Organic saffron brings hope to Geta and her family

Mum-of-two Geta lives in Herat province, Afghanistan. Her husband is unemployed, making Geta the family’s sole provider.  

With its dry climate, it’s hard to make a living from farming in Herat, with one exception. Saffron crocus bulbs thrive in Herat’s sandy soil and cool night temperatures.  

And it’s saffron that’s bought hope to Geta and her family. She’s employed as a processor at one of the companies working with Hand in Hand to produce organic saffron for sale in Europe, as part of the Organic Growth project. 

Funded by Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and a corporate foundation, Organic Growth is an innovative project to develop Afghanistan’s first organic saffron value chain – in partnership with German social enterprise Conflictfood, which will distribute the saffron once it has achieved full EU organic certification.

“From the time that this project started I’ve been able to work during the day, and, in the evening, I can afford to buy food for my children,” says Geta.  

With two small children, aged just five and six, the extra money makes a big difference to the family. Hunger and malnutrition is a fact of life in Herat, with almost 45% of the province’s population facing crisis levels of food insecurity.  

“There’s a lot of problems in our village as women are unemployed, and they cannot financially contribute to the household expenses,” says Geta. “I am very happy now that I have a job because I was unemployed before. I am the only breadwinner in my family.”  

Thanks to the saffron trade, the situation for women like Geta and her family is improving. As a result of increased demand, workers can command almost double the price per kg of flowers picked compared to what they’d have earned just a few years ago. What’s more,  skilled jobs in the processing factories are available all year round.  

Now an expert saffron processor, Geta is able to separate the delicate threads from the rest of the flower. “As this is organic saffron, we don’t wash our hands with soap, and our nails should not be long.”  

With the money she earns, Geta is able to do more than just put food on the table – she can start to save and plan ahead. “My wish is that my children become educated people, develop in life and become the owner of a company like this one in the future.”