Peace via spice

Poached saffron pears

Much of the news coming out of Afghanistan in recent years has been gloomy, so an inspiring story from the region is quite welcome. NPR's The Salt has one such tale of how enterprising veterans from the decades-long conflict are working with farmers to cultivate the saffron trade.

U.S.-based Rumi Spice, a small, enterprising company from Massachusetts, is attempting to create an Afghan saffron connection. It started last year when American army veterans Kimberly Jung and Keith Alaniz began discussing their time in the country. Alaniz told Jung the story of an Afghan farmer who had a stockpile of saffron but no buyers, and that saffron is one of a handful of crops well-suited to the hot, dry climate of the region.

Jung felt this was not only an incredible business opportunity, but also an excellent way for Afghan farmers to make a living with a product other than poppies, the country's main agricultural commodity--and one which supports the Taliban. As Rumi Spice's website states, "Without investment in agriculture, Afghan farmers have little prospects with shrinking land allotments - making them susceptible to the Taliban. Rumi Spice strives to change this dynamic."

The group feels they can triple Afghan farmers' current average incomes of $400 to $600 per year by cutting out the middleman. They first started selling their product in a few boutique stores in the Boston area. After this November's harvest, they have started selling the product online at www.rumispice.com.

Photo of Poached saffron pears from BBC Good Food Magazine Home Cooking Series: Christmas Vegetarian

1 Comment

  • susan g  on  12/13/2014 at 3:47 PM

    Thanks for introducing us to this company. It's good to see economics work to support the producers of one of the most expensive crops grown.

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