News & Events
April 2022: "War" is now the word used to describe the continually escalating situation in the Ukraine. Spring crops are basically lost. Russian isolation and sanctions go much further than expected, and the fallout of this crisis is now inevitable: Approximately 1.7 billion people are going to face severe pressures and will not have basic needs met, and will ultimately go hungry. This is a cumulative effect of the entire supply chain disruption; the pandemic, more severe climate events (than most models predicted), and conflict in Europe. Russia coping under the deepest and widest set of sanctions in world history and having no exist strategy, coupled with facing a losing conventional war, the risks of nuclear escalation climb to near inevitability. Some European countries have begun distribution of potassium iodide tablets, preventatively. A deeply divided bipolar world has emerged. Russian-state media is now using the dangerous rhetoric "World War III" to describe the current state of affairs. HEF will release an important assessment and notes on this shortly...
March 2022: Dependant on the continual easing of travel restrictions, HEF is planning a cultural exchange between Uganda and Nunavik, Canada. The wonderful Jane Kabajungu from HEF Uganda Secretariat is planning to visit and host a series of cultural exchange/engagement events and workshops with indigenous youth and women in the region. This exchange will focus on finding indigenous commonalities in struggles & challenges and paths to overcoming them. Some of the work she will be doing will be teaching women and youth ways to bridge divides and bring their voices forward in ways that affect real measurable change toward meeting the SDGs. Jane was given a grant of just $500 CAD in 2020 prior to her involvement with HEF. From this, she has invested in her trade and passion, making traditional yogurts. She is a success story of empowering women and has been able to sustain herself with this investment ever since.
February 2022: Conflict has erupted in the Ukraine. With a young naive leadership, Ukraine has fallen victim to false promises and a misleading narrative by the U.S. with hopes of joining NATO. As Russia clearly views this as an existential security threat similar to the U.S. position during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world moves into a very precarious position that puts us on a knife-edge risk of confrontation of competing nuclear powers -with Ukrainians as the first victims caught in the middle. Global food supply is at risk and every effort should be made to ensure that maize and grain crops are sown and harvested, and get to market; if this conflict spills into the growing season. Nuclear risks increase significantly; more widespread conflict risks increase significantly if sanctions and polarizations continue on current trajectory, as resource stresses may exceed significant tipping points...
Nashim is a native Afghan who risked himself for two years to provide intelligence on corruption, misuse of WFP and UNHCR aid, human rights atrocities and our general eyes and ears in and around Kabul City, has successfully fled to Pakistan: When the American Withdrawal occurred in August, Nashim found himself facing great uncertainty with the abrupt transition to Taliban governance. But his family faced hunger, as the collapse of the Afghan economy worsened. Our initial attempts to find him safe haven were unsuccessful. But finally he has made it safely to Pakistan where he has found employment and has been able to assist his family back home. Nashim uncovered and documented theft of UNHCR food that was being rerouted in bulk to wealthy private businesses where it was being sold on the market solely for the benefit of the profiteers. American-backed government officials and military leadership were responsible for the food diversion and beneficiaries of the diverted aid.
December 2021: Vaccine inequity has lead to our worst fears; new variants popping up that appear to be more transmissible and spreading like wildfire. The tense situation surrounding the Ukraine is triggering dangerous nuclear rhetoric unheard since the cold war. Our initial risk assessment puts us in the category of the Cuban Missile Crisis right now. De-escalations are quickly needed and NATO must see that its expansionism is a threat, not a stabilizer in world peace.
November 2021: Worrisome situation brewing at the Belarus/EU border. Many stranded conflict and climate refugees denied safe passage through Poland. Reports of serious human-rights abuses beginning to surface. Also, concerning issue on NATO expansion and Russian opposition surrounding the Ukraine.
October 2021: Gearing up for COP26. We will be participating in the COP26 side event but will have a chance to see and influence and see the draft document. Stay tuned!
(Update: The final document was very disheartening. The commitment to scrap coal ended up very watered down last minute, notably by USA and India. An important chance to effectively tackle the climate crisis was missed.)
September 2021: Global Assembly coming up! We are happy to be participating in the Global Assembly and the Global Town Hall
August 2021 ***Due to the American withdrawal and change in rule in Afghanistan, it is with sadness that write that the Saffron Worker Cooperative project has been unfortunately postponed until some challenges are overcome***
Aug 18th, 2021
I am pleased to announce the founding of the HEF Saffron Cooperative. The worker cooperative is progressive, in that a waitlist of identified vulnerable Afghan citizens will essentially work their way through the cooperative to have the means to flee to safe haven, or to gain the means to support themselves/their families through finance and skill development.
How it works:
Vulnerable persons are identified and brought into the cooperative. The most critical cases go to the front of the line. People selected are trained and assigned tasks within the cooperative such as bookkeeping, sourcing, packaging, Arranging export permits, etc. The finest Saffron in the world is available to us and secured for the foreseeable future. Eventually, the cooperative will extend to own the means of production itself. It works like a traditional business, except that opportunity is for the most vulnerable in Afghan society, and all of the profits are for the worker, or growing the workers means of production. The key that allows this is in the word cooperative. HEF facilitates import & operations, and connects buyers with the cooperative. As of right now, targeted marketing, import fees/costs are the only expenses burdened by HEF. The rest is the cost of time and volunteer work!
When a beneficiary is selected to enter the cooperative, modest goals are agreed upon for that individual or family. We want to achieve equity and modest sustainable prosperity for the human being, not exceptional wealth accumulation. As the beneficiary reaches certain benchmarks toward their goals, they become mentors through our mentorship program, and begin to train their successive benefactor, and so on. This is what we mean by "progressive cooperative".
The stark reality of life in Afghanistan is that many who exit the cooperative will be relocated to a safe haven country. We were well prepared for a return to Taliban rule, but predicted we had more time to prepare for this transition, given that our headquarters is in Kabul City. As you probably well know, Kabul City transitioned to Taliban rule months earlier than most strategic analysts and war planners predicted. Given the lack of resistance by the Afghan Army, and the international pressures and attention the Taliban face, we expect a return to relative normalcy within a couple weeks. So far, we see no impact to operations other than a brief interruption of air transportation that has since passed. Whether we agree with Taliban rule or not it is the new reality in the country and we have to work within this. Our concern is for the most vulnerable Afghan citizens, not politics in the region. We expect to operate normally but taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of our participants.
Risks & Security:
On the ground in Afghanistan:
Given the desperate situation in Afghanistan, we have to go to drastic lengths to protect our interests in the country and greater region. Even for beneficiaries who manage to flee to safe haven countries unavoidably have families and loved ones back home. For this reason, we must exercise do diligence in ensuring the privacy and security of all participants. This is not just true for the supply end, but also for buyers. Our HEF team on the ground is lead by a wonderful and deeply compassionate native Afghan who literally risks his life to support this bold and ambitious endeavour. So far, we have not come across corrupt officials that inflate operational costs and we hope to keep it this way. The entire cooperative for the foreseeable future, operates covertly.
Why the need for somewhat covert operations in Canada?
The high end of the Saffron market is very valuable, yet difficult to source and import. Because of its weight to value ratio, it is attractive business for organized crime and mafias. Since Saffron can be more valuable than recreational drugs but comes with less risk attached, it goes without saying that this is good business for organized crime syndicates. For this reason, much of the high end Saffron market in the West, is held by criminal organizations: We must then plan and operate using guerilla tactics. This is not risk free for our volunteers. But it is necessary and the cooperative is simply the right thing to do. One of our goals is to fully displace the criminal aspect of the Saffron trade in the West, replacing it with non-profit administration, and the Afghan workers cooperative as the sole benefactor.. We have effectively entered into a state of trade war with affected criminal organizations.
We are currently exploring entering into the Kashmiri Saffron market in Pakistan. In Pakistan. Kashmiri Saffron is also incredible taste and quality, and this is the very close runner up (many people prefer it because it is the high end Saffron they are likely most familiar with) to Afghan Super Nigen. In Pakistan, we would use a combination of a volunteer network with paid, permanent workers. The profits, after workers are paid, would go to funding HEF aid projects. In Lahore, we currently assist an orphanage and provide basic meals for 30-200 vulnerable persons per biweekly weekly; We would like to increase our reach here. Another project will be increasing the reach of our support for higher education for the most vulnerable that have promising young minds. We currently only support one such student from a remote village to study for his PhD in mathematics at the University of Islamabad, but would like to increase this increase ten to thirty fold over the coming few years. We want to ensure that young women have the same opportunity as young men.
About the Saffron
We our pleased to announce that we have secured what is literally and near inarguably, the finest quality Saffron on Earth. The Saffron is of the grade Super Nigen and is from the plant species Crocus Sativus (also known as Saffron crocus). It is only the longest and reddest stamens HEFSC supplies. This is an international award winning food/spice and is very difficult to produce and collect. Purchasing Super Nigen grade Saffron from the HEFSC does more than ensure that the sole beneficiaries are those in extreme poverty and at risk in Afghanistan; it also helps defeat the organized crime market for this ancient prized spice. "Bridging equity gaps...one market at a time..."
Pricing (all prices CAD. Please note that we are currently unable to export this product outside of Canada)
Afghan HEFSC Super Negin Saffron
Due to our limitations in production and supply capability, we currently do accept orders larger than 100g. This is expected to change in the future.