In rural Afghan villages, many women aren’t allowed out of their homes, much less to own land, making growing food difficult or impossible. This cloistered garden is part of a novel solution run by Women in Agriculture (WIA), which is funded by the USDA’s Afghan Agriculture Extension Project. As the program’s manager, Wilcox has enrolled 250 women in 22 rural villages in farmer field schools.
‘They are ecstatic about the fact that they don’t have to purchase vegetables, and have more say over what they feed their families.’
Each garden school is located in the courtyard of a home volunteered by one of the women. Housebound women receive private lessons.
“They are ecstatic about the fact that they don’t have to purchase vegetables, and have more say over what they feed their families,” says Wilcox.
WIA’s success prompted Afghanistan’s minister of agriculture to supply enough seeds, micro watering systems, piping and compost to enroll 900 more families in the schools. One student sends photos of her vegetables and lessons to her family in an inaccessible, Taliban-influenced province called Samangan. “Although we are challenging the culture in a small way – giving women power, control over their lives – we are still operating within the confines of the culture to help women move forward,” says Wilcox.