SUPPORTING SMALL AND MEDIUM AFGHAN BUSINESSES

Ten small and medium Afghan enterprises supported by Cordaid participated in the spring edition of Agfair, Afghanistan’s national agricultural products exhibition in Kabul. Some of the businesses are led and owned by women.

The fair took place from March 26 to 29 and the SMEs came from Kandahar in the South and Herat in the West. They promoted and sold their products, including honey, spices, and soap.

The products of Sara Arghand, a soap production company that came to Kabul from Kandahar to attend Agfair.

Their participation in the Agfair is part of the EU-funded and Cordaid-implemented Rawnaq project. That project aims to professionalize and accelerate the growth of small and medium enterprises in Afghanistan with training, grants, and by supporting them in hiring staff among more disadvantaged populations such as IDPs.

“Cordaid helped us turn a home-based company into a more professional one, with an office and production space, better marketing skills, and more employees.” Ms. Masuda Seddiqi, owner of Sara Arghand, a soap producing enterprise

“The fair is useful because our customers can give feedback on the quality and packaging of our products,” said Jawad Afzali, from Herat, sitting in the booth where he showcased the products of his company Mohammad Nasim Rahmani Food Production. “We also signed contracts with wholesalers and found out more about our market competitors,” he added.

The booth of Mohammad Nasim Rahmani Food Production, a company supported by Cordaid in Herat

His products, including pickled vegetables, honey, and jams, are in high demand. He cannot even fulfill all the orders. Cordaid, he explained, helped with getting to the fair by financing the rental of the booth, as well as accommodation, food, and travel.

Supporting businesses led by women

Three of the ten Cordaid-supported businesses are set up, owned and run by women. One of them is Masuda Seddiqi, 28. She came from Herat to present Sara Arghand, the soap company she created two years ago.

Trained as a pharmacist specialising in herbal medicines, she makes all-organic soap, hair oil, and cooking paste from pomegranate and herbs. “Cordaid helped us turn a home-based company into a more professional one, with an office and production space, better marketing skills, and more employees”, Ms. Seddiqi said.

Being at Agfair, she explained, was really important to her as her sales had decreased since the start of the economic crisis triggered by the change of government last August. “There is less demand because these are luxury goods,” she said. “So, it is good to be at the fair because we can introduce our products to more people”.

Although she has been able to continue leading her own company, Ms. Seddiqi admitted that it had become more of a ‘sensitive issue’ to be a female business owner since last summer.

Shabita Omidwar is another female business owner supported by Cordaid attending Agfair. She came from Herat as well, with the product of Asre Saffron, her saffron and dried fruits company. “I am happy to be here because I am going to find new customers and wholesalers,” she said, standing next to her mother and little brother.

Shabita Omidwar, a business owner supported by Cordaid, came from Herat to showcase the product of Asre Saffron, her saffron and dried fruits company, at Agfair, Afghanistan’s national agricultural products exhibition

Opportunities to sell products and find new customers

A large number of people visited the fair in Kabul. In front of Sara Arghand, visitors examined the pieces of soap made from wild herbs and beautifully carved like stones.

“The fair helps find new customers because most people don’t know our product. They think it is food!” smiled Arghand’s young operation manager, Said Mohammad Zahir Amai. To continue activities in conservative Kandahar, he said they had to separate women and men in the soap production process. Men make the soap, and women carve and package them at home.

“It was complicated at first, but we are dealing with the situation,” he said, not losing hope. “Now we would like to focus on growing our place in the market. Then, we will diversify our products with body oil and creams”, he added.

Rawnaq is funded by the European Union. It has been implemented by Cordaid and the Norwegian Refugees Council (NRC) since 2020. So far, it has supported 138 small and medium-sized Afghan enterprises.

All pictures © Cordaid

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