Sahera is a 33-year-old mother of five children living in the Argo district of Badakhshan. In spite of the many challenges and barriers she faces due to the conservative culture in the area, she started selling milk in her village, and over time, was able to establish a dairy producer’s group.

Agriculture and farming were the primary source of income for Sahera’s family, however the average monthly income of USD 70[1]was not enough to cover the children’s education, food, and healthcare. To make ends meet, Sahera’s husband began working as a poppy lancer in Badakhshan and sometimes having to travel to poppy fields in Helmand and Kandahar.

In 2018 Sahera became a beneficiary of UNODC's Alternative Development (AD) programme. As a beneficiary, she was given dairy processing equipment, capacity building training and marketing support. Equipped with new equipment and skills, Sahera was well-placed to process and sell high quality milk in her locality. Through hard work her business become increasingly productive and she established her own dairy processing group made up of 24 women from her neighborhood.   With further support from the programme, Sahera became the lead of the Dairy Producer’s Association of the Argo Dairy Processing Centre established by UNODC.

Sahera processes around 200 liters of milk per day, she sells it in the district and provincial center in Faizabad. Sahera’s business is doing well and the income has increased four times from milk sales earning USD 300 per month as compared to $70 before she set up the business. This licit income from dairy has allowed her husband to stop harvesting opium poppy and he now helps Sahera in collecting and selling milk.

Even during the COVID 19 restrictions, markets were closed but Sahera was able to sell milk and other dairy products, as supply from neighboring districts was not coming in frequently. The AD interventions provide gainful employment to the women, youth and to their households, keeping them away from opium addiction and migrating to work as laborer in opium fields. Many women. like Sahera, are relieved that they don’t have to lose their family members to opium addiction. The Project contributes directly towards the achievement of SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and to SDG 5 (Gender Equality). Sahera is a champion of change in her family and community, ending the culture of women not being allowed to work outside their home.

Sahera is a role model for others in her village, her work has motivated other women like her to step out of home and be part of the women group. Some women in the village have already approached UNODC for support to establish their own business.

“Working with the public and owning a small business was my dream and luckily it happened.” shares Sahera.

Sahera, along with the UNODC staff at her dairy processing unit