Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Arghand Soaps - Handcrafted products from Afghanistan
"Afghanistan is a country with an average income of $300 a year. Most people live without electricity or running water, drivable roads are scarce, and few are educated. Many have had little hope for improvement. That kind of environment is always a breeding ground for insurgents and fundamentalists; and if the only hope of improving one’s family’s situation is to join a insurgency, then that’s what often happens. Which led me to the conclusion that: No matter how much money we spend, no matter how many young men and women from the U.S. and allied countries deploy to Afghanistan, no matter how much blood is shed or how many sacrifices are made, unless something gives the local populace a reason to hope for a better future, it will all be in vain.
Arghand Co-op is that hope. It’s giving people the chance to participate in improving their lives. Members have been willing to risk their lives to make it work. And they did. They now produce a unique line of handmade natural products that are not only healthy, but attractive. Now it’s up to us to help them succeed."
- Sarah Chayes, Arghand Co-operative
Launching in July.... We are thrilled to offer a beautiful and unique line of hand crafted soap from the Arghand Cooperative located in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Arghand soaps are laboriously hand shaped to resemble river-polished local stones. The soaps are made from nuts, seeds, herbs, fruits and flowers that are indigenous to southern Afghanistan. These soaps are gentle on the skin and their scent comes only from the rich natural fragrance of their ingredients. Each hand-polished soap (4.5 oz, or 125 g) will come individually wrapped in a page from a regional Afghan newspaper...The soap and its presentation makes a unique and exceptional gift!
Arghand Cooperative, a bold experiment in local initiative and sustainable development, was founded in May 2005 by Sarah Chayes, formerly an international correspondent for National Public Radio.
In 1995, after going to southern Afghanistan to report on the war, Chayes decided to remain in the country to help the people rebuild their community. She knew that the land was good for more than growing opium, and that Afghanistan would never free itself from instability unless it could find a new export.
So she began working with a handful of brave men and women, seizing on the increasing demand for natural products by growing almonds, apricots, pomegranates, and the precious blossoms of Rosa damascena, and turning them into gorgeous, 100% natural soaps. The result is a unique line of soaps and oils, whose aesthetic beauty and skin-nourishing virtues are truly unparalleled.
Soap, not dope!
Arghand (the word means triumph in Persian) Cooperative's purpose is to contribute to the economic development of southern Afghanistan by producing luxury soaps from the legendary fruits of the Kandahar region thus also competing with the opium industry by expanding the market for licit crops. Arghand’s long-term objective is to contribute to the process of weaning southern Afghanistan off its dependence on opium poppy. This scourge is distorting the region’s economy, criminalizing its politics and putting its people at the mercy of armed gangs and so-called insurgents. Only by expanding the market for licit local agriculture Arghand members believe, can the rural population be liberated from the grasp of opium.
The women prepare the raw materials (cracking nuts, washing pomegranate seeds, etc.) from which the men extract a variety of cold pressed and essential oils.
Using these oils, they make soap which then gets passed back to the women. The women grate the soap and melt it back down, adding in both the precious essential oils and natural dyes for color. They weigh and hand mold each of the bars, which have become hard enough by the following day to be hand-smoothed in a basin of cool water. After this first polish, the women take the soaps down to the basement where they sit curing for six weeks. It is the men who retrieve the soaps and use their strong, gloved thumbs to perform the final polish. When this step has been completed, the men wrap the soaps in strips of turban silk, attach the labels, wrap them again in newspaper and load the shipping cartons.
Arghand works directly with local farmers for the provision of its raw materials and over time will be including them among its members. Arghand also hopes to be a catalyst for new agricultural techniques – organic wherever possible and conservative of resources – as well as general know-how and equipment to participating farmers. Your purchase supports this very worthy cause.
Stay Tuned! Launching in July evanhealy