By Katie

The news coming from Afghanistan is so rarely positive that when I hear something uplifting, I like to spread it around.  This being a food blog, I’m particularly inclined to share good news having to do with food. 

In this case, the food is raisins.  Several decades ago, before the onset of war in Afghanistan, the country was responsible for 10 percent of the world’s raisin production. Afghan raisin farmers were exporting their goods to the U.K, the Soviet Union, and India, among others.  With all of the conflict, however, raisin production has plummeted to about one-third of its peak production. 

Raisins are a staple of the Afghan diet. Afghanistan’s plump black raisins and distinctive green ones are a point of pride amongst its citizens. Raisins are eaten as a snack. incorporated into rice dishes, enjoyed with fresh cheese (kishmish paneer), and used as a sweet base for the Afghan beverages kishmish ab (essentially raisins soaked in water) and haft mewa (a drink of seven fresh and dried fruits). 

Now, with the help of an international aid group called Mercy Corps and a British food producer, Fullwell Mill, Afghan raisins farmers have a shot at rebuilding production and export once again. Mercy Corps is working closely with farmers to improve their methods and ensure they garner a fair price and earn a living wage. Next month raisins from this renewed farming effort will be available in the UK via Tropical Wholefoods, a British online retailer that specialized in fair trade products. 

Sometimes writing about food seems so inconsequential. But when I stumble upon a story like this it reminds me of how connected food is to life, and how humanitarian deeds can have all sorts of wonderful outcomes. Even tiny, sweet, shriveled ones that can be popped into your mouth and make you smile.    

Note:  For photos and more about this remarkable story, have a look here.   To support this project and others like it, check out Mercy Corps here.

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