As summer weather brings intense heat to some parts of Afghanistan, enterprising merchants have found a great way to help people cool off: They sell snow.
“Snow is naturally clean and healthy, and it is a lot cheaper than ice,” said Mohammad Elyas, a snow seller in Khost City.
Afghanistan has more than its share of high mountains, where copious snow falls in the winter. Summers in the valleys, by contrast, are quite warm. Lack of electricity means that Afghans are always looking for ways to keep their water cool and their food fresh. Ice is in short supply, and therefore quite expensive.
So some businessmen in Khost Province, in southeastern Afghanistan, have made a virtue of necessity, and are capitalizing on one resource the region has in abundance.
“We store the snow in special places and sell it during the hot weather of summer at a low price,” said Ahmadullah Mangal, a snow seller. “Selling snow is both a benefit for us and a service to the people.”
According to Mangal, he sells a kilo of snow for 10 Pakistani Rupees( $0.095).
It adds up. Last year Mangal made more than 750,000 PKR ($7,157.25), and hopes to do at least as well this year. In a country where the annual per capita income is just over $700, this is quite an accomplishment.
It is a time-consuming process. People collect clean snow from the mountains, cover it in plastic and then store it, to keep it from melting. They dig deep holes in the ground away from direct sunlight and bury their precious commodity.
“When we have collected the snow and stored it properly, we can take it out during the summer and sell it,” said Mangal.
Dozens of trucks bring the snow to the local bazaar, where residents can buy it. But according to Elyas, it is difficult to find a proper venue for the sale. Local officials harass the snow sellers when they park their trucks in makeshift parking areas, but refuse to provide a more adequate space.
“Our biggest problem is finding a place to sell the snow properly,” said the snow seller.
But the residents don’t seem to mind. As long as snow is cheap and plentiful, it will always find a ready market.