Organic Growth: Taking Afghanistan’s Certified Saffron Value Chain to Scale

Saffron is a global, climate-resilient, gender-sensitive and high-value export commodity. The Afghan saffron export market is the third-largest in the world, holding 8.8% of global volume, and the saffron exports business is growing bigger by the year. With the right investment and marketing, Afghanistan is positioned to become a major player in the global market for saffron. Hand in Hand, and its commercial partner Conflictfood, aim to establish and scale the first-ever line of certified organic saffron produced and processed in Afghanistan, creating jobs in some of the country’s most deprived rural communities.

Sustainable production of saffron answers three major challenges in Afghanistan. Firstly, it is a legal alternative to the cultivation of opium poppy fuelled by lack of livelihood and income opportunities. Secondly, saffron is climate-resilient as it does not require heavy irrigation and can survive increased droughts caused by climate change. Lastly, the saffron value chain requires labour-intensive post-harvest processing, creating job, particularly for women and youth. The project will contribute to improved livelihoods and unlock new markets, by responding to the growing international demand.

The project not only aims to enhance Afghanistan’s position in the global market for Saffron but also to address the pressing issue of food insecurity in rural areas, particularly in Herat province. the project expects to provide crucial employment opportunities to 3,000 farmworkers and processors, fostering sustainable economic growth.

This pioneering initiative to lift saffron farmers in Afghanistan out of poverty has reached an important milestone, with five producers involved in the project successfully obtaining ISO certification and two producers on the path to securing organic certification. The certification not only signifies compliance with international standards but, crucially, gives the product a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Hand in Hand Afghanistan Executive Director, Dr Kamran Hekmati, said: “Five independent saffron companies who are taking part in the project have been awarded ISO 22000, which is a tremendous achievement and means the saffron they produce can now be sold on the international market, commanding a higher price. That money will directly benefit farmers in some of the country’s most deprived rural communities, so families can afford safe housing, medicine and put food on the table.”

Administrative Partner Hand in Hand International
Key Commercial Partner Conflictfood
Other Partners Hand in Hand Afghanistan
Country Afghanistan
Sector Agriculture & agro-processing
Open / Closed Open
Duration July 2021 - July 2026
Approval Year 2020