About this project
Who is Rumi Spice?
Rumi Spice was founded by a team of five U.S. military veterans to source premium, artisanal saffron from Afghan farmers to help spur agricultural development and sustainable business practices. All of our founders have lived and worked in Afghanistan, several of whom are fluent in Dari. We've developed strong Afghan networks and an on-the-ground understanding of local business.
In previous years, neglect of the rural Afghan majority contributed to the rise of the Taliban, who capitalized on historic grievances. 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 by providing Afghan farmers with a direct market to produce and sell saffron globally.
Afghanistan's dry winds and arid climate make for an ideal environment to grow saffron. Kashmir, long considered the site for the world's premier saffron production, is in the same growing region as Afghanistan.
Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world. As such, Afghan farmers can more than double their income with saffron. In addition, saffron provides an alternative to poppy and opium farming - one of the primary sources of income for the Taliban. At Rumi Spice, we provide an additional stream of demand for saffron production in hopes that opium production will go down. Buying saffron directly from Afghan farmers encourages future investments in Afghanistan's agricultural and manufacturing infrastructure
Why is saffron so expensive?
Saffron has such a high value because of the vast amount of labor required to harvest and process. The stigmas must be separated from the saffron blossoms by hand - it takes 450,000 stigmas to make a kilogram of saffron. Each flower has 3 stigmas, so workers must process 150,000 blossoms to produce that amount.
What's up with the name?
Our namesake "Rumi" is a 13th-century Persian poet and theologian. He taught the concept of tawhid - union with his primal root from which he has been cut off - and his longing and desire to restore it. Like Rumi, we believe that Afghanistan can restore its position as a center of trade on the Silk Road through business development.
So how can I help?
Our first year of selling went so well that our farmers are doubling saffron production in the next harvest. But there's a lot left to accomplish! We want to begin establishing the following items to ensure next year's harvest is a success:
- A central processing facility in Afghanistan to include processing/cleaning area
- Drying equipment
- Packaging equipment
- Labeling equipment
- Secure storage
- Organic certification
- Next season's corms (seeds)
Risks and challenges
After a decade of conflict and heavy investment by the international community, the majority of Western troops are now leaving. We believe sustainable economic growth in the future will come from the kind of economic empowerment Rumi Spice offers to the rural population. Our biggest challenge is working in a frontier market such as Afghanistan, where security and stability are constantly in flux.
With our prior networks and in-country expertise, we have built the critical relationships, partnerships, and organizational infrastructure necessary to operate within and out of Afghanistan. Our competitive advantage is our ability to navigate the Afghan business landscape, which is built on trusted relationships. We have also emerged as a leader in the Afghan saffron industry. An advisor for the Afghan Ministry of Finance has asked Rumi Spice's help in producing a national saffron development plan. The US Department of State and Department of Commerce have pledged their support for our mission.
Ultimately, we believe a for-profit, social enterprise is the solution to long-term post-conflict development, and Afghan peace is worth fighting for.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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