A single teaspoon of saffron grown in Afghanistan can be worth roughly $10. And in a country where farming helps support 61 percent of households, harvesting the coveted spice could boost the economy—if only growers could sell it at a fair price. That’s where Kimberly Jung left and Emily Miller, former U.S. Army engineer officers, come in. Three years ago, along with two other associates, Jung and Miller cofounded Rumi Spice to put money directly in farmers' pockets. In Herat Province, where Rumi Spice operates, people spend about $35 every month on food and housing. Says Jung, "We paid our farmers $4,000 each for two kilograms of saffron the first year."

When Miller and Jung were deployed in Afghanistan (Miller conducting night raids; Jung searching for roadside bombs), they never laid eyes on a saffron field. Jung got her first glimpse when she returned in 2014 to follow up on another veteran's tip—"He told me about a farmer who had tons of saffron and nowhere to sell it"—and meet growers. "I remember driving along the dusty roads, turning a corner, and whoa—royal purple flowers everywhere," she says.

Today Rumi Spice's original crop of 11 farmers has grown to 94. And Miller and Jung see their business as a catalyst for peace and prosperity equally. "For many Americans, the word Afghanistan evokes thoughts of war,"says Jung. "But our countries can find common ground instead of conflict."

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