While farming is generally a male-dominated occupation, women are involved in virtually all farming activities through their work on farms, stables and gardens. In homes where women serve as the head of the family, they rely almost entirely on agricultural-related activities for their household income.

The Roots of Peace CHAMP program in Afghanistan integrates women into many areas of its programming, particularly training programs aimed at increasing household income. One such program is apricot sulfur drying.

Sakina is a 34-year-old woman from Parwan Province who participated in a training session about sulfur apricot drying. In Afghanistan, farmers often sun-dry their apricots on bare ground. Sun-dried apricots are hard and have a blackish-brown color that greatly reduces their value in the local markets. To help farmers avoid these losses, CHAMP provides training in the technique of drying apricots using sulfur, converting apricot harvests into high-value crops.

Sakina signed up for the training because one of her village neighbors switched to sulfur drying and is now receiving almost twice as much payment per kilo for her apricots.

“We’ve been doing it the traditional way, spreading the apricots on the roof and letting them dry in the sun,” she said. “We wash them afterward, but usually they have dirt and grit and don’t bring much revenue in the local market.”

Sakina demonstrates how the apricots are arranged on a wooden tray, then placed in a sealed plastic hut where they are fumigated with sulfur for six hours. The materials for constructing these simple designs are all cheaply available in the local market.
Sakina’s husband is an apricot farmer with a small piece of land he inherited from his grandfather. While Sakina and her six children help in the field, she’d like to do more to contribute to the family income.

“Dried apricots bring more income than fresh. My neighbors have shown me that,” she said. “There’s no school in our village, so I want to hire a teacher to come into our home. With more money coming into the household, my kids can have the education they deserve.”