This blog is the second in our series of stories of “Women Who Inspire” for International Women’s Day 2014.

Helping women farmers gain access to better opportunities both inspires and drives Anzurat Akobirshoeva in her work in Afghanistan.

Anzurat has worked for the Aga Khan Foundation (Afghanistan) for 10 years. As a Natural Resource Management Officer, she devotes her time and skills to supporting women farmers in a border district of Badakhshan Province in the north of Afghanistan.

She focuses on building women’s skills to help them get the most out of their farms. Since the Natural Resource Management team began working more with women, life in Badakhshan began to improve. Farmers started to diversify their crops and grow more vegetables. Additionally, they received training on how to build low-cost greenhouses. Many farmers have built green houses in their back yards and now produce fresh green vegetables during the winter months. This not only improves nutrition, but also provides extra income and more opportunities to sell their products at the market. Living in rural areas where health facilities are scarce and the growing season is short, the extra nutrition provided by a better diet goes a long way in improving the well-being of the community. Since 2009, the Natural Resource Management program has reached over 1,200 women farmers.

“The greatest moment in my work was when women farmers really understood the benefit of vegetables for improving their health and economic conditions,” explains Anzurat. “On their own, the women started to cultivate vegetables, processing them in different ways and marketing the vegetables locally and in the Ishkashim cross-border market.”

Seeing their dedication fuels Anzurat even more. “My commitment to the organization inspires me to work hard for rural communities. And community willingness and needs motivate me to improve the well-being of people, particularly the poor women farmers who often depend on natural resources for their sustenance.”