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Harvesting Red Gold in Afghanistan

Published by:
Publication date
Type of Publication:
Focus Region:
Asia and the Pacific
Focus Topic:
Agricultural Value Chains / Agri-Businesses
Capacity Development
Type of Risk:
Biological & environmental
Managerial & operational
Hashem Aslami, M.; Najib Malik

Some 50,000 years ago it was used in cave paintings and 5000 years ago traders brought it from Crete to Sumer, in modern-day Iraq. It was considered so sacrosanct that its adulteration could lead to execution in the medieval period. Today it’s the world’s costliest spice. It is Saffron or Red Gold. It’s so expensive in the market that the government of Afghanistan is working with ICARDA to promote Saffron cultivation as a potential alternative to poppy crops. Saffron offers a viable and legal alternative to thousands of Afghan farmers economically dependent on poppy cultivation to make ends meet. Development organizations too have realized the importance of saffron and are actively promoting it amongst farmers in Herat and other provinces. Funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), ICARDA’s saffron program is a joint initiative in partnership with Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, and the Center’s implementing partners under the RALF Program: Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR, a consortium of Danish NGOs), Washington State University, and Catholic Relief Service.