Let’s bake “Hefezopf” – a typical German yeast pastry

Do you celebrate Easter at all?
In the Christian calendar, Easter is one of the most important events. It’s the time for many devout people to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But on top of that, Easter marks the beginning of spring and the time of traditional dishes and of course copious meals with the family.

Traditionally, only green food is served on Holy Thursday, on Good Friday you will see fish on the plates and Holy Saturday is the time to start baking: all kinds of pastry is created in the kitchen, one more delicious than the other. Lenten season is over and so it’s time to get the ingredients, hit the kitchen and start experimenting.

How about trying something new? Start mixing your grandmother´s well-tried recipes with some luxurious spices from Afghanistan: let’s bake “Hefezopf” a typical German yeast pastry.

Ingredients

 

0,2 g Conflictfood-Safran, strings

¼ l lukewarm milk

20 g fresh yeast

70 g sugar

2 eggs

1 pinch salt

500 g flour

80 g soft butter

1 knife point vanilla pulp

2-3 tablespoons coarse sugar

 

Time: 3 hours (incl. rest and baking hours)

Servings: 6

Instructions:

 

Soak the saffron in strings in 20 ml of hot water.

Give milk and sugar into a bowl, add the yeast and stir until smooth.

Put flour, 1 egg, vanilla pulp, salt and saffron water to the dough and use the dough hook of the mixer on a low setting to mix the dough.

Add the butter and continue mixing on a high setting until the dough has turned into a smooth paste.

Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest in a warm environment.

After one hour, quickly knead the dough on a with flour covered working space and the leave it under the kitchen towel for another 20 minutes.

Spread liquid butter on a baking tray and follow with dusting some flour on top.

Knead the dough another time, separate it into 3 equal parts, form strings and then braid a plat – the typical shape of this traditional dish. Put it on the baking tray and leave it for 40 minutes, covered under the towel, in a warm space.

Whisk 1 egg, spread it on the plat and continue to apply the coarse sugar. Now it’s ready for the oven! Let it bake at 180°C on a middle stage for about 25 minutes until its colour turned into gold-brown. Remove the plat from the oven and let it cool down.

You can now enjoy with or without butter, or even some jam.

Have fun trying this recipe and Happy Easter!

More recipes

 

The Ancient Art of Healing – Saffron in Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurveda is a traditional Indian healing art and is considered the oldest and constantly practiced medical system in the world. Translated from Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “knowledge of life”, and the name speaks for itself: the knowledge of the three vital energies – or doshas – is the basis of Ayurvedic medicine and crucial for the production of physical and mental balance. In our article, ‘Ancient Art of Healing: Tea in Ayurvedic Medicine‘, we already discussed Ayurvedic healing in greater detail. However, not only tea plays an important role in Ayurvedic medicine, but also saffron.

Saffron in Ayurvedic Nutrition

You certainly know saffron as the most expensive spice in the world. In addition, saffron is a true miracle cure and an important ingredient in Ayurvedic cuisine. Saffron is credited with numerous positive qualities. It is designed to accelerate blood circulation and vitalize and strengthen digestion. “Agni”, the digestive fire, is an important element in Ayurvedic teaching, because irregularities in the gastrointestinal tract are considered to be the cause of many problems. In addition, saffron calms and harmonizes the three doshas, has anti-inflammatory effects and regulates the menstrual cycle. Saffron not only has the outward appearance of the color of the sun – it is also said to have a heat-generating, euphoric and mood-enhancing effect. Therefore, saffron recipes are particularly suitable for the dark and cold seasons, because the self-propulsion and the desire to move are thereby increased. The “red gold” is also particularly popular due to its aphrodisiac effect: Saffron can increase libido and is also recommended in case of sperm deficiency. But one thing you should be aware of: A high dosage of saffron can be dangerous. Therefore, you should not take more than 5 grams at once. When using saffron, always follow the dosage stated in the recipe!

 

You will find even more exciting information about the ancient healing of Ayuerveda here.

Find our beautiful Saffron here

Silkroad’s bright spot

Afghanistan is full of marvelous goods: gold, gems, precious fabrics and finest saffron. The Silk Road is at the center of many historic and miraculous stories. Its network of trading routes reached from Beijing to Venice with today’s Afghanistan among them. Caravansaries prospered and travelers sat next to bonfires listening to sagas and myths from 1001 nights.

For centuries, Afghanistan was a place desired by artists and poets. Until the 1970s, it attracted travelers, expats and hippies from all over the world.

However, back in the late 1970s a new period started. It was a period full of darkness and violence that lasts until today.A bloody coup d’état replaced the old government with communist rulers. The Soviet invasion left millions dead and the civil war that followed raised the death toll again. The Taliban movement encountered a scared Afghanistan longing for stability and peace and made it a battleground again suppressing the population in the process. In addition, post-9/11 US invasion again demanded a high number of victims.

War has been the normality in Afghanistan for four centuries. It is the poorest country in Asia and the one that exports the lowest number of goods worldwide – except for opium. Violence and insecurity are encountered wherever you go. The majority of Afghan youth has neither a job nor a perspective.

Nevertheless, the golden times seem to be not entirely forgotten but lived every day. The hospitality of Afghan people is incredible. They give so much to visitors even though they have not enough for themselves – and that does not stop them from smiling proudly. The fragrance of saffron can always be smelt near their boilers. It is the spice traded centuries ago on the historic Silk Road.In Herat, situated in the west of the country, an independent women’s collective cultivates the precious spice. Just a few years ago, Opium poppy flourished here. It is now replaced by the red gold which is harvested traditionally and painstakingly by hand.

Exactly these people are the ones that give hope in the country near the Hindu Kush. Their commitment builds the foundation for a stable and peaceful future.

You can contribute to Afghanistan’s bright and peaceful future! Support the women’s collective in Herat and buy their premium saffron, available at Conflictfood online shop.

You can find our Conflictfood Saffron here

The Saffron-Question: Real or Fake?

An exotic spice, worth almost as much as gold, no wonder there is more cheating going on in saffron than almost any other product.

Saffron is the most expensive agricultural product in the world – high quality saffron costs round 15-20 € per gram, the price of 25 kg of wheat flour at the same supermarket. The authentic and precious spice saffron is part of the flower Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas. The styles and stigmas, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. About 200.000 saffron flowers are required to collect 1kg of saffron spice; a very labour intensive process, so that answers the question why the spice is so expensive to produce.

Of course this high value attracts frauds who would like to earn some money by selling fake saffron. Unfortunately this is nothing new and has been going on for ages already.There are several different types of fraud: ones is selling products that aren’t saffron and another is selling saffron as though it is produced in one country and not in another.

Frauds often sell the safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) as saffron. This is because it’s quite similar to saffron but it is a thistle-like plant, whose flowers are yellow orange. The giveaway of this plant is that it doesn’t smell like saffron at all. Furthermore there is Turmeric (Curcuma longa), known as the saffron of the Indies, belonging to the family Zingiberaceae (Ginger); from the rhizome of turmeric you get the yellow turmeric powder, a spice widely used in Indian and Asian cuisine in general, and curcumin, a yellow substance worked in the laundry and in chemistry. At last it should definitely not be confused with the colchicum (Colchicum autumnal). This is a poisonous plant whose flowers are like the crocus.

Other frequent falsification consists in adding to the stigmas of the crocus flower fragments from other species. Mixing real saffron with fake makes it harder to notice for those who have little knowledge about it.There are a few key ways to tell real saffron from fake: taste, smell, look and price.

Saffron (thread/strand) never tastes sweet, If it’s sweet you surely bought the fake one. Real saffron will have a bitter and slightly astringent taste when placed on the tongue.
Then there is the aroma. Saffron has a very distinct smell. While fake saffron will have almost no aroma, the smallest amount of genuine saffron will have a characteristic and intense smell.To identify the aroma you first have to know what real saffron smells like. The real Saffron Aroma is a blend of earth, tabacco, vanilla, honey, salty sweet. Just remember this one mantra: Good saffron will always SMELL sweet and never TASTE sweet.

Genuine saffron also has a particular look about it, with a unique coloration and strands of saffron having a diffuse end. Real saffron won’t lose its original colour after you’ve put it in some water. Only the real saffron will keep its original colour when you take the thread out of the water. The fake one will have lost completely its added colour and won’t look the same anymore.The water with the pure saffron will turn honey-yellow. The fake one will turn dim red. You can also rub the saffron threads between wet fingers: they will red/gold/orange.

Never buy ground saffron. Far too often it’s cut with turmeric, paprika, and the aforementioned bark. Even if it’s from a spice merchant you trust, saffron powder loses its flavor faster than whole threadsSo the 4 most common giveaways of fake saffron are:
1: Smell. Real Saffron smells sweet
2: When you rub it between your moist fingers, they turn orange/red/yellow.
3: If it’s grounded, it’s probably fake.
4: Price. When the saffron is cheaper then 10 Euros per gram it is highly likely that it’s fake.

Save yourself all the trouble. Take a look at our online-shop and get your own genuine, high-quality saffron. It was sampled by creative chefs, tested in a laboratory (with excellent results) and is being recommended by many satisfied customers! And of course you will support the producers in Afghanistan. 😉

Find your real saffron here:

Fotoausstellung – Drei Blicke: Afghanistan

Drei Blicke: Afghanistan

Die drei Fotograf*innen Rada Akbar, Christina Feldt und Gernot Würtenberger werfen in ihren Arbeiten einen Blick auf die tiefe Verletztheit und die aufstrebende Hoffnung Afghanistans.

29. Mai- 27. Juni 2019, Mi.-Fr. 14:00-20:00 Uhr
Der Eintritt ist frei. Wir freuen uns auf Deinen Besuch.

Rada Akbar

Rada Akbar ist freiberufliche Fotografin, sie lebt und arbeitet in Kabul. Schon immer nutze sie die Kunst als Medium um sich selbst auszudrücken und die Geschehnisse um sie herum zu erklären. Die Karriere der visuellen Kunst Rada Akbars begann als malende Künstlerin. Ihre Gemälde hingen in diversen Ausstellungen national und international. Später tauschte sie Pinsel und Palette ein gegen die Fotokamera ein. Dabei entdeckte sie ihre Leidenschaft, das Alltagsleben der Menschen in Afghanistan festzuhalten und zu dokumentieren. Von ihrer Kunst sagt Rada selbst, sie fotografiere keine Objekte, sondern das Gefühl, dass sie ihr vermitteln. 2015 gewann sie den UNICEF Fotowettbewerb „Foto des Jahres“. Teile dieser prämierten Fotostrecke hat die Künstlerin für die Ausstellung “Drei Blicke: Afghanistan” als Leihgabe zur Verfügung gestellt.

Bild: Rada AkbarBild: Rada AkbarBild: Rada Akbar

Christina Feldt

Christina Feldt ist freiberufliche Fotografin und lebt in Berlin. Sie absolvierte ihr Studium in  International Business, war aber seit ihrer Jugend von der Fotografie fasziniert. In Barcelona belegte Christina einen Fotojournalismus Kurs an der Schule RUIDO Photo, es folgten weltweite Foto Expeditionen mit renommierten Fotografen. Mittlerweile hat Christina mehr als 40 Länder weltweit mit ihrer Kamera bereist. Ihre großen Leidenschaften sind Fotoreportagen und Dokumentationen aus der ganzen Welt, insbesondere die Schicksale und Geschichten von Menschen interessieren sie sehr. Christina hat für zahlreiche Medien und internationale Organisationen – wie die Vereinten Nationen, Save the Children, Care, Handicap International, etc. – bewegende Themen in Afrika, Asien und auch Afghanistan fotografiert. 2014 reiste sie für 2 Wochen nach Afghanistan, wo sie im Auftrag der Vereinten Nationen fotografierte. Sie blickt auf ein wunderschönes Land mit bewegenden Momenten und besonderen Menschen zurück.

Bild: Christina FeldtBild: Christina FeldtBild: Christina Feldt

Gernot Würtenberger

Gernot Würtenberger hat in Wien und Berlin viele Jahre als Architekt gearbeitet. 2015 gründete er das Sozialunternehmen Conflictfood mit der Idee, Handelsbeziehungen zu Bauern in Konfliktregionen aufzubauen. Die Kamera im Gepäck begleitete ihn zu Flüchtlingslagern in Palästina, Rohingya-Ghettos in Myanmar und zu Opiumfelder in Afghanistan.
An der Fotografie begeistert ihn der eine und unwiederbringliche Moment, das Schmunzeln im Gesicht oder die Hoffnung in den Augen. Diese Begeisterung zeigt sich in seinen Bildern.

Bild: Gernot WürtenbergerBild: Gernot WürtenbergerBild: Gernot WürtenbergerVeranstaltet wird die Ausstellung von Cultivating Peace e.V., Gastgeber sind Conflictfood und selo – The Next Generation Coffee
Wir freuen uns auf Deinen Besuch!

The gardener in the palace ruin

If there was flourishing tourism in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, the „Darul-Aman“ palace would be the place to go for tourists. But the king’s palace in Kabul’s centre is a heap of rubbles. Around the place you won’t meet many tourists. But we from Conflictfood ended up exactly in this destroyed ruin. We encounter the aged Mohammed Kabil, the former gardener of this palace. There is no more royal garden, but Mohammed gardened for decades with passion between the ruined walls. We talk to him about the past and future of the palace:

“i have seen king amanullah khan plan and build this western style palace and gardens in the 1920s. the king thanked me twice for my work in his garden, that’s my best memory”

The palace was later used as the Ministry of Defense. Mohammed took care of the vegetable garden, which fed the soldiers residing there.

Even today, the older man puts his heart and soul in the care of a wide variety of plants and flowers. He plants the seeds of the wildest and most colorful flowers into the dry soil, irrigates the earth, and looks after their growth with watchful eye. This creates an impressive and at the same time surreal picture: blooming flowers between dilapidated and battered walls.

Historically, at this point actually splendid should arise. In the days of Ammanullah Kahn, king of Afghanistan from 1926-1929, “Darul Aman” should also become the future home of the Afghan parliament and the representative center of a modern, independent and progressive Afghanistan.

However, these bold plans soon came to an abrupt end when King Kahn resigned from the political scene. Instead, the palace is today a symbol of a land in ruins. For decades it was the scene of battles, fire and bombardment. The palace burned out in 1969, after the communist takeover in 1978, it was once again in flames. Throughout the years several rival groups vandalized the complex entirely.

The Afghan government has already raised more than 20 million euros for its reconstruction through fundraising in recent years and is planning a museum, a park and a parliament building, among other things. In time for the 100th anniversary of Afghan independence, the building and park will be reopened in August 2019. This is probably also the dream of the keen gardener:

“it is my dearest desire to see the palace rebuilt, to walk through the gardens of the palace and admire the green surroundings- the fruits of my work”

Video showing recent restaurations on “Darul Aman” palace

Read similar articles

Saffron from Germany?

An article provided by our guest author Benedikt Radloff

Generally known as „Red Gold“, saffron is a valuable spice originally from central Asia. But who would’ve expected this: Apart from that, one can find saffron in Germany as well. Presently, there are twelve saffron farmers throughout Germany. Boris Kunert for example, who cultivates the „Red Gold“ in Stolpen, a small place near Dresden, Germany.

Historically, the bulbous plant, which Latin name is crocus sativus, was first recorded to blossom as early as the 16th century. Saxon historian Peter von Weiß reports saffron cultivation ocurred south of Leipzig, Germany, in the region between Meißen and Dresden.

Original text by Petrus Albinus, chronicles of Meißen, Germany, 1580

Boris Kunert, journalist by profession, made cultivating the dark red, precious spice in Saxon fields his goal. His attention was drawn while doing research work in France. He was promptly attracted:

“i was simply fascinated by saffron. when i found out about thriving saffron in austria and switzerland, iwas convinced that this will work in saxony too”

One could think, Saxony is not the ideal place for cultivating saffron as it grows mainly in middle eastern regions with dry climates. However, due to climate change, similar conditions can be found in Saxony.

Disregarding other farmer’s thoughts, Kunert tested a small amount of saffron in his own garden. After a sucessful testing, the agricultural pioneer planted 30.000 saffron tubers in an area of several thousand square meters, and see what happened, in the following autumn his efforts bore fruits. Currently, his harvests developed and he gets between 400 and 800 grams per year.

Just like in Afghanistan the harvest in Germany is hard work. Firstly, the violet blossoms need to be picked, ere Kunert and his girlfriend are able to separate the fragile threads. The next step is the drying of the dark red threads in Kunert’s own oven until its full aroma is developed.

You feel like testing saffron’s taste by yourself?
Try both delicious saffron variants from different origins.

Much pleasure comparing!

Saffron from Saxony

Conflictfood’s Saffron

Weitere Safranprodukte

Origin of Saffron

How Saffron Came to Afghanistan

 

Afghanistan’s neighbor country Iran is the biggest producer of saffron. Iran supplies more than 90% of the saffron world market. The Iranian city Mashad is the center of saffron production. In times of war against the Russians millions of Afghan people had to flee to Iran. Many of them started working on Iranian farms where they learned all about the cultivation of saffron. After the war some families returned home to Afghanistan. They brought back saffron bulbs and started applying their knowledge about the cultivation to their home environment. Soon they called the attention of NGOs who understood the massive potential behind this development – especially in rural areas saffron could really be a lucrative alternative to the extensive cultivation of opium. Economically, Saffron is a great substitute for opium. Producers benefit from great market conditions because as a trade product saffron generates profits equally high to those of opium.

After the Soviet occupation and the fall of the Taliban regime, several local and international organizations supported farmers who wanted to switch production from opium to saffron. They assisted them with intensive trainings and provided educational programs teaching every step from the cultivation to the picking and processing of the saffron.

Chorasan – The Pearl of the East

 

The antique city of Herat is located at the ancient route of the legendary Silk Road. Back in time Herat was also called the “Florence of Asia”. The city was a centre of trade, art and culture within the old Persian empire. In the 6th century BC a new kingdom was established and the whole region, including Herat, Mashad and smaller provinces, was transformed into Khorasan, the so-called ‘Pearl of the East’. Soon you can learn more about Herat on our blog but now lets jump back to our topic – saffron.After this little excursion into the history of the Afghan-Iranian border region, all the linguistic and cultural similarities make sense. But Afghanistan’s close relationship to Iran is not only explainable by cultural history; we also have to consider ecological aspects. Herat provides equally good ecological conditions- concerning the soil, water and climate – as Mashad, which is not even a four-hour drive by car away. Saffron from the province of Herat has a very high quality, that one from the Ghorian district is said to be the world’s best.

Saffron from Herat

 

In 2008 some agricultural engineers started cooperating with saffron farmers and together defined a common target – the cultivation of saffron! Our local contact was the german NGO Help e.V. which brought us together with agronomists and teachers from the University of Herat. Their field of expertise is the ecological cultivation of saffron. They are consulting the small farmers.The German NGO ‚HELP – Help for self-help’ is doing research about the possible economical incentives of saffron cultivation for structurally weak regions. We learned about the wonderful Saffron project from our friends of HELP to whom we are in close contact. We are very thankful be part of the social change!

Women’s power

 

For you Conflictfood started the search for the ‘Red Gold’ and we found it on the fields of a woman’s collective in western Herat. Follow our next blog posts where you can find out more about the group of Afghan women who established this self-governed collective!

Read more about Afghanistan

Back flips on the ruins of Kabul

Afghanistan’s youth is rebelling against economic and social ruin. In the capital Kabul a group of youngsters joined together using their whole bodily strength to run into a new future.

Something is changing in Kabul. A group of youngsters refuse to accept a status of unemployment and a hopeless future. The Kabul Parkour Boys – Afghan pioneers of the acrobatic type of sport called parkour – are using the ruins of the former presidential palace as a training ground. As Kabul’s little sensation they have even already appeared on national TV. During our trip trough Afghanistan we have spend one exciting day with those moving survival artists.

 

For six years now the Kabul Parkour Boys are training together crossing the whole city. When doing Parkour the aim is to overcome urban obstacles with acrobatic movements; more precisely, practitioners want to get from one point to another using their body in the most efficient and creative way. With breathtaking speed the colourfully dressed boys are spinning through the abandoned rooms of the palace, climbing crumbling walls doing back flips – a powerful contrast program to economic stagnation, hopelessness and the dreariness of the war.

 

Most of the time the group trains at the ruins of the Darul Aman Palace. Built in the 1920s by King Amanullah, originally, the Western style palace was supposed to host the parliament. But the rise of the King’s enemies soon thwarted Amanullah’s plans of modernisation. After being severely damaged in 1969 by a big fire, the building was never inaugurated again. The name of palace – literally meaning ‚The Abode of Peace’ – is also the motto of the Parkour boys.

Growing up with a lack of prospects

 

Afghanistan is struggling with problems that according to Western standards characterise many of the least developed regions of the world: a chronically weak economy, a rapid population growth and a deficient social system. Many young Afghans can not look into a bright future. Two thirds of the population are under 25 years old, almost eight out of ten youngsters name unemployment as their worst concern. A report published by the Afghan government and the UN uncovers the alarming effects of the hopelessness: Nowhere on the planet so much opium is produced, nowhere so many young people are making use of the countries own drug production.

Mobility as a survival strategy

 

For decades mobility and movement have been Afghan survival strategies to escape from war destruction and personal insecurities. In a survey of the international broadcasting companies ARD, BBC and ABC almost half of the Afghans indicated that they did not feel sufficiently protected from the Taliban during war times when international troops where stationed at Afghanistan. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission the security situation further aggravated after the withdrawal of the international troops since 2011. Consequently, foreign investors and trade companies stopped their cooperation with Afghan businesses, international sources of capital were drying up and unemployment increased immensely.

 

Contrary to the prevailing scenario of threatening waves of refugees – mostly fuelled through the news coverage of Western media – the movement of the Afghan population mostly remains internal migration. 30 percent of the Afghan population are living in cities. Even though the situation is the most precarious in rural areas – especially for women – the living conditions and competition for scarce jobs are also getting worse in urban centres. Jamil, one of the founders of the Kabul Parkour Boys told us: “Half of our group is unemployed, studying or still goes to school.” What the future may be like? Nobody knows that.

Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.

 

Nevertheless they want to show the world that that Kabul has more to offer than the terror, war and drug trafficking constantly communicated by the media. They do Parkour to change their world. Jamil: “We train hard everyday in this dangerous environment. With Parkour we want to give the youth of Kabul the possibility to do sports without being a target for attacks. Parkour has become our life and with it we want to build up our future, to inspire Afghan Youth.”

Thus far, the group doesn’t have any sponsor. That’s why it is an important goal to collect donations to buy equipment and so be able to train in a sports center, regardless of adverse weather conditions. Therefore making it possible for Parkour girls to also participate in the future.

The start of the donation series Make Saltos Not War will be a charity dinner 5.Feb. 2017, whose net proceeds will be handed over to the Kabul Parkour Boys in Afghanistan by Conflictfood in November 2017. Conflictfood has brought all kinds of delicacies from Afghanistan and the team of the To Beef Or Not To Beef will conjure them into magnificent dishes. Prepare for culinary somersaults!

More  information and tickets here:  Make Saltos Not War!

Read more about Afghanistan

Buy saffron and do something good!

With the purchase of every Conflictfood product not only do you support direct and fair trade, but also with a percentage of the selling price educational projects in the partner’s countries.

winters for the children at “Paiwand-e-Noor” in Kabul

In autumn 2016 we were able to bring the first percentage of donation to our partner educational institution in Afghanistan. It is a beautiful feeling to know that the money is directly transferred to a place where it is really needed and valued. Many times you ask yourself if your donation actually gets to the intended places, or if its rather used in other dubious ways. But, we proudly announce that your donation arrived where it was supposed to arrive. With the money we bought firewood and a boiler – that was also connected to the water supply. Surprisingly, in the winters in Kabul the temperatures fall to minus degrees Celsius. There is an Afghan saying that: Let Kabul be without gold, but not without snow.Thus, the Heating with firewood is a possibility to escape the cold – nevertheless a quite expensive one. Most houses don’t have central heating, only rich people can afford this luxury. That is why, our financial contribution was tremendously important. Together with the director of the orphanage we decided to invest into firewood because the cold season had already begun.

Together we bought the wood, brought it to the orphanage and stored it in a shed. Afterwards we saw many happy faces – a virtue in a country where there is not much to laugh about right now.

Little Surprise

This time we prepared a little surprise for each kid:  We handed out pictures we took at our last visit. The kids quickly started to compare their own pictures, show them proudly or started to exchange some… .They really had great fun that day!

Big “Thank You”!

In the name of the girls and boy of the orphanage „Paiwand-e-Noor“ we want to thank all of our supporters wholeheartedly!

You want to support these boys and girls in Kabul as well?

By purchasing a produkt in our Conflictfood Online Shop you can do so!

Read more about Afghanistan

Afghan Curiosities Vol. 2

Conflictfood wants to show you another side of the conflict regions transcending dominant negative media images.

With our series Curiosities we regularly offer you exciting, amusing and bizarre information from all walks of live of our partner countries. You can read Volume 1 here.

Volume two tells you more about Afghan culture, cash and communication. Curious? Well, then you have to keep reading.

Did you know that Afghans are so to speak the innovators of poetry slam?

Poetry and poems play an essential part in Afghan culture. For thousands of years, Afghans have told their extraordinary stories by the use of poetic rhymes.

Ever since people in Herat would gather – men, women and children – to exchange old and modern stories until late at night, listening to traditional music of the Herati music, enjoying sweet tea and delicious pastries. Poetry Slam at it’s best!

Did you know the difference between Afghans and Afghanis?

A variety of different ethnic groups live in Afghanistan. But how to call them? Be careful – not Afghanis! Afghanis is the Afghan currency! 100 Afghanis are about 1,40 Euros, with which you can buy a handful of delicate almonds.

By the way – cents don’t exist in this currency. The smallest monetary unit is called pulse. Considering the current disastrous economic situation, this term seems to describe it perfectly – unfortunately a large part of the population lives on the “pulse of time”.

It’s ringing! Did you know how many Afghans are tethered to their phones?

Approximately 90 percent of the population owes a cellphone. At the same time, the share of the Afghan population with regular access to electricity is one of the lowest worldwide! Even the Taliban use Skype via their cell phones. Just like everywhere else in the world, the mobile network has changed the Afghan daily culture. Cell phones are considered a status icon – with the right amount of money you can obtain an individual phone number. For instance, you can choose the letters of your name or pick your personal lucky number. Conflictfood’s number would be: 73223, P-E-A-C-E!

You want to know more? Click here to read Curiosities Vol. 1!

Read more about Afghanistan

An artist on the trigger: A capture of hope and reality.

An extraordinary woman capturing vitality and hope in a country, shaped by violence and darkness over their daily lives.

Rada Akbar, Colorful LifeIt is about self-expression, telling a story and reflecting a country’s hope.

Until 2001, photographic art from Afghanistan can hardly be found. The expression of identity, culture and history through photography was banned with the rule of the Taliban. Now, free journalism and photography is a new and fresh movement in Afghanistan, telling the story of a country. Whereas media only selects newsworthy occurrences, a great part of the country, like its culture, life and cordiality, stays hidden from the rest of the world. Her pictures tell her story and the one of a whole country.

„I don’t photograph subjects. I photograph the way they make me feel.“

Rada Akbar, Carpet WeavingRada Akbar was born in Afghanistan. After starting her carrier as a painting artist, she soon devoted herself to her camera and her current project: Capturing people’s daily life in Afghanistan. Constantly looking for a new approach to convey her feelings, she started portraying Afghan reality. It its not only about art, it is about making people feel the soul of her pictures.

She captures the vitality of people living in Afghanistan, presenting a fascinating world full of colours and joy and at the same time she displays the dark, political situation and its violence. Rada Akbar uses photography as a medium to attract attention to the situation in Afghanistan and to fight it.Rada Akbar, The boy with the gunWorking as in independent woman in Afghanistan is not easy and comes along with provocations and hostilities. The Taliban restricted women’s rights strongly. Women had great difficulties attending schools and university. A lot of women were not even allowed to work. Especially because of this extreme imprint of past years, Rada Akbar wants to show today’s society what Afghan women are capable of. She wants to be a role model to show that women can pursue their career. Her hope for a better future is what keeps her moving, despite the complicated and abstruse situation at this very moment.Rada Akbar, Girl stands outside of the ruined busRada Akbar, FootballersWall  Art from Afghanistan!

Rada Akbar’s pictures can be found on national and international exhibitions. You can buy a selection of her most beautiful pictures, including those from this article, on Photocircle.Just like Conflictfood, Photocircle sets high social standards. The unique concept of Photocircle is about rewarding those who make the picture extraordinary. With each picture purchased, up to 50% of the total price goes back to a development project in the region the picture was taken. This way we can enjoy incredible art and make an important contribution to those deserving it!Rada Akbar, After school timeRada Akbar was born in 1988 in Afghanistan. She is a photographer, documenting the daily life of people in Afghanistan. She produced two documentaries to call attention to the great difficulties for women living in Afghanistan. In 2009 one of her movies, “Shattered Hopes”, was even selected for the Panorama Hindukusch-Filmfestival in Cologne. 

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Welcome to Herat – Pearl of Chorasan

If any one ask thee which is the pleasantest of cities,


Thou mayest answer him aright that it is Herāt.


For the world is like the sea,

and the province of Khurāsān like a pearl-oyster therein,


The city of Herāt being as the pearl in the middle of the oyster.

The famous poet Rumi himself was carried away by the beauty of the city Herat – it is not for nothing that he described her as „Pearl of Chorasan“. Nowadays there are only a few buildings left to tell us about the glorious past of Herat. Prosperity and beauty turned out to be a blessing and a curse for the city at the Silk Road provoking fierce battles and a scramble over her territory.

Despite centuries of conjunctures of prosperity and destruction the city located in the West of Afghanistan has maintained her special charm. When we visited Herat this unique cultural atmosphere fascinated us. Now, we want to share our unforgettable experiences with you and take you on a discovery tour through Herat including a journey through time.

Conversions of glory 

 

During the 11th century the kings of Ghor ruled the city. Being prosperous art patrons they supported Persian literature and architecture and transformed the city in a glorious metropolis – over 12000 shops packed with goods from all over the world, 6000 bathhouses, caravanserais and mills, half a million of homes and 359 schools adorned the city. This amazing time of prosperity was shattered by the arrival of the Mongoles and Ghengis Khan who razed the city to the ground.

Some time later in the 15th century the city was revived when the powerful rulers of the dynasty of the Timurids decided to move their residence from Samarqand to Herat. Under their rule the city became the capital of Chorasan – until it was conquered by the Uzbeks and Safawids.

History was repeating itself – exactly after this pattern kingdoms emerged and disappeared in Herat. The recent conflicts caused severe damages in the city. Today, the ruins are impressive reminders of the British and Russian invasions and the brutality of the War on Terror against the Taliban.

Today’s Herat

  

The last decades of war left deep marks in the city. The once vivid cultural traffic and tourism is not existent anymore. Most of the time within our discovery tour we were the only foreign people interested in the cultural treasures of the city.

Though the UNESCO highlighted the markable cultural potential of Herat in 1974 adding the city to the world heritage list. In any other peaceful part of the world buildings and places with such a historic value would be real tourist attractions.

The Friday Mosque

 

The Friday Mosque is over 800 years old. It is one of the most beautiful islamic buildings of Afghanistan and one of the biggest in all over Central Asia.

The mosque is build in a classic way, it’s foundation lies on four iwans – a special arabic way of architecture including a huge barrel vault covering an open hall. Beautiful arcades enclose a 100-meter-long inner courtyard. Two minarettes flank the huge main iwan. For us, these minarettes decorated with stylised flowers, arabesque and geometric patterns were simply dizzying.

Almost like a chameleon the islamic building changed its appearance over the centuries as consecutive dynasties adapted the architecture to their cultural preferences. Originally, the mosque was build by Sultan Ghiyasuddin of the Ghurids. Therefore traditional Ghurid tiles and pattern were used. Only lateron the building was decorated with bright mosaics of the Timurids. Those mosaics that you can find there today, are the product of the mosque’s internal workshop and a restauration project that is running since the 1940s. That is how Timurid mosaics have been combined with contemporary designs, colours and calligraphy.

This mixture of traditional and modern elements makes the mosque to a very particular jewel of contemporary islamic abstract expressionism. We are dealing with the realm of stunning mosaics, surrounded by blue ligaments with Quran verses. On the one hand, these bright colours and the detailled ornaments are a praise in honor of Allah. On the other hand, the simple white Iwans add a touch of modesty.

 

The Citadel of Herat

 

With its own 2000 year-old brachial history, the citadel of Herat became a symbol of the city. It is assumed that the citadel – the oldest building of Herat – is standing on the foundations of a fortress build by Alexander The Great approximately 330 BC. Since it’s construction the building was used as imperial residence, military garrison and prison.

In 2005 the Afghan army handed the building over to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. Since then they opened the doors for visitors. Nevertheless, we were basically alone inside the complex.

The citadel was built on an artificial hill. 18 towers with 2 meter thick walls overtop the street level with 30 meters. Shah Rukh already built almost the exact same structure in 1415. At that time the outer walls have been decorated with monumental poetic verses written in Kufic letters. They declared the sublimity of the castle that „was never affected by the upheavals of any times.“

Unfortunately, this motto couldn’t be kept up. In 1953 the former king Zahir Shah managed to prevent the demolition of the building. Still, the following times of turbulences and decades of neglect caused irrevocable damages. Over and over again, victorious powers pillaged the citadel and disposed valuable roof beams and tiles.

However, with some German and US-American financial support over a hundred Afghan craftsmen were able to restore the building recently. Thus, the beautifully restored building again became a symbol of hope.

From the top of the so-called „Timurid Tower“ – one of the few places that is still decorated with antique mosaics – we had an awesome view over the colourful urban life, the crooked streets and exciting bazaars.

The Musalla complex and the mausoleum of Gawhar Shad

 

The complex of Gawhar Shad Musalla has been build by queen Gawharshad. The wife of the Timurid King Shah Rukh who deceased in 1447 reigned over his empire from the river Tigris until China. Today the complex includes a mausoleum in her honour.

We found five minarets and further ruins – the whole complex is only shadow of it’s former self. The British invaders destroyed the once magnificent building in 1885. Several earthquakes did the rest.

Today the place is a homely setup hosting opium addicts. It is claimed that they finance their addiction through selling artefacts. Usually such antique pieces would belong to a museum – but here people have to worry about other things.

Gazar Gah

 

Finally, to attend the Friday prayer we were setting off to one of the most beautiful spiritual places in Herat – the shrine Gazar Gah. Located around five kilometres away from the city centre the shrine is by far not as big and crowded than the Friday Mosque.

Right here, the grave of the famous Sufi poet the holy Khwaja Abdullah Ansari – who lived in Herat – is located. Every day hundreds of pilgrims from all over the country come to pray and get purified. Signifying as much as ‚the bleaching ground’ which is a mystical Sufi reference to cleanse one’s soul before facing Allah.

Currently, the grave complex is being renovated so that it can shine in its former glory soon.

The world is like the sea – it has to nourish the oyster…

 

Even though some parts of the old town still tell the stories on the former glory of Herat increasingly modern structures are becoming more important – historic monuments are decaying and the shine of the pearl almost lost it’s lustre. Never minding the lack of funds and years of conflict the Heratis are renovating over and over again – this proves their tireless commitment.

 ‚The province Chorasan is like a pearl oyster’ having the potential to produce wonderful pearls. Your purchase of our saffron is supporting the province and the people economically – so that the pearl Herat some day will be shine again in all its glory.

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Afghan Curiosities Vol. 1

Conflictfood wants to show you another side of the conflict regions transcending dominant negative media images.

With our series Curiosities we regularly offer you exciting, amusing and bizarre information from all walks of life of our partner countries.

Volume 1 combines sports, diversity and bling bling – are you curious yet? Let’s start!

Did you know that the Afghan national sport includes the carcass of a dead goat?

Buz” is the Dari word for “goat“. Buzkashi translated literally from Dari means “goat grabbing“. A wild form of rugby on horseback, where the goal is to get the water-soaked, headless goat from one side of the field to the designated winning spot on the other.

The buz is soaked in water beforehand to toughen it up. It’s placed in a chalked out circle on the ground. At a signal, the two teams try to grab the animal carcass and ride to another chalked out circle on the opposite side of the playing field to drop the dead goat. The winner is the one who gets the (largest piece) buz there first.

The creation of Buzkashi is, perhaps apocryphally, thought to have been inspired by Ghengis Khan’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1219-21, when pillaging Mongols on horseback would sweep up local Afghan livestock at a gallop.

Afghans would like to see this as an official Olympic sport, and it has been proposed to Olympic committees on several occasions. Although this sport has recently seen the introduction of more rules and has been sponsored by Afghan Airlines and various business owners, it doesn’t seem likely that it will become an official Olympic sport in the near future.

Flying hooves, fierce whips, shoving, grabbing, and the melee of gorgeous Arabian horses results in tough sport only master players may win. It is a dangerous game!

Did you know how ethnically diverse Afghan population is?

Afghanistan has a wide variety of ethnic groups with each having different linguistic, religious and ethnic identities. This is partly due to silk traders traveling the Silk Route from China to the Western world, creating a nomadic trait in Afghanistan. Also Afghan topography has contributed to keeping people and communities isolated from each other. During the course of the 20th century, contact between different groups increased, with development of the country’s communication and road system and consolidation of state power. This contact continued after the Soviet invasion, although the country’s development stagnated and violence erupted.

Estimates of the numbers of different ethnic groups have to be taken with a grain of salt. There has not been a census in Afghanistan for decades, and all figures are based on estimates.

Pashtuns are Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group and are estimated to make up around 40% of the Afghan population. The majority follow the Sunni Muslim doctrine.  Pashtuns are the world’s largest remaining tribal community. They have held the reins of power in Afghanistan since the 18th century.

Tajiks are also mostly Sunni Muslims, but they speak Dari and group cohesion is non-tribal. They constitute the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, an estimated 30%. They have long been more urbanised than other groups. The majority, however, still live scattered in the mountainous north and north-eastern areas, such as Badakhshan, and parts of Herat province along the western border with Iran.

Hazaras account for about 15% of the population and are the third largest ethnic group.  The majority of Hazaras are located in Hazarajat, an area in the central highlands of Afghanistan that they controlled autonomously until the end of the 19th century. The majority of the Hazara belong to the Twelvers, a branch of the Shia Muslim doctrine, while only a small minority belongs to the Sunni doctrine. Hazaras speak Hazaragi, a dialect very close to Dari that uses many Turkish and Mongolian expressions.

The Uzbek and Turkmen minorities in Afghanistan make up about 10% of the population.  They are Sunni Muslim and originate historically from nomadic tribes that arrived in waves from Central Asia. Their languages belong to the Turkic language family. They are traditionally associated with the areas northwest of the Hindu Kush mountain range, near the borders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Aimaqs are the smallest of the main ethnic groups and probably account for around 5%.  They are Sunni Muslims, and their primary language is Dari with many loan words from Turkish.  They are tribes that historically settled around the western parts of the Hindu Kush, that is, east of Herat and west of the Hazarajat.

Farsiwan are settled in western Afghanistan, near the border with Iran.  They speak a Persian dialect that is close to Dari and they belong to Twelver branch of Shia Muslim in Afghanistan.

Nuristani people are settled in the eastern Afghan mountains where they make their living from agriculture and livestock. They are Sunni Muslims and speak a language that is considered to be very old, with features from both Persian and Hindi. Living in isolated valleys and rough terrain, Nuristanis had a distinct culture and a polytheistic religion, but were conquered and forcibly converted to Islam in the end of the 19th century.

Kyrgyz are Turkic-speaking, and before the war they lived mostly in the Pamir Wakhan Corridor, the long and thin strip of Afghan territory that stretches northeast from Badakshan province to form a narrow border with China. They herd Yak-oxen, goats and camels.  There are only few Kyrgyz living in Afghanistan today.  Most of them fled to Turkey, China, Pakistan or other countries during the Soviet occupation.

Among other smaller ethnic groups are Arabs, Pashayi, Baloch, Pamiris, Brahuis, Mongols, Qizilbash, Hindus, Kohistani, Gujars and Sikhs.

Did you know that Egyptians pharaohs loved Afghan bling bling?

Afghanistan’s most unique and probably most beautiful material is the deep dark blue lapis lazuli. In ancient Egypt pharaohs loved to wear jewelry made of this precious material and they found ways to have it imported all the way from mines in today’s Afghanistan. Afghanistan was the source of lapis lazuli for the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, as well as the later Greeks and Romans.

Lapis Lazuli is found in limestone in the Kokcha River valley of Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan, where the Sar-e-Sang mine deposits have been worked for more than 6,000 years.

Afghanistan’s other natural resources comprises of silver, zinc, gold, copper, and iron ore that are found in the southeast. Potentially important petroleum and natural gas reserves are found in the north. The country also has uranium, coal, salt etc.Curiosities vol. 2 will be published soon  – stay tuned and support conflictfood!

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Afghan poppy trails and versatile dependencies

Poppy – semiotically, the flower has an innocent connotation almost sounding cute. Visually, the sea of faded pink and white blossoms in a poppy field creates a romantic atmosphere. But, after the harvest the sweet flowers dramatically change their meaning. With their art installation ‚Poppy – Trails of Afghan Heroin’ – currently exhibited at c/o Berlin Exhibitionhouse for Photography – Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth want to open our eyes for the brutality of international drug trade based on poppy.

For the past two decades both artists followed the routes of Afghan heroin, from Afghanistan to all directions, North, East, South and West, via Russia to West Europe and from China, to East Africa and Dubai. Their multimedia installation documents the dark sides of globalisation. Brutal gang wars, illegal money laundering, corruption, trafficking of women and deathly addiction – they show an impressive kaleidoscope of criminality, crisis and chaos.

Once, goods, cultures and religions were exchanged by the famous Afghan Silk Road. Today, mainly drugs are smuggled and chaos reins the route. Drug trade especially flourishes in conflict and war regions. “The opium trade loves smuta, the Russian word for chaos and confusion. Wherever the heroin caravan passes, organized crime is surging. The volume of money being made is so vast that whole nation states are being undermined”, explains a designated female voice while images picturing dealers, prostitutes, boarder soldiers, police man and children are displayed. Smuta rules conflict regions, and drugs are one integral part of it.

Dependency and Addiction

 

Afghanistan produces more than 90 % of the available opium worldwide. It is a centre of the global drug network. Around 50 billion US-dollars are earned annually with Afghan heroin. Surely, small farmers who actually cultivate the poppy definitely do not cream off the lion’s share. Corrupt state officials, powerful warlords and the Afghan Taliban are the main beneficiaries.

Nevertheless, the opium production builds the foundation of the life of many Afghan farmers. Even though they don’t find themselves in a very rosy position, their everyday life might look worse without the pink flowers. In 2014, a governor from Kandahar clarifies:

“The farmer benefits from cultivating poppy in multiple ways. They don’t need good roads, cold storage, tractor, as farmers can carry the poppies by hand to their storages or wherever they want to sell them. And the best thing is that the buyers directly pay them a visit to get the poppy.”On the one hand, economically speaking, opium and heroin are very potent goods traded in heavy business deals. On the other hand, they weaken societies and their consumers irrevocably leading them into dependencies and addiction. All together around 15 Million people are consuming heroin synthesized from Afghan poppy. Following the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 8 % of the Afghan population are addicted to drugs – hence, about a million of the 15 to 64 year-olds, whicht is twice as much as the global average. Many use heroin and opium as a medication against the dreariness of a life in crisis.Drug use on the streets of KabulFor centuries opium was used as a tranquilizer and painkiller. Only in the course the 1980s Afghanistan became a hub within the global drug supply chains. During the Soviet occupation heroin and opium were smuggled to finance the war against the invaders. After the occupation many Mujahidin groups fought for the control of the Trade routes and drugs, following the principle: Who controls the opium trade secures power for himself. 1999 the Taliban destroyed 90% of the poppy fields, artificially raising the market prices of the drug. Only years later after the fall of the Taliban the poppy production magically increased again. Between 2001 and 2007 the outcome rose from 185 tons to 8200 tons.

A global network

 

Of course, this increase of production is related to a raising international demand. With a huge info graphic, de Jong and Knoth visualize the complexity of the drug network. The underlying trade relations show in an exemplary way the linkages between conflict, informal economies and drug trade. Countries that historically played an important role in the Afghanistan-Conflict are still crucially linked to the network. Currently, with 21% Russia is the biggest customer of the Afghan heroin and 10% of the harvests are traded with East Africa (fighters from Somalia supported the Mujaheddin’s war against the Soviets).Uniquely, the art installation embodies the complexity of the drug network and underlines that a one-dimensional-approach to the ‘War on Drugs’ only aiming at arresting dealers and destroy poppy fields, cannot be successful. As a part of the global informal economy the drug trade developed historically and is interlinked to many other sectors. Too many pieces create the whole image, too much depends on the colourful, intoxicating flowers.

 

Saffron instead of opium!

 

Still, it is possible to open up alternatives for the small Afghan farmers – and the key is saffron. Saffron is the perfect substitute for poppy because its cultivation provides the same advantages for farmers: the flowers achieve high profit margins and require comparably low agricultural infrastructures.

That is why Conflictfood imports Afghan saffron – to uproot the poppy cultivation.

Help us to disarm the conflict economy in Afghanistan!

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‘A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive’

What do you do on rainy weekends? Salem and Gernot – the founders of Conflictfood – love to visit Museums. But what are people doing in Kabul? Are there any museums left after years of warfare? Yes indeed – there is one in particular whose history might be more exciting than any thriller you have ever read! Join the Conflictfood team on a walk taround the National Museum in Kabul.

The treasures of Kabul’s National Museum

 

At the centre of old Kabul, barely 100 meters away from the destroyed presidential palace, the National Museum of Afghanistan is located. It is almost 100 years old. Our car is the only vehicle on the parking spot in front of the house – apart from five to six students from the high school close by, we will be the only guests of the day.

In the late 70s the National Museum of Afghanistan housed more than 100,000 objects. However, decades of civil war and conflict have exacted a terrible toll on its collection. During Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the Museum was commandeered by the military and many of its treasures were hastily removed. Worse was to come. During years of civil war a rocket attack destroyed the Museum’s roof and storage rooms, allowing thousands of artifacts to be lost and looted. By the mid 90s only 4000 objects could be located. Then came the Taliban’s disastrous 2001 edict mandating the destruction of ‘idolatrous’ works – another 2500 were lost.

A golden age for Afghanistan

 

In 1978 Kabul was a city of roughly half a million citizens, a bustling hub of Central Asia. Dr. Omara Khan Masoudi, Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan, began working there that year. It was him who wrote the words now immortalised at the Museum’s entrance. In the two decades prior, the Kabul Airport became operational, the country’s first rock music festival was held in 1975, and an organisation named the ‘Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan’ was founded.

A golden age for archaeology

 

In 1966 a new rush to explore the region was provoked by the accidental discovery of golden bowls bearing Mesopotamian designs. This chance find proved the importance of Afghanistan in ancient trade routes. In 1978 Russian archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi uncovered one of the world’s great archaeological finds. On the slopes of Tillya Tepe in northern Afghanistan, he unearthed the Bactrian Hoard: more than 20,000 items of gold and precious metal including the folding crown of a nomadic princess, gold buckles, brooches, and thousands of jewelled objects that illustrated the country’s immense cultural wealth.

The end of the golden age

 

Yet that same year brought disaster for the Afghan people. In the early hours of April 28, 1978, troops from the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan began a coup that resulted in the death of President Mohammad Daoud Khan and most of his family. It would become known as the ‘Saur Revolution’, but it was far from a people’s uprising. In December 1979, Soviet troops entered the country to support the communist government and fight the mujahideen, sparking a decade of guerrilla warfare.

A safe and a secret

 

At short notice, the Museum’s collection was ordered to be removed. Priceless artefacts, including Hellenistic stone and bronze statues, gold bowls, fragile Roman glassware, early Islamic carvings, Buddhist ivory sculptures, and vast numbers of ancient coins were packed into temporary housings. The works of art were removed hastily and handled without care, and without regard for the scientific and technical standards.

The collection was transferred to the home of minister Sardar Mohammad Naim Khan. In October 1980 the communist government handed back the building and reinstated the Museum.

As the ten years of war drew to a close and Soviet troops prepared to leave, the Museum was confronted by an ever-worsening security situation. The staff faced a terrible dilemma: risk packing up and transporting the objects again, or take a chance on the stability of the government. Ultimately, museum staff, in consultation with the Ministry of Information and Culture, decided to move the collection’s most valuable objects from Darulaman to the city centre for protection. The most prized objects were moved in secret to safes in the basement of the Kabul bank. In the years since the treasures were hidden, much has passed into legend.

The long war years made the lives of Kabul’s population a living hell. Marks of civilisation, state provisions and private assets were plundered or left in ashes. Thousands of Afghan families had to leave the country. It also ushered in a disastrous era for the National Museum. Again, the Museum served as a military base. It changed hands between various mujahideen factions several times. Each time soldiers were pushed out, the opportunistic ones would steal whatever they could take with them.

Nobody fully knows what happened to these stolen items. Some were likely sold on the black market, others melted down. Such looting began taking place at sites all across the country. In an attack in May 1993, rockets struck the upper levels of the building, setting them alight and causing the roof to collapse.

The Taliban rose to power in 1996. Surprisingly, they instituted a program to protect the collection. The doors to the Museum were locked for two years. In May 1999, a small core of museum workers picked up the inventory that was begun in 1996, which then listed less than 4000 objects – just 4% of the original collection. In 2001, the Taliban tasked a special group with destroying idolatrous images. This brutality resulted in the loss of a further 2500 works from the Museum and culminated in the demolition – using dynamite, rocket launchers, tanks and antiaircraft guns – of two enormous sixth-century Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamiyan valley. These barbaric acts, which filled the heart of every decent Afghan with anger, represented an irreplaceable loss. Neither the coming generations of Afghans nor human history will forget this era of tyranny and destruction.

Luckily, the key treasures of the Museum lay safely hidden underground. In 2000 a secret ministry commission confirmed that the treasures were still hidden.

A new journey begins

 

On September 11, 2001 two hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Centre in Manhattan. The Taliban’s subsequent refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden and other key members of Al-Qaeda led to the US-led invasion in October 2001. The fall of the regime made it safer for some residents to return to Kabul and the city’s population soon numbered more than five million. Though the security situation remained fragile, international aid allowed the rebuilding of the Museum and its collection.

Yet the public had no news of the Museum’s remaining treasures. In 2003 the Ministry of Information and Culture decided to inventory the hidden treasures and a delegation ventured into the vaults. As President Hamid Karzai explained at the time: ‘It was like something out of a movie. We had to go down three elevators under the palace and along a tunnel set with booby traps, then through a door with seven or eight codes all held by different people.’

They found the treasure intact! 324 artefacts that represent the remaining inner core of Afghan heart and soul were found in the boxes. That was all that remained – out of the 100.000 pieces of gold, silver and gems of the original collection of the museum, only 0,3% could be safed here at the national Museum in Kabul.

At the entrance of the Museum the following words are engraved into the stone facade: ‘a nation stays alive when its culture stays alive’.

Those 324 artworks of Kabul’s Museum not only enrich rainy weekends – their incredible stories should be told any day of the week!

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The House of Peace ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’

Investing in education

 

Children are the future of every country. Therefore their education is one of the most sustainable projects that a society can invest into – but only if there are any sources of funding. Conflictfood is investing a share of the sales revenues in educational projects at the countries of origin. Personally, we carefully select these projects and convince ourselves of their standards.

Buying our products is your contribution towards a peaceful future!

In Afghanistan we visited a very special project – all together it is a children’s home, orphanage, school and a shelter supporting and encouraging disabled children. On the outskirts of Kabul 113 children found a safe place flooded with light and a place they can call home. It is not without a reason that this house is called ‚Paiwand-e-Noor’ – literally meaning ‘fountain of light’. This house is a peaceful haven far away from the shadows of the war.

Scar(r)ed by war 

 

Build in 2005 the project not only shelters orphans but also children who cannot be sufficiently supported by their own families. The kids are between 6 and 18 years old. Almost half of them do not have any relatives or come from districts far away from Kabul. The other half is living with their families in Kabul who themselves are struggling to support their education. Every morning they are picked up, every night they are brought back by the orphanage’s transport service.

All children who are playing and learning here are traumatised. Growing up in a country that has been struggling with enduring conflicts for the past 38 years, they experienced the dark side of war. War injuries have physically disabled many Afghan children. Some stepped on landmines or were injured by grenades, others have been mutilated by so-called ‘butterfly bombs’ – weapons that are perfidiously disguised as toys or pens to attract children. When the kids play with them, they explode.

Due to their physical limitations many children and youngsters are excluded from society. The aim of the project is to help children, who need protection and support, including them into a family environment and enabling them to pursue a school education and a career so they can finally live a self-determined life.

Education – a path into an independent future

 

Precisely, the project ‚Paiwand-e-Noor’ encourages the children to attend regular school education and complete their degrees. Afterwards they can decide if they want to pursue a craft training or any higher level of education. Together with a team of voluntary tutors from a private university of Kabul, the supervisors especially support the psychologically and physically challenged kids. Moreover, at the house the boys and girls can learn to carpenter or tailor. They are offered diverse tangible knowledge, which might serve them to earn for a living in their future.

Dreams instead of traumas 

 

In good weather the kids are enjoying the small playground or the grass soccer field close by. A national sports club provides them with the possibility to use all the facilities and play their most favorite sports there. Physical activities help them reduce emotional stress and process the traumatized past. No matter which physical constraints they experienced through the war – here everyone is part of one team.

Moreover, to actively help the children with psychological trauma psychotherapist Karin Struck from Germany is supporting and visiting ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’ on a regular basis. During her stay in Kabul she lives and works together with the kids. Since she is fluent in the local language Dari, she is connecting easily with them. Finally, with her constant work she tries to stabilize their mental state.

Also, the medical doctor Dr. Gulab Gul is in charge of their wellbeing. At war times the doctor himself was a refugee child. That is why he is committed with heart and soul to the project.

Community comes first 

 

Passing on important values like understanding, friendship, tolerance, and gender equality are the educational key concept of ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’. Family and community structures form the base of the living together. Inside of the enlivened common rooms the kids handicraft, crochet and play together. In their dorms they have their small own empires simply put together with a bed and cupboard. Nevertheless, this is more than most of their families could offer them at home.

Still, for many years the housing was in poor condition. The ceilings, floors and windows were broken and the plaster was crumbling off. During winter humidity and coldness caused typical diseases like the flu. The desperately needed renovation works started in 2015. Again, the kids played an active role renovating. They made crucial decisions and were trained by the craftsmen to gain practical knowledge for their future. Finally, the house is now prepared for the highly changing Afghan weather conditions.

The beginning of a success story

 

By the end of 2014 fourteen youngsters successfully graduated from school. Three immediately started studying at the university and one is already working as a dentist right now. The other eleven graduates found employment too. Every now and then they visit ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’ and it still feels like home.

The project is not just of temporal character. Periodically, the project manager Abdul Saboor has to send reports to the ‘Verein für Afghanistan Förderung Bonn’. Also ambassadors of the German-based association are visiting the project regularly to check the development. Thanks to the financial support of ‘Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung’ the project was flourishing. Several TV-broadcasts introduced ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’ to the Afghan public and right now it is more popular then ever – 200 kids have been put on a waiting list. Unfortunately, the funding period expired in spring 2016. Now the future of the house is uncertain.

The financial donations of Conflictfood’s saffron sales could fill that gap. Apart from paying the staff and costs of maintenance, we also invest in IT-equipment for the project.

Kids are our future and many people in Afghanistan are struggling to invest into their education. Therefore projects like Paiwand-e-Noor are worth a mint. Exactly that is why Conflictfood is offering financial support to this children’s home – so that the fountain of light continues to sparkle.

Spending three whole days with the kids and supervisors was a personal enrichment for us! Together we played soccer, we observed them doing incredible artworks and received two handmade beautiful scarves as a gift. We are totally looking forward to our next visit!

 

Support ‘Paiwand-e-Noor with buying Conflictfood’s saffron! 

Mehr lesen über Afghanistan

Game of Drones

Combat Drone Attacks – between Video Game and Real Brutality

 

Two sergeants of the US Air Force are sitting in comfortable leatherette seats inside an air-conditioned cabinet at Fort Knox in Kentucky, USA. The control panel in front of them looks like the cockpit of a fighter jet. Contrary to regular fighter pilots those two are safe and secure. Their high-resolution screens show live images of their country of deployment Afghanistan from a bird’s eye perspective. Right at this moment they fly their drones over the South-eastern provinces nearby the Pakistani boarder. Their goal: ‘bugsplat’ – currently a common military expression for bombing people within drone operations of the US anti-terror mission ‘Freedom’s Sentinel’.A same or similar situation could have lead to the drone assassination of the Taliban’s former chief Akthar Mansour, which the Pentagon announced about one month ago.

 

Targeting Afghanistan

 

For quite some time the US have been focusing on Afghan provinces with their drones, attacking them every single week to hunt down enemies like Mansour. The US government hails such ‘strategic hits’. At the same time civil fatalities are accepted as collateral damage.

Currently Afghanistan is the most frequently drone bombed country in the world – and also the most damaged one by drone attacks. Due to its geopolitical and strategic position in the Middle East the country has always been a hub of international conflicts. Thus, for decades the Afghan civil society has been under attack, creating an endless list of victims. The arsenal of already used weapons is beyond our imagination. Afghanistan is still full of land mines – relicts from the Soviet wars – as well as so-called ‘butterfly bombs’ which are weapons perfidiously disguised as toys or pens to attract and wound children.

Targeted? Effective? Successful?

 

The US – and of course other drone advocates – characterise drones as humanitarian weapons because they allegedly facilitate a very effective and precise killing of single targets.

Now, after generally questioning the ethic legitimacy of any state operated killing, the question remains if in the case of a real attack a terrorist villain can be clearly identified from such a far distance? President Obama’s chasing of terrorists is based on a formal categorisation of certain life patterns after which people are classified as suspects. But, according to his officials, in case of rapid interventions any military-aged male in the strike zone is automatically considered an enemy combatant and guilty until proven innocent. Most of the time the combat drones are faster then military investigations.

With the publication of confidential papers of the drone-based US military strategy the investigative news platform ‘The Intercept’ unveiled the ineffectiveness of the US drone attacks. 90% of the victims of the US drone operation in Afghanistan cannot be classified as military targets. In 2015 within only six months at least 400 people have been killed in drone attacks – most of them were civilians. The high number of civil victims clearly speaks against the targeted precision and effectiveness of combat drone attacks. Moreover the success of the weapon against terror must be put in question – after Mansour’s death the Taliban’s closed the power vacuum quickly by replacing him with his former deputy Haibatullah Achundsada.

 

Rise of the drones, downfall of the international humanitarian law

 

Within the US Mission ‘Freedom’s Sentinel’ under Nobel Peace Price winner Barack Obama the deployment of drones has significantly increased. In 2011 drones took only part of 5% of the US military operations, in 2015 they dominated with 56%. The rise of the drones is basically related to one main problem of governments and state officials – the justification of wars is an ethical balancing act. Especially, they struggle with legitimising the insecurities of warfare to the general public. Because of their alleged minimal invasive character drones fit perfectly into the US doctrine of warfare for ‘the Good’ wherein they play the role of the ‘Global Cop’ ensuring law and order world-widely.

Behind the facade we find clear calculations – drones should help outsourcing insecurities. Since they can be controlled conveniently from home, the risks for the state and military are smaller. That is why the US Air Force is advertising the training for drone operators with a video that compares drone wars with video game activities.Importantly, the reality in conflict areas is different. Often neither the opposite governments nor the attacked societies know which areas are in severe danger of air attacks. Following the French philosopher Grégoire Chamayou, this is how drones transform the whole globe into a war zone. War is becoming potentially ubiquitous. Strictly speaking thereby national sovereignty and the basic principles of international humanitarian law are undermined. Not the protection of civil society but rather the physical integrity of one’s own armed forces is paramount.

 

Risky remote control

 

Ultimately, these unmanned weapons are dangerous for their pilots as well because they generate a video game mentality. The extreme geographical distance creates a feeling of personal invulnerability. Physically, this might be true – at the touch of a button people are executed without any real involvement of the operators own body. But, how much the soldiers are mentally affected is not clear yet.

What is clear though is that those attacks from far away result in the alienation of the victim’s societies – they fuel hatred. The increasing vulnerability of the attacked people and absent counter initiatives from the Afghan government under Ashraf Ghani dramatically raise the options of recruitment for the militant opposition – hence, the Taliban. Maybe drones provide an alternative to the total destruction of regular wars. But, the killing of single terrorist leaders will not successfully pave the way into a more peaceful future. The case of Mansour illustrated that he was only one head of the Hydra – he is quickly replaced with a new leader who is maybe even more supported by his followers.But wait, there is another side of the coin: New projects, like Zipline International, demonstrate how drones can actually serve real humanitarian projects. In the nearby future their drones will deliver vital medicines into war regions like Rwanda.

This is how the unmanned warplanes become peace messengers!

Read more about Afghanistan

War Rugs

Nomadic tribes living in the area of today’s Afghanistan perfected the art of knotting rugs – today the Afghan rug is well known all around the world.

However, invasions and wars gave birth to a totally new and bizarre version of rugs!

Why did Kalashnikovs and bombs become a motive on Afghan rugs? And, how is this development linked to Conflictfood’s projects?

Interwoven history

 

The knotting of rugs is a centuries-old tradition in Afghanistan. Worldwide, Afghan rugs are highly valued and they have been important export commodities of the country for a long time. Back in time nomads produced the first woven and knotted rugs and ‘Kilim’ as a substitute for animal hide. They were considered a handy piece of furniture because they could be easily rolled up and packed on the nomad’s horses. After arriving on a new resting place rugs were used in versatile ways as comfortable floor covering, ‘wall’ or ‘entrance door’ of the tents.

Every tribe had its own specific pattern and colour scheme – just like European family crests.

The traditional art of knotting rugs is one of the oldest cultural achievements of humankind. In 2010 it was included in the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

 

Carpet designs

 

The first designs of the traditional carpets were quite simple. In contrast to the diversity of shapes in paintings and pottery, the rectangular structure of the weaving frame only allowed the production of basic geometric forms – for thousands of years rectangles, squares, hexagons and octagons were dominating the design of rugs. The structured character of these forms simultaneously created repetitions of hexagons and octagons within the spaces and gaps in between.Over time the range of geometric patterns was complemented with characteristic symbols related to the climate, mythology and religion as well as the every-day-life experiences of the artists. For knowledgeable nomads different rugs became pictograms, cult items or cultural objects.

The diversity of patterns and motives, the cultural networking of the tribes and the different climate conditions lead to the development of traditional applications of colour, motives, techniques and proportions that were unique for each and every tribe.

Later on the canon of motives was further expanded. In the Persian and Ottoman Empire carpet designers borrowed ideas from book illumination and ceramics depicting floral patterns, courtly splendour, opulent curves and rosettes. Moreover images of hunts and gardens became popular and for the first time silk and cotton were used to produce carpets. Huge sizes to fit the enormous halls of the palaces replaced the former typically produced smaller sized versions of the tent interiors.On both sides, the courtly production and the nomadic tradition mutually enriched each other with their specific styles and designs. But, with the downfall of the Ottoman Empire and the Afghan invasion of Persia the courtly style of rug production abruptly ended.

 

From luxury to mass production

 

With the ending of the 19th century the rug production was subject to a second change. Through the Viennese World Exhibition in 1873 the Oriental rug became world famous. Unimaginable interest and an increase in orders fuelled the trade with the rugs. Thereby, material and patterns were mostly dictated by market demands.

In the 1920s most of the nomads were settling down. Since then rugs have been mainly ordered at big manufactures and traded as mass-produced goods.

As from 1960 copies of traditional patterns also developed in European third countries like Romania and Bulgaria – from 1970 in Pakistan and India and later on even in China.

Thus, due to all those cultural influences the diversity of patterns and colours was and is constantly growing. Annually new types of rugs are produced as an attempt to capture market niches and comply with the consumers taste.

 

Knotted wars

 

During the Sowjet-Afghan war in the 1980s approximately one-and-a-half million people died, at least five million had to flee their home country. Most of them went to Pakistan and knotting rugs was a possibility to earn for their livings in a foreign country.

Exactly this war provoked a new extraordinary category of contemporary art – for the first time Afghan rugs pictured the horrors of war. That is how the so-called war rugs emerged.

Instead of pomegranates they picture hand grenades, instead of flowers they expose warplanes and Kalashnikovs.Photo credit: Kevin Sudeith/Warrug.com ( https://www.warrug.com/index1.php?idr=1669)Photo credit: Kevin Sudeith/Warrug.com (https://warrug.com)Initially weapons were only depicted at the borders of the rugs, but soon they moved as the main theme to the centre of the artistic pieces. Not only should the rugs be a proof of the personally experienced heroic actions, rather the aim of the artist is to rise the awareness of the world public about the enemy’s military supremacy – tanks encircle a mosque, the enemy’s troops invade a town district and heavy weapons compete with light firearms.

The rapid development of the motives on the rugs documents the direct interaction between the everyday war context and art. After 2001 the rugs depict the NATO-invasion and whole editions show the attacks on the World Trade Center. Recently also drones and drone attacks were included in the patterns of the rugs.Photo credit: Kevin Sudeith/Warrug.comhttps://warrug.com/November.php)Although these knotted pictures are a source of the experienced omnipresence of lethal weapons, the suffering and psychological vulnerability of the Afghan people, they also embody traditional values giving hope and advocating peace.

This art of resistance is an integral form of expression allowing the artists and his community to psychologically process their war experiences and flight.

In this way the war rugs became knotted documents of time, psychograms and images against oblivion.

 

Conflictfood is keeping the tradition

 

During our travels through Afghanistan we found the war rugs on markets and carpet shops again and again. Unfortunately, all of them were machine-made cheap goods. The original pieces are already belonging to art collectors and achieve high prices on international auctions.

Everyone has to decide for himself whether war rugs are pretentious kitsch or traditional art pieces. To us – the team of Conflictfood – they exert a strange fascination, which finally inspired us to integrate them into the graphic design of our saffron packaging.Together with our graphic designer Lisa Baur, we picked up the traditional pattern in conformity with the war rug designs. In the working process we developed various new versions of the pattern and constantly tried to improve them.

Finally, we decided in favour of a specific one – at a first glance the pattern is inspired by the traditional Afghan structure of rugs. It takes a second look to see the small grenades, rifles, warplanes situated around the saffron flowers.

Find Saffron here

Saffron

Saffron, jewellery of gods, kings and heroes

 

A legend in Greek mythology says that Zeus slept on a bed made of saffron. The Phoenicians already used saffron as a medicinal and an aromatic agent. They had probably encountered it through the Indians, and saffron was a luxury item already in the ancient times.

In ancient Egypt saffron is mentioned in the “Ebers Papyrus” and the Old Testament’s “Song of Solomon” praises saffron as the most precious spice.

At the court of the Sumerian king Gilgamesh only the court nobility wore saffron-dyed clothes. These clothes also belonged to the typical costume of Persian kings.

It is undisputable that in many cultures it used to be the custom to dye the wedding veil with saffron yellow. Rich Romans sprinkled saffron on their wedding beds.

Upon his arrival to Kashmir Alexander the Great set up camp in an area covered by lush grass plane. At dawn he discovered his army in a sea of lilac flowers which had blossomed overnight, even in the tents. The flower pistils dyed his clothes golden. He believed in witchcraft and so retreated without a fight. At least, that’s what the legend tells.Through the fabled east-west route, the Silk Road, Afghanistan being one of the most important hubs, reached the spice Europe together with gold, precious stones and precious fabrics. There reigned the Dark Ages, as caravanserais already prospered and matured.

People of different ethnic and religious backgrounds: Pagans, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Muslims later lived in harmony on the trade routes in Central Asia. All sorts of wondrous goods were handled, endless stories were told at campfires thus creating the tales and legends of 1001 Nights.

The saffron plant

 

Saffron, from the Arabic / Persian زعفران, Za’faran, “Safran” – the botanical name being Crocus Sativus – is of a crocus genus and comes from family Iridaceae.

The bulb sprouts in fall, in early November it is ripe, and endures in the ground for the rest of the year.

The plant cannot produce a seed and multiplies only by dividing the bulbs.Approximately every four years the bulb needs to be replanted to produce a good harvest.

When mature the saffron plant reaches a height between 5 cm and 25 cm. The flower itself consists of six lilac petals. Within the flower there is a light yellow pistil, which divides into three red stigmas. These three sweet, aromatic, and fragrant threads are removed from the flower through laborious manual work producing the precious dried spice – saffron.

The “Red Gold”

 

As long as people can remember, the hard work which saffron production requires has been looking for a match with no luck. The harvest is extremely tedious and time-consuming. To harvest a kilo of “red gold”, incredible 150.000- 200,000 flowers have to be picked. The daily harvest begins very early in the morning, so that the threads are not exposed to harsh sunlight. On the same day, the threads must be carefully removed and dried. It takes the pickers a whole day to produce a maximum of 80g of saffron.

Another barrier for the large farms is that saffron plants are only blooming once a year for a length of only two weeks. The rest of the year pickers have to exercise patience – the fields cannot be used in any other way. These are all reasons why saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

Opium for children

 

Saffron is not only used as a spice, it is also used for pharmaceutical purposes in Ayurvedic medicine and in Chinese medicine. Saffron can help circulation, boost the metabolism and act as an antispasmodic. Saffron is also rumored to have an aphrodisiac and antidepressant effect.

In ancient times saffron was used as a sedative for children. It was prescribed even for cough and intestinal colic. And as Paracelsus once said: “a cheerful and good blood saffron brings.”This combination of effects – antispasmodic, analgesic and mood-lifting – is characteristic for another very special substance: Opium! Drug connoisseurs from times long past described saffron as a substitute for opium or as “opium for children.”

A dose of five grams of saffron has a narcotic effect and twelve grams can already cause death. Therefore, it is a real drug. These pharmacological effects have landed this unassuming crocus thread a place in gourmet dining: saffron is fun! Thus it explains our willingness to spend a lot of money for this product.

Saffron – the spice for gourmets

 

Saffron enjoys great popularity with gourmets: its intense yet light taste takes many dishes to the next level. In addition, the saffron dyes the dishes a beautiful yellow color – and simply by spreading cheerfulness it stimulates appetite.In Persian and Afghan cuisine saffron is used in many rice dishes and desserts.

Its delicate flavor and the bright yellow color lend the cake something very special! And from the Spanish cuisine you would certainly know this spice, especially in the paella.However, saffron is a very intense and strong spice – therefore you can always expect be asked to use only minute amounts of it in the recipes, otherwise the dishes will quickly become bitter! In principle, it should not be cooked long – its flavors are from the most part “volatile”, so it is best only to add a little to an almost finished dish. It is also used for fish soups, risottos and for all kinds of pastries and even to refine liqueurs.One should pay attention to the following rules when cooking:

Do you want your dish to have a particularly yellow color and is the aroma rather unimportant to you? Then you should maybe start cooking with ground saffron first.

Do you want to enjoy the special saffron flavor in a dish? Then you should add the threads to the cooking process a little later, as previously described.

But enough of the theory. In the next post, there is a brilliant recipe for you to try!

Here you find our Saffron

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Herat Women’s Collective

The history of the Women’s Association in Western Herat

 

In 2008 the Afghan Institute for Rural Development founded the Association for the Cultivation of Saffron, initially dominated by men. In the small village of Shakiban, 45 km from the provincial capital Herat, these men were appointed by the council called Shura. A small group of five women were a part of the Shura, because they wanted a say in matters that concerned them too, and they had a great interest to actively participate in the social development of their region.

To improve the socio-economic situation of women, an NGO called HELP e.V. started a survey and assessment of the current situation. Slowly but surely this lead to a fruitful and lasting result. With the aim of forming an autonomous women’s Shura – after many meetings and discussions with the men of the Shura – the women actually succeeded to separate. They regrouped and formed the first independent Women’s Council!

From Women for Women

 

The Woman’s Council now permanently creates a place where women can interact freely and independently, where conferences, workshops and trainings are being held for women only. Parts of this women’s center are a playground and a kindergarten, as well as an internet café and a tea garden. The Women’s Shura means access to education, employment and information.There is now a section for agricultural products, in particular fruit and natural saffron cultivation, and the processing of dairy products. The goods are sold in the club’s shop and on the market. Moreover, there are literature, English, and photography courses, computer training opportunities and a beauty salon. The Shura is now registered and officially recognised by the Afghan government as an independent association.The women produce “Qurut” from fresh milk – an Afghan specialtyA man collecting fire woodSalem is tasting the still fresh “Quruti”

Desires, hopes, fears

 

We asked the women-Shura about their visions for the future and we found they have very specific goals: They want to expand their activities, purchase more land to cultivate more saffron, buy new equipment and acquire funds to invest in other areas. But they also carefully look at the recent developments in the country. The growing insecurity and strengthening of Taliban militias could possibly destroy all the achievements. You can read a detailed interview with one of the members of this Shura in the weeks to come.

We from Conflictfood cannot act against the Taliban and interfere in the sometimes very dirty stage of world politics. But at least what we can do, is offering a better economic perspective to people i.e. secure their existence and give them a fair income, so that they can lead a good life more easily. Afghanistan occupies the last place in the ranking of cross-border trade done by the World Bank, so Conflictfood opened new markets to these farmers. You can join us in making a change by buying Saffron made in Afghanistan!

Read more about Afghanistan

Afghanistan – a sad outcome

Peace, joy and pancakes?

 

An assessment of the past 15 years of occupation and war revealed how immensely the US and its allies have failed in Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan has not made the world any safer. Just like the war against Iraq in 2003, it rather enforced the uprising of terrorist cells around the world. But how is the situation in Afghanistan now?

1 Peace

 

Afghanistan is still not any closer to a peaceful existence. In 2013 the country was – according to the ‘World Peace Index’ of the prestigious British magazine ‘The Economist’ – the least peaceful country in the world. Less peaceful than Iraq, Syria and Somalia.

Within a global categorisation of the failed states (a ​country whose ​government is ​considered to have ​failed at some of ​its ​basic ​responsibilities), Afghanistan ranks 1st place in Asia and 7th place worldwide

More than 100,000 Afghans were killed, among others, by 1,228 cluster bombs and 295,000 individual explosives, which landed in just the first year of the war, reports “Doctors Against Nuclear War”.

2 Taliban

 

As with the withdrawal of the Soviets in 1989, the Taliban rule the rural areas of the country. The national Afghan forces wait disconcerted in the big cities. Every year one third deserts. The Taliban can strike almost at will.

3 Education

 

The situation in the education sector is catastrophic. Afghanistan has the worst average duration of schooling in the whole of Asia.

47% of schools have no school buildings and 75% no toilets. About two-thirds of school-age children don’t even reach the 6th grade.

4 Girls and Women

 

According to the “Reuters Foundation”, Afghanistan is the most dangerous country for women in the world, just ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo.

Only 13% of girls finish school. Whole 30% make it to the 6th grade. Only 50% of 416 districts have a primary or secondary school for girls. And only 20% of girls attend a gymnasium. For years, according to the UN, the Taliban have allowed their girls to attend school in areas where there are already educational infrastructures in place. So actually, for this a war was never needed.

5 Health

 

According to the World Bank, three-quarters of Afghans have no access to safe drinking water. There is no other country in the world where so many children under 5 years suffer from severe malnutrition. Afghanistan has the highest mortality rate in Asia in this age group. When it comes to infant mortality the country is the world’s number one.

6 Corruption

 

Together with North Korea and Somalia, according to “Transparency International”, Afghanistan is the most corrupt country in the world. Also the money laundering index of the Basel Institute “ICAR” ranks Afghanistan as number one.

Afghanistan houses the criminal ‘elite’ of the world.

7 Justice

 

Many provinces are ruled by armed criminal private armies, who have already been in power for years, as well as newly armed warlords. Sometimes both turn out to be secret allies of the NATO. War criminals, as the bloodthirsty General Dostum, are best friends with the United States. American killings of civilians and prisoners are not tracked.

Practices of torture are ignored too, despite all the pretty speeches of the US president. The Afghan judicial system is considered the most corrupt part of all state authorities, even though they are under pressure from the United States. Justice is unheard of in Afghanistan.

 

8 Democracy

 

Democracy as we know it, can’t be found in Afghanistan. Generally, the results of the presidential elections are falsified by all the candidates. After that the winner will be a part of dirty horse-trading with the substantial involvement of the United States.

A success-story!

 

The people of Afghanistan deserve better than to bear the results of a misguided war dominated by western foreign policy.

Conflictfood wants to open up new markets to selected Afghan products and their producers, and to help Afghanistan do better. We visited a women’s collective in the province of Herat, who have managed:

To switch from opium to saffron cultivation!

This is a small success story and we want to promote it.
We bought saffron from the collective for a fair price, paid directly and brought it to you. We thereby strengthen local structures, thus offer people a new perspective and help combat causes of immigration at its roots.

Soon you’ll learn more about the group of women who cultivate this precious saffron!

Read more about Afghanistan

History of Afghanistan

Afghanistan – a hub of cultures

 

Afghanistan, which now appears as a barren mountainous country with scarce resources and a long series of violent conflicts actually has to offer a very lively and varied history. In the different historical accounts, it is often called the “cradle of many ancient empires”, “crossroads of cultures” and the “hub of nations”. Afghanistan’s unique culture is a melting pot created by various nations and religions between the Hindu Kush, Silk Road and desert regions. Within thousands of years of history influences of Zaratustrian, Buddist, Greek and finally Islamic populations shaped the culture of the country.

Afghanistan – the transit country

 

Afghanistan is often described as a “transit country”. In ancient times, repeatedly, other nations from Central Asia invaded the region of the present-day Afghanistan. Empires which lasted rarely more than a few generations emerged and were often destroyed by the arrival of a new nomadic people again and again. Amazing is the expansion that many of these empires achieved and they often ranged from the steppes of Central Asia to the Gangetic plains.

The Durrani Empire

 

In 1747 Pashtun Ahmad Shah Durrani founded  an independent empire, known as the Durrani Empire. It is considered as the precursor of modern Afghanistan. Both Ahmad Shah and the rulers after him could never really keep the kingdom entirely under their control and were faced with internal troubles.

Between the Great Powers

 

In the 19th century the term Afghanistan was used by the Great Powers to describe the country serving them as a buffer zone between Persia and the colonial powers Russia and British India.

In a total of three so-called Anglo-Afghan wars, the British tried to enforce their colonial interests. Finally, in 1919, the third war resulted in the proclamation of independence of Afghanistan. Only now the name “Afghanistan” was established as a state name.

Emir Amanullah Khan, who was later called the Reform King, subsequently tried to modernize the country. He based his decisions on the model of the Turkish president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He revaluated the role of women, introduced compulsory education for boys and girls and separated state and religion.

The golden years

 

Amanullah’s successor largely suspended the reforms again. In 1946 Afghanistan enters the United Nations. As a neutral state, it benefited from the grants of both sides of the East-West conflict. With generous financial support from both power blocs Afghanistan experienced the time of the “Golden Years”. The economy was taking off resulting in a general stabilization.

In 1964 King Mohammed Zahir Shah took measures to liberalise the country. He adopted a constitution, which ensured all male Afghans a vote and stand for election. Afghanistan also elected its first civil prime minister.The country on the former Silk Road was a popular destination for young travelers, dropouts and hippies from all over the world. It was not only the landscape and culture, of course, that attracted 70,000 tourists to Kabul, but rather the readily available drugs such as hashish, opium and heroin.

The Golden Years did not last long. By the end of the 1970s, the Communists gained power with a bloody coup, that ushered decades of dark times for Afghanistan.Afterwards, decades of occupation, civil war, death, disease, misery and displacement followed.

More on this in our next post!

Read more about Afghanistan

Afghanistan was the first country we visited

The first country we visited was Afghanistan, the country on the Silk Road.

In the province of Herat we visited a women’s collective which revived the old tradition of saffron cultivation, believed to have been lost in the chaos of the war. In the fields on which opium was grown for years, today the collective cultivates crocus, Crocus sativus L.

The striking, bright red, sweet-smelling, slightly earthy scent distinguishes this premium grade ‘Sargol.’ Only the tips of the stigmas are used.

The saffron is grown using ancient methods and traditions without any pesticides. Given the political and economic circumstances, it is not possible for the farmers alone to get an international Biocertificate. We want to help them.

From the harvest to the drying of the precious saffron threads we had the chance to accompany the producers during all of the steps of the harvesting process personally and to document it.

Women carefully collecting the pistils from the saffron flowers

The collective was paid fairly, directly and on site without any intermediaries. ‘Fairly’ for us means price above average.  Consequently, the money was invested by the farmers back into obtaining new saffron bulbs for the next season. This way, the produce can be bought by us again thus a long term trading relationship with the farmers is established.This trip serves as an example for what we plan to do in other conflict regions. We intend to trade with:

Coffee farmers in Yemen

Olive farmers in Palestine

Salt miners in Ethiopia

and many more.

Read more about Afghanistan