportunities for women food traders to benefit from greater market participation. By fostering direct linkages to producers and other traders, women-owned businesses can increase their profits from domestic sales and international exports.
The Covid-19 crisis has compounded the structural and financial challenges women-owned businesses face in Afghanistan, causing many countries to ban trade/business relations. Anoosha Farhad, the President of Radween Trading Ltd in Afghanistan, found herself in a similar situation due to the ongoing pandemic, leaving her unable to export products to India, as the country has banned imports from Afghanistan. Radween Trading is a female-owned business located in Kabul with a branch office in Badakhshan province. The company exports raisins (green and black), pistachios, dry apricots and blackberries from Faryab, Kandahar, Badakhshan, and Badghis to Delhi and Mumbai, India.
Additionally, the processing center Ms. Farhad has used for sorting her products has remained closed. However, shw still continued bearing the costs of rent and other expenses to keep her business afloat. Within this context, profitable domestic sales was one way to provide the much-needed lifeline to her businesses. But she needed the support to link her company’s products to domestic markets. She got this support from UNDP’s Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development—Access to International Markets (CBARD-AIM) project.
A key component CBARD-AIM project involves providing support to women-owned businesses, that include trainings on market demand, crop production and value-added techniques, financial cost-sharing and facilitating linkages with other producers and traders. Radween Trading was identified as a potential project beneficiary in a UNDP-supported coordination meeting held by CBARD-AIM’s Gender team, using a list of traders provided by the AWCCI (Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry). CBARD-AIM then engaged and encouraged Ms. Anoosha Farhad to add exports/domestic sales of vegetables and fresh fruit to its activities, providing information on project opportunities for women and on crop cycles and prices in Farah province.
Following that, the project facilitated discussions with a Farah-based trading company, the Radween Trading signed an MOU with CBARD-AIM outlining the details of the collaborative agreement on 1st May 2021. In a B2B meeting, the project’s field staff linked the company with Sohrab Sodais Farahi Ltd., a Farah-based fruit and vegetable trader. The Radween Trading embarked on its first domestic sales of cucumbers, purchased 145.8 MTs of cucumbers from the company worth an estimated $20,577 and shipped them to domestic markets in Kabul and Ghazni provinces, enjoying a profit margin of 9-10% in both markets.
The successful intervention allowed the Radween Trading to expand its domestic sales in Kabul and Ghazni, while also stimulating demand in Farah for the province’s cucumber producers and traders. Ms. Anoosha was also introduced to the business skills development team in order to receive a personal computer to assist her in her trading initiatives. Her success of the sales motivated her to expand Radween Trading’s activities using CBARD-AIM inputs. She now wants to diversify into selling new fruit and vegetable products and establish broader linkages with local producers and traders.
“It has been a great experience to add vegetables as a business product line because dry fruit is only available in specific seasons while in other seasons business is quite low. I am encouraged to develop and expand my business by adding other fresh fruit and vegetables to my products line, using the various support mechanisms provided by UNDP and CBARD-AIM.” said Anoosha Farhad, President of Radween Trading Ltd.
The project will continue to support facilitating traders’ participation in exhibitions and trade missions to Kazakhstan, where female traders in Afghanistan can identify potential deals for exporting watermelons, cucumbers and onions, and to India for potenmtials of exporting dried fruits.