Najiba’s family did not fully appreciate its benefits when they reluctantly allowed her to participate in livestock extension training.
The 19-year-old helped her father raise karakul, the sheep whose wool is used to make hats and coats. But Afghan karakul did not usually command high prices internationally. And Najiba and her father struggled to support their family of nine.
The training changed all that. It was specially designed for women engaged in the karakul trade, as part of USAID’s Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East and West (IDEA-NEW). It is part of the attempt to raise the export value of Afghan karakul. Local stories about the tips and tricks taught by the trainers eventually persuaded Najiba’s father she should attend. It was a decision he would not regret.
Each session covered a different aspect - from shed management to pelt processing - of karakul farming. The class introduced the women to a drying technique successfully used in Namibia to produce high-quality pelts that were more lustrous than the Afghan. The Namibian method used a metal frame and burlap, which contrasted favorably with the traditional Afghan practice of piling pelts on each other and leaving them to dry.
Back in her village in the northern Afghan province of Balkh, Najiba applied all she had learnt to the family’s flock of a hundred sheep. The results were remarkable. Each pelt, dried in the Namibian fashion, sold for $36, a significant increase on the $22 they hitherto earned.
Najiba is one of more than 1,700 farmers, buyers and extension workers in the Faryab, Jawzjan and Balkh provinces to have been trained in the Namibian method of karakul drying. They also received burlap-covered frames to put their training to practical use