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Social and Economic Empowerment

 

As the world’s third-largest producer of cashmere fibre, Afghanistan is a key sourcing region for the luxury fashion industry, despite the country’s ongoing armed conflict and extreme poverty.


Launched in FY 2017/18, the programme, developed in partnership between The Burberry Foundation, Oxfam and PUR Projet, aims to improve the livelihoods of Afghan cashmere herding communities by helping them to develop a more sustainable and inclusive cashmere industry in the country.

Key measures of success for the programme include cashmere and other livestock production per herder, as well as the price-adjusted income per goat. In addition, other metrics are monitored in relation to improved levels of gender awareness and awareness of improved animal husbandry and cashmere harvesting practices.

One aspect of this initiative is a training programme developed to help raise herders’ awareness of cashmere harvesting best practice and herding techniques to enhance their income. Training on sustainable pasture management and responsible farming techniques aims to prevent overgrazing and desertification. This helps to build the awareness communities need to cope with the future impacts of climate change. Through the medium of a radio drama and public service announcements, information is shared to help herding communities improve their livestock management practices and, for goat herders, the quality of their cashmere. Educational public service announcements are also broadcast, which provide key information on goat health.

Since opening in FY 2018/19, a goat breeding facility has hosted more than 210 superior quality cashmere goats and resulted in the breeding of more than 500 new goats. Thirty-nine elite bucks, which produce higherquality cashmere, have been distributed to herders in villages to pilot a breeding programme with the aim of improving the genetic variety of goats at village level. The programme has also established community-owned producer groups for collective gathering and selling of cashmere, enabling herders to bargain for better prices for their cashmere. Since the start of the programme, the midline impact assessment has shown that production of cashmere and of meat has increased for the herders involved in the programme.

Through its holistic approach and complementary activities, the programme contributes to five of the UN’s SDGs: SDG 1 – No poverty, SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth, SDG 9 – Industry innovation and infrastructure, SDG 17 – Partnership for the goals, and SDG 5 – Gender equality. Women are empowered to participate in cashmere harvesting and to have a leadership position within the community-owned producer groups. Currently 28% of the herders engaged in the community-owned groups are women. Since the start of the programme, levels of gender awareness have increased among the direct beneficiary community, from 79% at the start of the programme in 2017 to over 95% in 2020.

Vets, who travel round on motorcycles, have received additional training through the programme. Supporting the herding communities, they have treated and vaccinated over 233,741 cashmere goats and 264,203 other livestock. The support provided to local vets and provision of medicine for livestock has been a successful aspect of the programme. Beneficiaries in Herat and Balkh credited this element of the programme with making goat herding more profitable.

Collaborating across the supply chain, the programme has started to establish stronger links within the global apparel industry. Communicating the work of the programme with other brands, cashmere sellers and spinners is not only helping to align the industry to a common goal, but also providing valuable insight for Afghan producers into the specific quality requirements of potential business partners. With this knowledge, herders can produce more desirable and better-quality cashmere, which can be sold at better and fairer prices.

Oxfam and PUR Projet in Afghanistan

  • 28% of herders engaged in the community-owned cashmere groups are women
  • 136% increase in the volume of cashmere collected reported by herders*
  • 95% of herders* demonstrated gender awareness after training, compared to 79% in the baseline study

* Denotes the results of a sample of direct beneficiaries surveyed.