(Picture shows Gholam standing proudly in front of his gas stove production workshop, which he opened with the help of an IOM grant. PHOTO CREDIT: IOM/Léo Torréton)
(Picture shows Gholam standing proudly in front of his gas stove production workshop, which he opened with the help of an IOM grant. PHOTO CREDIT: IOM/Léo Torréton)

A young Afghan man opted against taking a risky migration route to Europe, choosing instead to stay in his home country to start a local business. The International Organization for Migration, a UN agency, helped fund it.

Before entering the gas stove production workshop, you'll be met by the sound of a hammer ceaselessly pounding and the distinctive smell of metal.

Gholam, the Afghan owner, beams at his staff -- returning migrants and community members alike -- working hard to produce gas stoves, fans, handicrafts, and more.

Gholam has had a long journey to become the successful businessman he is today.

Departure from, and later return to, Afghanistan

After his father died, Gholam and his brothers began working in a gas stove manufacturing company, where he acquired his first skills in entrepreneurship and manufacturing.

Gholem was eight years old when he migrated from Afghanistan to Iran. He returned to his home country over a decade later, at the age of 21.

"We arrived in Afghanistan with nothing and had to start from scratch", Gholam recalls. "A friend introduced me to a gas stove production company near the city of Hirat where I began to work again."

By 2015, Gholam was considering leaving once again. The country's weakening security and economic situation had created such little market demand that he was having trouble making ends meet.

It was the same time thousands of migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria were fleeing to Europe in search of a better life.

Off to Turkey

Gholam decided to take his family to Turkey, but they struggled to get by.

Although he dreamed of Europe, Gholam did not want to enlist the help of smugglers to cross the Mediterranean, and endanger his family, so they eventually moved back to Afghanistan in late 2018.

Gholam was forced to start from zero yet again and had, in the meantime, lost contact with the local market. With barely enough money to make ends meet, he relaunched his gas stove manufacturing business.

The negative impact of the pandemic and IOM's support

Less than two years later, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Imports from neighboring countries such as China and Iran came to a screeching halt and many businesses collapsed or found themselves on the brink of bankruptcy.

Gholam learned about business support offered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) at an awareness-raising event with the Community Development Council (CDC) in Jebreil township of Hirat province.

Following an eligibility assessment, IOM deemed Gholam's business as having potential for growth. Soon after, he received new machinery -- on which 80% of his business relies -- and a cash grant which enabled him to pay staff salaries and invest further.

Today, Gholam heads one of Hirat's 675 CDCs through which he supports 250 households with conflict resolution, reintegration, and referrals.

"I hope to be able to grow my business further and create jobs that will help people support their families. I will start slow, but I hope to reach 1,000 families," Gholam said.

IOM told Gholem's story in a statement published February 27.