Early in 2016, staff from USAID’s Afghanistan Agriculture Extension Project (AAEPII) became acquainted with Herat Dairy Union located near the city of Herat in the western region of Afghanistan. The Herat Dairy Union was created by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2005. The Union purchases milk from 700 small farmers and processes fluid milk and yogurt. In the early period, FAO conducted dairy management training in 3 districts of Herat province assuring improved levels of production and quality. These trainings have long since disappeared. Terry Hutchens, the Borlaug Institute’s Project Director who has lived and worked in Afghanistan since 2015 says “AAEP II personnel through consultation with the Union’s Board of Directors and the Herat DAIL (Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock) quickly saw this as a grand opportunity to work directly with women in the area of dairy production and quality assurance through Farmer Field School (FFS) trainings at the village level.”
Currently the project is conducting trainings for women in 11 villages and has established 11 FFS, AAEP II woman led trainings for 335 women residing in Karukh, Guzara and Injil districts of Herat. Each woman receives instruction and hands-on practice in hygienic milking practices along with a proper milking methods kit. The intent of this training is to reduce cases of utter infections and milk bacteria in order to increase milk production and improve milk quality. “In speaking with women in Guzara district after training last month, they shared beautiful stories explaining how critical dairy production is to their families, as a valuable source of income that impacts the health, nutrition, education, and happiness of their entire family” says Carmen Byce, Program Coordinator for Asia. The AAEP II Western region livestock project is led by Dr. Basir Ahmad Nikoomanish with this particular women’s program conducted by AAEPII intern, Ms. Shakila Azimi in partnership with Purdue University.
Note: The Borlaug Institute is a member of the university consortium led by the University of California-Davis (UC Davis) implementing USAID’s AAEP II, a three year project aiming to build the capacity of Afghanistan’s public extension system in cooperation with the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL). AAEP II’s four primary objectives include: building the technical capacity of public extension service providers; increasing household incomes; improving nutrition at the household level; and promoting increased engagement of women in the agricultural industry and support for women through public extension services. Working towards these objectives, TAMU leads the livestock component of the project with focused research and extension capacity building efforts.