A PHILANTHROPIST businessman is offering struggling farmers in Afghanistan an escape from the country’s notorious drug trade.
Harris Qais was born in the Afghan capital Kabul in 1986 at a time the country was at war with the Soviet Union which had invaded in 1979. His family – mother, father, brother and sister – fled the country when he was just two. They finally settled in Britain when Harris was six.
The now 32-year-old former IT sales director has remained determined to help those in the country of his birth and has already helped provide four schools in Kabul with clean water and furniture.
And the Tanworth-in-Arden resident has now launched The King of Saffron which imports the exotic spice – known as the most expensive in the world – from the war-torn Asian country into the UK and to countries across the globe.
Saffron – used in a variety of dishes and in traditional medicine – is derived from a type of crocus and is one of Afghanistan’s largest exports.
Harris hopes he has come up with a permanent solution to helping people in Afghanistan.
His business will be supporting some 150,000 seasonal workers who earn around 80p an hour which Harris hopes will rise under plans to increase the harvest from 13 tonnes to 75 over the next five years.
Despite its cultivation being on the rise, saffron amounts to around just three per cent of the profit generated by the country’s infamous opium sector – worth some £1.1billion.
Part of Harris’ plan is to replace poppy fields with the spice to help eradicate the cash crop from which more than 90 per cent of the world’s heroin is produced.
Harris feared it might create some friction with those involved in the more financially lucrative drug trade, but so far the said the response had been positive and most people just wanted to live a peaceful life away from the illegal trade.
He added: “It’s going to take the efforts young people like me to help make change. Promoting the commodity of saffron brings positive social change and an impact – helping educate families, creating jobs, particularly for women and helping them to feel more empowered, and to give people hope more than anything.”
Harris, who returned to Afghanistan a decade ago, explained why he was keen to do all he could to help.
“It was so surreal. The way it was brought a tear to my eye; there were women and children begging. The corruption is horrible to see.
“Before I went I saw pictures and it seemed like such a beautiful country. I just thought how the hell did it get to this? These young kids who have never done anything wrong.
“It’s such a war-torn country and everyone’s clueless to as why they’re in that position. Kids are trying to do degrees and they’re working to provide for their families. Everyone is proactive but there’s no support network.”
Harris has been supported the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership to launch his business.
Visit www.thekingofsaffron.com for more details.