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Afghan farmers get noticed by NY Times

Afghanistan, October 8, 2010

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I'm a big consumer of news, and sometimes I get tired of reading about the same old cadre of high-profile folks: politicians, celebrities, big business types — the "news makers." It's rare to hear about how current events impact normal people; even rarer to hear about the impoverished and voiceless, even rarer if the impoverished and voiceless live half a world away.

That's why I was heartened to read today's New York Times coverage of a group of farmers Mercy Corps is working with in the Parwan province of Afghanistan. You can check out the story here. The gist is that these farmers, who barely grow and make enough to get by, are now working with Mercy Corps and a British food producer called Fullwell Mill to export fair trade certified raisins to the United Kingdom. That means they can sell their raisins at a premium price to British consumers, which means they can earn a decent living and help their families have a better life.

Thirty years ago, Afghan farmers used to be darlings of the international raisin market, producing about 10 percent of the world's raisins. But after decades of war, it's a very different story today.

As the New York Times story explains, Mercy Corps and Fulwell Mill are helping Afghan farmers adopt better grape farming and processing methods, connect to international markets and maybe reclaim some of that former glory. I have a lot of hope that they can succeed.