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Arghand Cooperative

All Natural Skincare from Afghanistan

Washing Away the Opium Trade

Think of farming in Afghanistan and you probably think of one crop: opium poppy. More than 90% of the world’s opium supply comes from this tiny war-torn nation. Competing with the opium industry isn’t easy, but Sarah Chayes is encouraging farmers in southern Afghanistan to plant crops like apricots, pomegranates, and almonds instead. These legendary fruits of the Kandahar region are used to produce all natural skincare products through a cooperative called Arghand. Arghand was started by Sarah, a former National Public Radio reporter, in 2005. Its signature soap pebbles are crafted using age-old techniques. Each one takes six weeks to make. The result is a dense and long-lasting soap that resembles a beautiful stone polished by river water.

In the years since Sarah started Arghand, conditions in Afghanistan have remained unimaginably challenging. There had been talk of folding, but instead of giving up, Arghand is expanding, launching new skincare products to complement its soap pebbles. The new products include Desert Fields Body Lotion and Hydrating Antioxidant Face Cream, both of which blend wild pistachio oil with cold-pressed pomegranate seed oil and the distinctive perfume of Artemisia persica. There’s also Essence of Rose Face Cream, which is made by drenching fresh rose petals in sweet almond oil, and Anisette Lip Balm, which combines anise oil with almond, apricot and pomegranate oils.

Arghand means “triumphant” in Persian — and the cooperative’s survival in such a perilous place is truly a triumph. It’s an inspiration to supporters near and far, including Connie Moralez, whose husband, Staff Sergeant Christopher Neal Piper, died from injuries sustained in Afghanistan in 2005. “I live every day trying to do something to make things better somehow in Afghanistan,” Connie says. “I buy small quantities of soap to give to people I think would be interested in helping to make Afghanistan a better place to live.”

— Ann
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Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Jennie
    Jennie

    I’m delighted to be back at the Daily Grommet to present Arghand’s new line of face creams, body lotion and balms – Arghand Essentials. The road we have traveled to bring these products to market has been almost laughably marked with pot holes, which makes their debut all the more satisfying. By using Arghand Essentials you will not only enrich the lives of a select group of Afghans who have chosen blossoms over bullets; you will enrich your skin with the naturally soothing and restorative fruits, nuts and botanicals of the Kandahar region.

  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    This is wonderful Jennie! I will help spead the word about these beautiful soaps and such a worthy mission! Bravo!

  • Jules
    Jules – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    @Jennifer Thanks for the offer to help spread the word. That means a lot to me. Supporting this is a way the Daily Grommet community can really help people in a place that so badly needs us. Bravo for Sarah and Jennie for giving us a lovely way to do it!

  • Diana
    Diana
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    Just bought two -- one for our guest bath and one for a house gift. This is one of my favorite grommets. Such a worthy cause!

  • Jules
    Jules – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    This one is going fast. If you saw a "greyed out" Buy It Now button, it meant we were temporarily sold out. We just arranged for some more so we are back in stock.

  • Tony
    Tony
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    Those are gorgeous! My wife would love them.

  • ran
    ran
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    I bought these for my wife and she was blown away! ( I was too, honestly) We are hooked- the soap, the story, the whole thing is just great- now we are giving them as gifts!

    we got ours at a great on line shop- www.earthlovershopping.com

  • Jennie
    Jennie – Special Guest
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    This is all very exciting and meaningful for us. Unfortunately, it is evening in Kandahar and our offfice is closed for the day. Otherwise I would try to get Mahmooda, Nurallah and some of our other Afghan members to log on. However, I will send them an email with the link and maybe they can pop in tomorrow. Circumstances are very precarious in Afghanistan right now, particularly in the south, and so we REALLY appreciate your support.

  • Sara
    Sara
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    Dear Jennie, It would be an honor to purchase these soaps and to spread the word about your undertaking. It is difficult to imagine what you all are going through in Afghanistan. Sending positive energy, prayers and support!

  • Jennie
    Jennie – Special Guest
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    Wonderful feedback! I also wanted to say that all proceeds from soap sales go directly back into the cooperative to cover salaries for our 13 Afghan members plus the facility, raw materials and day-to-day operations. Our few western salaries, administrative costs and capital investments are covered mostly by individual donations and public and private grants. If you have any questions about Arghand, please don't hesitate to let me know!

  • Jules
    Jules – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    @Jennie, I'm happy you pointed out that the cooperative members get a fair salary from the soap sales, and all the revenues fund local operations. We had to cut that from the video and I missed it.

  • Marie Danielle
    Marie Danielle
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    It’s absolutely great to have such a site at hand. It brought tears to my eyes to watch the people of the coop at work: a meditative state, repeated gestures, long hours, patience and determination. I keep in mind everyone of them: the women sitting in circle sorting the almond shells, one by one, by hand, the man carefully tying a bow with a piece of Herat silk around an almond soap, the roll of thread standing by his side that he's going to use to attach the label to the soap, and his partner rapping each cherished piece of art in local newspaper. I was moved by the UNFORGETTABLE image of a man sitting meditatively in a chair - molded to his body with the hours of work - tapping endlessly to harden and shape the soap or to extract the palm oil. Now we know why these soaps are so long lasting and why they keep their hard shape ‘till the end. Such quality of work for such a good and worthy cause sets the standards high to us, as it is an everyday example of humility, team work in a real family spirit where everyone is equal, and a lesson of great courage and tenacity for a better world in an environment of terror and war. I would like to salute everyone of them and tell them that it gives us joy and great pride to buy and promote such unique products for health, skin care and to support this unmatchable local fare trade coop! May you be blessed, all of you who wake up every day for Arghand’s vision and know that here, we, like wise, wake up every morning with you, thinking and working as a team to help you reach your goal. Distance here is not an obstacle when the link is the heart and the vision is brotherhood.

  • Jules
    Jules – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    @Marie Danielle Your thoughtful and heartfelt observations--and encouragement--take my breath away....this is work that is worth doing. It transcends work, when people like you help us all do our bit--to connect people with products and experiences and causes that carry deeper meaning. The Arghand Cooperative is this through and through.

  • Suzanne Hamlin
    Suzanne Hamlin
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    As a very fortunate Arghand soap consumer, I'd like to add some secular commentary: these gorgeous orbs of soap, which look like precious minerals or polished river stones, are soul soaps-infused with the strength of their creators and--on a very pragmatic level--magical, deeply nourishing cosmetic properties.

    Arghand: a gift to the world in every way.

  • Jeff
    Jeff
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    Thanks for spotlighting this company. I watched a very insightful interview with Sarah Chayes last year (see link below) and am very supportive of her work. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/02222008/watch2.html

  • Peter Kenny
    Peter Kenny
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    What a remarkable way of integrating meaning into our daily process of living - soap. Soap that speaks to a struggle and to resilience. This impresses me - I love everything about it - right down to the way it is packaged. Brilliant.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    @Peter, I find this to be one of the most compelling Grommet stories we've done. They've had a tough go of it and a few months ago updated us. You can read the update here:

    http://blog.dailygrommet.com/behind-the-scenes/update-from-afghanistan/

    It's not an easy read.

    We have more stories like this one, they all live in the "Social Enterprise" category of our site, you can see them here:

    Social Enterprise Grommets

  • Steve
    Steve
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    Sarah Chayes wrote a book on Afghanistan, and established the cooperative Arghand. Visit her website: http://arghand.sitegidget.com/index.html This is the work of an enlightened brave individual, who is supported by wonderful local people.

    They deserve their victory over the not so progressive rest of the Afghan nation.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    @Steve - thank you for that link!

  • Connie Moralez-Piper
    Connie Moralez-Piper
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    I just LOVE this soap and think that Sarah Chayes is incredible. She is at the top of my hero list along with my Husband and Greg Mortenson.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    Connie - I think you've picked some very good heroes! If we all had just a fraction of their selflessness and their vision for a better tomorrow, we could move mountains.

  • Connie Piper
    Connie Piper
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    I only wish I could do more. My (late) Husband was Special Forces and did not survive his injuries (sustained in Afghanistan back in June 2005). SSG Chritopher Neal Piper was his name and I live every day trying to do something to make things better somehow in A'stan. I have pamphlets for Sarah's soap and I buy small quantities to give to people I meet and think would be interested in the concept of helping to make A'stan a better place to live (by using the soap). Katherine, THANK YOU for all the awesome things you do!!

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    Connie - your husband is indeed a true hero, I am so sorry for your loss. I love that you are using these soaps to show how we can make a difference in Afghanistan. Thank you! We get updates from Arghand and hope to be able to share some news again soon.

  • Sandy
    Sandy
    9/22/10 12:00 PM

    These soaps look very yummy and fragrant. Unfortunately, I cannot order as I have a son with severe nut allergies and therefore cannot have nut products in the home.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    9/22/10 12:14 PM

    This is the second time that we have featured Arghand's story and their products. We have carried over the conversation from the first feature so that we didn't lose any of these great questions, comments and support.

  • Jennie
    Jennie – Special Guest
    9/22/10 12:47 PM

    Thank you so much for all of the great and interesting feedback. We're all really thrilled to have finally launched our new products, so if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.

  • Layne
    Layne
    9/22/10 12:50 PM

    Two years ago a friend of mine a member of the Poppy Eradication program contracted by the US Department of State. While he was there I began sending him care packages and one time threw in extra packets of vegetable seeds thinking he might be able to get folks to grow a garden. He ended up giving them to the locals. Since they were grateful I also contacted every seed supplier I could find, explained our goal of helping build friendship by replacing opium with food they could grow. I gave his address & my own to send them seeds. Many of the seed companies responded. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds were a major supporter and last season their catalog had a photo of the Afghan people. The sad thing was the eradication contract was cancelled. President Karzi's brother is the largest opium poppy grower in the country if not the world. Our US State Department run by Hillary Clinton told the contractors to leave Karzi's fields alone.

    Reminds me of Air America during Viet-Nam era.

  • Layne
    Layne
    9/22/10 1:12 PM

    This is a wonderful way to build relationships and make a permanent change in the minds of Afghan people. Here is a follow-up artical to my guest comment about sending seeds to a friend in Afghanistan while he was worked as a contract soldier for the Dept of State, Afghan Poppy Eradication program. We need to ask why our Government would not cut down fields belonging to President Karzi's brother then why they cancelled the contract. They were making a signficant impact and my friend took a bullet in the leg for the cause. PEACE.

  • Jennie
    Jennie – Special Guest
    9/22/10 1:41 PM

    Layne, it's very hard for the Afghan people to understand why the USG and NATO continue to prop up the current Afghan regime. Which is why it is so important for people to have economic opportunities, productive work and contact with foreigners who are interested in forging real and mutually beneficial partnerships with them.

  • Sandra
    Sandra
    9/29/10 12:09 PM

    I bought the anti-oxidant face cream to "do good", and IT'S doing good for me. Despite using a very expensive facial cleanser and moisturizer, my face was developing blotchy red places, so I decided to try this as an alternate. It's pricey at $36 for a very small jar, but tiny dabs all over my face are all that I need. After just 2 nights, the red blotches are all but gone. Despite my age (60+) I don't have a wrinkle problem, but my face feels softer and I'm thrilled with the improved appearance. It's a joy to know that I'm supporting people trying to make a livelihood for themselves under incredibly difficult conditions, using some of the most natural and marvelous ingredients without added chemicals available anywhere and getting a great benefit for my skin. Such a win-win. Buy it for any of those reasons.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    9/29/10 12:53 PM

    @Sandy - thank you for stopping back to share with us your experience using this product. A product that makes you look good, feel good, and does good is an ideal Grommet, and you who understand the positive impact your purchases can make are an ideal Grommet customer. Thank you for being a part of our community!

  • jennnifer Shor
    jennnifer Shor
    11/11/10 7:36 PM

    Hi,

    These products sound heavenly. Is it possible to find out if they contain lanolin or wheat?

    Thanks,

    jennifer

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    11/11/10 9:03 PM

    @jennnifer Shor: I will find out or have Jennie stop back. Thank you for posting!

  • Jennie
    Jennie – Special Guest
    12/1/10 12:27 PM

    @jennnifer Shor: No lanolin, no wheat!

  • Kimberly
    Kimberly
    9/7/11 12:32 AM

    Hello, All--

    What a wonderfully worthwhile venture this is, and how beautiful these products look! I'm eager to show my support and make a purchase, so I have a question: Do you have a complete list of ingredients for each of the products? (Or is there a link somewhere to this information?) I ask because I have very sensitive skin and must avoid certain substances.

    I thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response. More importantly, I offer my heartfelt wish for safety, blessings, and peace for all involved in this endeavor.

    Sincerely,

    Kimberly

  • Kimberly
    Kimberly
    9/7/11 7:21 AM

    Hello again,

    I found the lovely Arghand Cooperative site, www.arghand.org, which features full ingredient listings for the products. Knowing their source and story, I consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to purchase and enjoy such beautifully pristine formulations.

    Once again, I thank you, and sincerely wish peace to all!

    Kimberly

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    9/7/11 10:49 AM

    @Kimberly: This cooperative is existing under unbelievable odds and to recognize and support their efforts will truly have a positive impact. We do list the ingredients under the details tab below the product video as well. We're glad that you stopped by.

  • Laura
    Laura
    9/27/11 4:59 PM

    Sorry so many of these items areoutnof stock...when might we be able to order them?

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    9/27/11 6:12 PM

    @Laura Mixter: We are expecting more in within the next two weeks.

The comment board is no longer open for this Grommet.

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