This article first appeared in our partner site, Independent Urdu
When you enter one NGO centre in Hazara Town, Quetta, you are met with a pile of fruits and vegetables being cut and sorted by women. The centre teaches women the art of drying vegetables and fruits to preserve them.
Mahgul, a resident of Hazara, is one of the girls trained here. She found her way to the centre because of an event that changed her life a decade ago. Mahgul was passing through a street when an explosive device placed in a nearby tanker exploded and blew everything around her.
Mahgul said that along with sustaining physical injuries, the attack left her with lasting mental trauma. "I couldn’t remember things after the incident and the scene kept repeating in my head. This would make me restless and forget what I was about to say", she said.
Speaking to Independent Urdu, Mahgul explained, “I stopped going outside, and stayed at home most of the time. Then one day someone told me about this centre. When I came here, I was very pleased with the atmosphere. There were girls chopping fruits and vegetables and drying them in one place. Now, I’m also learning this skill.”
She says that this work gives her a lot of peace of mind, and that she can also make a profit by drying raw fruits and vegetables at home to sell.
Shahnaz, who teaches at the centre, believes that this project can bring happiness to the lives of many girls. She teaches groups of girls in a neat and tranquil environment. They are first instructed in cleaning the fruits and vegetables and then in cutting them.
"After the produce is cut, it is arranged in trays. When a tray is full, it is placed in a solar dryer designed for this purpose."
Shahnaz says a lot of fruits and vegetables goes to waste in Pakistan. The project aims to preserve vegetables and fruits and ensure they are widely consumed. She says that food hygiene is their top priority.
"At the moment, we’re drying bitter gourd, onion, garlic, ginger, turnip, capsicum and spinach as well as an array of seasonal fruits.”
She says the solar dryer is filled with ten kilos of fresh produce, however this reduces to one kilo when dried. The product is then weighed before it is packed and sealed in beautiful packaging.
Shahnaz believes that their products are very reasonably priced, with 150 grams costing around 150-200 rupees (£0.65-0.87).
“There is a high demand for the dried garlic, ginger, onions, and fruits we produce in the market.”
Reviewed and proofread by Tooba Ali and Celine Assaf