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Growing Local Business

Helmand is still one of the most difficult operating environments in Afghanistan. Despite the security challenges, local entrepreneurs in the country’s largest province display a remarkable sense of resilience, helped by the PDM-Helmand project, which is accredited with having facilitated almost $150 million in contracts awarded to Helmandi companies by international buyers, thereby creating thousands of local jobs. Now, meet entrepreneurs who are building the Helmandi marketplace!

These stories were written by Nooruddin Bakhshi. He is an Afghan journalist who has worked for many years with The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Times. He has also worked on several NGO communication projects. He is based in Kabul.

Engineer Mohammad Ibrahimi is the proud owner of the Farm Services Centre, a Helmandi business that provides chemical aids for local farmers. Fueled by the Helmand river, there are expansive, well irrigated lands that are ripe for licit crops and improved yield with the aid of science. This is where Mr. Ibrahimi comes in. With offices in both Helmand and neighbouring Nimroz province, he is looking to expand further. He sees an expanding market and is keen to increase his team of 15 permanent employees. He says Building Markets has been invaluable in teaching modern business methods for doing business with international clients stating that, “Building Markets have also helped us by showing how to correctly register our business on various on-line databases and to have a web-presence to market their company. Building Markets also keeps us informed about new contract tender opportunities with their email and text message service, which is very helpful.”

Mr. Ibrahimi, shown right proudly displaying his chemical fertilizers, candidly admits that hearing reports from farmers about how his products have helped them brings untold joy. He strongly believes that supporting Helmandi businesses is crucial for improving the province’s stability and security. “We are the ones living in these unstable areas, and it’s better if the money stayed locally, to help improve security.”

“Our aims are to develop the lives of the farmers, our customers, raising the quality of their products and finding them markets for their products, all while ensuring none of it is harmful for the environment,” Ibrahimi says.

Security remains one of the company’s biggest concerns. The Ibrahimi family chooses not to advertise their business, squirreling its signs behind the 2m wall which surrounds its showroom. Despite this low profile approach, Mr Ibrahimi says that there is a large appetite for his products. In addition to fertilizers and seeds, he rents and sells farming equipment including pumps, tractors and seeding machines. He keeps a greenhouse at back on display for would-be buyers and he says farmers are increasingly looking for better ways to handle their crops.

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