5 ways kitchen gardens are helping families flourish in Afghanistan

We all know the importance of maintaining a healthy diet. Luckily, for most of us, this is easily achievable thanks to convenient access to fresh produce in shops.

We all know the importance of maintaining a healthy diet. Luckily, for most of us, this is easily achievable thanks to convenient access to fresh produce in shops.

But what if when you went to the nearest shop to find the shelves empty except for some bread and potatoes? For many families living in the extremely remote region of Central Highlands, Afghanistan, such a poor diet is a real dilemma. As winter approaches, this becomes a real threat to survival.

That’s because, in the winter months, heavy snow makes the mountain passes inaccessible, cutting off these communities from the outside world for months at a time. Families are left to rely on whatever they have been able to grow or gather over the summer months, hoping that the food lasts until the warm weather returns. It rarely does.

Meet Kamela

Kamela and her husband, along with their son and five daughters, knew this struggle all too well. They tried to grow what they could during the warm months to hopefully last them through the winter, but it was difficult. Sometimes, if the path was clear from snow, they could travel to the bazar (the local market), but most days it was too difficult to reach.

The family, especially the children, felt the effects of not having enough to eat. They often felt weak and fell ill easily. The children were on the brink of malnourishment.

For the last three years, Medair’s team in Afghanistan has been working hard to introduce kitchen gardens to families in these remote communities as one way to ensure that they have the food they need to not only survive, but flourish. The project is proving to be successful in this part of the country.

Here are five ways kitchen gardens are helping families in Afghanistan flourish:

1. A more diverse and nutritious diet

Kamela and her family joined the project and were trained on how to grow their own kitchen garden near their house, making vegetables more accessible throughout the year.

“This was the first year that we had that many vegetables available,” says Kamela. “We did not have to buy tomatoes, squash, lettuce, cabbage, and other things. They came from our own kitchen garden. We used to only have one kind of food, but now we have more variety, which is helping us stay strong and healthy. We aren’t so weak and don’t get ill so often now.”

2. A source of income

A healthier, more diverse diet isn’t the only thing that resulted from starting the kitchen garden. Kamela and her family were able to share some of their vegetables with their neighbours in need as well as sell some in the bazar for profit.

“We had more lettuce than we could use, so we shared it with our neighbours and family. We also sold some squash to the bazar when we needed extra money and saved the seeds for next season to grow more,” she added.

3. Healthier hygiene practices

Additionally, women like Kamela receive training on hygiene practices that can help keep them and their families healthy and prevent unnecessary illness.

“We’ve learned how to keep the house clean in a way that is healthier to ourselves and the environment. For example, we sort through our garbage and know how to make compost from part of it, which we use to feed our land. And our family don’t get ill as often as before,” says Kamela.

4. Stronger foundations for babies

Mothers like Kamela also learn about how to keep their youngest family members healthy. Health promoters who are part of the kitchen garden project educate new mothers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and introducing healthy food when ready to give their babies the best start.

5. Quality family time

Kamela’s kitchen garden has become a source of pride and fun for the family.

“Taking care of the kitchen garden is a big hobby for us. It’s so nice to be busy in the garden watering, weeding, and tending to our plants,” she says.

“More people in the area need activities like this and need to know about this project,” urges Kamela. “You really changed our lives. Thank you for coming so far to help us.”

If you’d like to join us in assisting more families like Kamela’s in tough times, please consider making a gift towards our Women and Children’s Fund. Each gift is a seed of hope that bears fruit in the lives of those living in some of the most isolated and often forgotten communities in the world.

This month, we are ‘cooking up’ something extra for our supporters – a culinary challenge!

Are you familiar with Afghan cuisine? If not, try out one of these recipes to get a taste of the local cuisine and let us know you did it by tagging us on social media @MedairInt.

Dolmeh-e-Kadoo (Afghan Stuffed Squash)

Muraba-E-Zardak (Carrot Jam)

Qabili Pilau (Lamb and Yellow Rice with Carrots and Raisins)

*Names have been changed for reasons of security.