Empowering Afghan Women through Good Food
Afghanistan was once a leader in producing dried fruits and nuts, but due to conflict and resulting economic instability, local farmers were unable to invest in the modern technology needed to keep up with global demand. Enter Ziba Foods, an artisanal nut and dried fruit company with a mission to “implement an ethical supply chain and return Afghanistan to its position as a world-renowned producer of dried fruits and nuts.” Ziba was established in 2015 by a diverse team passionate about the intersection of good food and a sustainable approach to business. We’re smitten with these snacks and are excited to be able to share them with our community.
Ziba is the type of artisan food producer we seek to develop a relationship with at Zingerman’s. They produce exceptional, full-flavored products using traditional methods of farming and foraging—essential qualities of anything we add to our shelves. And they do it all with integrity, from their commitment to product traceability to their dedication to supporting and improving the role of women in Afghan society. — Aislinn McAllister, Specialty Foods Manager at the Deli
Afghanistan’s climate and plentiful water supply from the surrounding mountains are ideal for growing water-intensive crops like fruits and nuts in a sustainable way. The farmers Ziba works with aren’t using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or chemicals, so while the products aren’t certified organic, the methods and farming practices follow organic standards. And, bonus: Ziba’s dried fruits and nuts are naturally nutrient-dense because they come from heirloom as wild-grown varieties. As they explain,
Ziba’s dried fruit and nuts come from plants whose traits pass from generation to generation through open pollination. Before the drastic reduction of breed varieties caused by the rise of industrial agriculture, nuts and dried fruit drew their flavor and nutritional profiles from the geographies in which they were grown and from the manner in which they were handled by farmers. In Afghanistan, things have remained unchanged for centuries, with families handing down seeds through generations to grow on family-run farms.
They don’t mess with all that goodness by adding in anything unnecessary—no artificial ingredients, no preservatives, no added sugar. Ziba’s only addition is a light dusting of Afghan salt on some of their products.
Settling a Standard of Social Responsibility
Ziba’s headquarters are located in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. They chose to base their operations inside Afghanistan to bolster the local economy, allow Afghans to get more value from the products grown inside their country, and maintain a focus on empowering Afghan women. As the Ziba team explains, “In a country with limited access to education and extremely high unemployment rates, women rarely get the opportunity to go to school and attain the skills necessary to support themselves and their families.” Here’s how they’re working to change that:
- Ziba’s workforce, staff and management, is 80% female
- Workers earn above a living wage
- Despite the cyclical nature of the agriculture industry, their staff has the security of year-round employment
- Ziba provides educational opportunities, including English lessons and ongoing industry-related training
Ziba has already seen the difference these standards have made, as they share, “several female Ziba employees have been able to improve their lives and escape difficult living conditions.”
Really Really Wanna Zib-a-zib-ah
We carry a selection of four Ziba Foods products. We like them all straight out of the bag as snacks, but if you can resist immediate indulgence, they’re also great sprinkled on salads, mixed in with your favorite cereal or granola, and added to desserts and baked goods. For even more ideas, head to the recipe page on Ziba Foods’ website (and maybe save us a slice of the Fig & Pistachio Carrot Cake?!).
Baby Pistachio Kernels
Ziba’s wild baby pistachio kernels are foraged from the mountainsides of Samangan in northern Afghanistan, dry-roasted without oil, and lightly dusted with Afghan salt.
A textured, salty-sweet combination of heirloom and wild whole foods from Afghanistan including delicate Gurbandi almonds, chewy Kishmish raisins, floral sweet apricot kernels, savory wild pistachios, and honey-like wild mulberries.
Ziba’s Shungul Khani grapes are grown in the full sunshine of Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan. They’re unique in appearance (long and green) and unmatched in flavor (super sweet!) that’s even more intense thanks to being concentrated into raisin form. Fun fact: Kishmish is the word for raisin in Dari, the most commonly spoken language in Afghanistan, so “Kishmish Raisin” is kind of like saying “raisin raisin.”
Grown in southern Afghanistan, these sun-dried Kandahar figs are highly sought after for their rich flavor and characteristic disc shape. They’re sweet, pleasantly chewy, and naturally high in fiber.
All photos courtesy of @zibafoods on Instagram.