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More than half a million Afghans supported through Area-Based Approach for Development Emergency Initiative (ABADEI)

On 31 March 2023, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) completed the first phase of the Area-Based Approach for Development Emergency Initiative (ABADEI) supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The 12-month project started in March 2022 as part of a multi-year and multi-agency effort in Afghanistan to promote socio-economic recovery and strengthen resilience among the most vulnerable communities affected by the protracted crisis and recent environmental shocks (including the worst drought in three decades).

Entrepreneurs participate in a business training in Arghistan district, Kandahar province. Photo // DRC.

Posted on 04 May 2023

Over the course of one year, DRC supported a total of 522,098 direct individuals across Kabul, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Kandahar, Zabul, Nimroz, Herat, Farah, Nangahar, Kunar, and Paktika provinces through an area-based approach, integrating basic needs, economic recovery, and protection assistance with peacebuilding and social cohesion initiatives.

The following accounts from project participants reflect the impact of the ABADEI programme on individual lives and broader communities.

Abdul Jameel, 25-years-old, Kandahar Province

The sudden takeover of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in August 2021 has resulted in a significant economic decline and disruptions in essential services, leading to higher rates of unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity. In turn, faced with a lack of income-generation opportunities, vulnerable households have been increasingly relying on harmful coping strategies as a means to survive.

Within the current context, a significant proportion of the Afghan population is struggling to meet their most basic needs and maintain a decent standard of living. To enhance access to livelihoods, DRC provided technical and financial support to businesses of various sizes under the ABADEI intervention.

“In the last year, my business has grown significantly and my shop is now the top earner in the district market. I currently earn 20,000 AFN in a month and my daily income is gradually increasing. I can now feed my family and plan to repay all my debt soon.”

/  Abdul Jameel, Kandahar Province

Abdul Jameel, the owner of a wielding micro-business supported under the ABADEI programme, turns the solar panels toward the sun to generate electricity in Kandahar province. Photo // DRC

Abdul Jameel, the owner of a wielding micro-business supported under the ABADEI programme, turns the solar panels toward the sun to generate electricity in Kandahar province. Photo // DRC

Abdul Jameel, a 25-year-old living in Kandahar province, never thought he would become the owner of a business. He had fled to the provincial capital of Kandahar city in early 2021 due to intensified conflict in his village, leaving behind everything he and his family had.

After returning to his village in late 2021, Abdul Jameel started a small wielding workshop in the district centre. As a result of the technical and financial support he received under ABADEI, his business has expanded significantly.

Not only has Abdul Jameel been able to create a sustainable income for himself and his family, but he has also been able to provide employment to two other individuals in his community, helping them to support themselves and their families.

In total, DRC provided 919 micro businesses (like Abdul Jameel’s) and 23 small and medium businesses with technical and financial support, boosting the owners’ economic resilience and contributing to generating employment opportunities and strengthening the local market.

Sha Bibi, Kunar Province

Sha Bibi, a widow who lives in Kunar province with her five children, participated in a Cash for Work scheme under the ABADEI project, together with 107 other women. After having received trainings, the women engaged in seedling/sapling production management in nurseries owned and run by the Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL).

The Cash for Work scheme allowed participants, primary breadwinners in their families, to access temporary income and meet household needs, while conducting works with communal benefits.

Afghan women working together at a plant nursery in Kunar province. Photo // DRC

Afghan women working together at a plant nursery in Kunar province. Photo // DRC

“I had no source of income, and no one helped me. They couldn’t because of the current employment crisis across the country. No one could even lend me money to buy basic and necessary food items. But now I can work, and I am proud that I am not begging anymore. I have been able to treat two of my children who were sick because of my hard work. I am happy with my life now and thankful to the DRC for the opportunity to learn this new skill.”

/  Sha Bibi, Kunar Province

Khair Mohammad, 35-years-old, Kunar province

In Kunar province, DRC built a bridge to connect several communities with the local market, mosque, school, health clinic, and other facilities located on the other side of the river. Access was particularly difficult in rainy seasons for vehicles due to flooding and raised water levels. In previous years, crossing the river had resulted in serious injuries to people and livestock.

Abdul, a local farmer, welcomes the new bridge:

“The construction of the bridge has solved people’s problems. Now they can transport their farm products more quickly and easily to the local market and people have access to the market all year round.”

The bridge constructed in Kunar province under ABADEIPhoto // DRC

The bridge constructed in Kunar province under ABADEI Photo // DRC

Wali Jan, 27 years old, Kandahar province

In addition to its importance for agriculture, Dhala dam is a significant touristic attraction in Kandahar province, visited by thousands of people every month.

The bridge on the main access road to the dam was destroyed due to the conflict, hindering access to the local market for the local residents and deterring tourists from visiting.

The reconstruction of the bridge on the access road to the dam by DRC positively contributed to the economy of local communities by reconnecting them to the market and attracting tourists back.

“After recent rains, the water level in the Dhalla increased, even exceeding its capacity and releasing into the Arghandab river. This has attracted many people to come and visit the dam and spend their days here, especially now that people can easily access the area with their cars”.

The bridge constructed by DRC with income-generation schemes for local workers in Kandahar province. Photo // DRC

The bridge constructed by DRC with income-generation schemes for local workers in Kandahar province. Photo // DRC

Tourists enjoy excess waterflow from the dam released to the local river in Kandahar province. Photo taken from social media/PAN

Tourists enjoy excess waterflow from the dam released to the local river in Kandahar province. Photo taken from social media/PAN

Elders, Maidan Wardak Province

“The 16-meter well in my house did not have water for the last five years, but now once again it has 12-meters of water in it”.

Due to the drought, agricultural livelihoods in rural communities of Maidan Wardak province have been significantly impacted. The crops and most of the trees dried up due to the lack of water.

Water in the nearby spring had decreased and all the shallow wells in the village had dried in recent years.

This also impacted the ability of people to access potable water for their own consumption and to provide to their livestock.

“The water was not usable and only available in very small quantities. Now, the amount of water is high enough that it can even be used for agriculture purposes.”

Under ABADEI, DRC constructed a check dam with a capacity of 500 cubic meter to store the spring water. In addition to providing temporary employment opportunities to 730 individuals through a Cash for Work scheme, the check dam improved the water scarcity problem in the area.

“The local spring did not have water for five years. Since the check dam was constructed in our area, it has a constant and fast water flow”.

Check dam constructed in Nirkh district of Maidan Wardak province. Photo // DRC

Check dam constructed in Nirkh district of Maidan Wardak province. Photo // DRC

Summary of key achievements

Between 15 March 2022 and 31 March 2023, DRC supported a total of 522,098 individuals through multi-sectoral area-based activities across Kabul, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Kandahar, Zabul, Nimroz, Herat, Farah, Nangahar, Kunar, and Paktika provinces.

Emergency Response:

4,787 extremely vulnerable households in high-poverty, shock-affected areas were provided with unconditional cash transfers to meet their immediate basic needs. Each household received a cash package value of AFN 28,000 (equivalent to USD 310).

Economic Recovery:

DRC improved the provision of basic services, enhanced agricultural productivity and food security, and reduced the impact of climate-related disasters by conducting construction and rehabilitation works on community agro-based agriculture, relying on local workers through Cash for Work schemes. Specifically, DRC supported communities through implementing 61 projects using Cash for Work schemes. The initiatives provided income-generation opportunities for the 6,744 local skilled and unskilled workers who participated while the infrastructure projects indirectly benefitted a total of 106,670 households:

  • Through 16 projects, irrigation canals were rehabilitated and cleaned.
  • 14 check dams were constructed to irrigate additional land and increase underground water table for hundreds of water sources.
  • 20 flood protection walls were constructed, protecting land, houses, and other public infrastructures.
  • 2 bridges were built and 4 roads improved, enhancing access to market, health, education, and other key facilities.
  • 5 water reservoirs were constructed and/or rehabilitated to increase the water flow for irrigation.

Additionally, to increase access to income and livelihoods for vulnerable households with an entrepreneurial mindset, DRC supported 919 Micro Enterprises (MEs), including 469 women-owned enterprises. They received trainings and grants to help run their businesses.

DRC also provided 23 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), including 11 women-owned SMEs, with trainings and financial support, benefitting the business owners but also the communities more at large by supporting local job opportunities. The supported SMEs provide regular employment to 349 individuals, including 165 women.

Social cohesion:

To gain a thorough understanding of key drivers of conflict in the communities and support mediation mechanisms to contribute to community resilience, DRC implemented a package of social cohesion activities:

• DRC conducted conflict analyses, consolidated in four reports, in Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, and Nangarhar.
• 400 community members (CDC members, community leaders, religious scholars, women, and youth and other influential members within the community) participated in conflict mediation trainings, including 197 women.
• 19 Community Safety Planning workshops were organized with 456 community members, including 216 women, and community safety committees were established. As per the priorities identified with the communities, infrastructure and non-infrastructure initiatives (boreholes for drinking water, road rehabilitation, check dam and community multipurpose centre improvements, and community catering equipment provision) were implemented.
• Youth Empowerment and Safety workshops engaged 120 youths and led to 3 youth-led initiatives being implemented (sporting events).
• 510,044 individuals were provided with awareness about the risks of mines, explosive remnants of war (ERWs), and unexploded ordnances (UXOs), particularly at the border crossings with Pakistan and Iran and within at-risk communities where other ABADEI interventions were implemented.


DRC conducted information dissemination activities and provided targeted protection support to enhance communities’ and individuals’ capacities to cope with shocks.

  • 9,919 individuals (4,463 men and 5,456 women) were provided with information on available services and civil rights and entitlements, such as family and property laws and existing legal frameworks against exploitation and abuse.
  • 1,012 individuals (466 men and 546 women) benefitted from legal counselling to resolve the legal issues they were facing.
  • 1,318 individuals were referred and connected internally and externally to services, organizations, people, or groups that could meet their needs for a particular area of concern.
  • 80 members (39 men and 41 women) in the P2P network were provided with community-based capacity building trainings, to support their role of raising awareness in their community, identifying protection cases, and making referrals to DRC and other service providers.

Endline evaluation

An endline evaluation was commissioned towards the end of the project to cover all geographical areas targeted by ABADEI activities. Primary and secondary data sources were used for the project evaluation. A sample of 453 beneficiaries were interviewed for quantitative data collection and 18 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and 27 Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) were conducted across the project target areas.

The external evaluation found that:

  • The project ensured wide participation of women in activities. Women participated across all project activities to the expected level and beneficiaries reported that they were very much part of the project planning process.
  • Beneficiaries showed a great level of satisfaction with the project activities, including participatory planning and implementation, and selection of the community-based activities.
  • In terms of delivery of the project results, the project was able to achieve its performance targets, and even exceeded the targets for most of the output indicators.
  • The project targeted the most vulnerable households, helping them address their immediate needs: 96% of the beneficiaries reported that they joined the project to support their households to meet their daily basic needs and 87% of respondents reported that they have improved livelihoods as a result of the project.
  • The infrastructure projects provided opportunities to revive farm-based economic activities and improve accessibility through construction of roads and bridges. Community members suggested that had the project activities not been implemented, there would have been mass displacement of the households or at least of the youth in the target communities.
  • Targeted micro, small and medium enterprises reported an increase in production due to the trainings and financial support offered by the project; 74% of the beneficiaries reported that the number of staff employed in their enterprises doubled after they received financial assistance and trainings in comparison to the pre-programme staffing numbers.
  • The project activities aimed at supporting protection and social cohesion focused on promoting a sense of security among the target communities: the evaluation found that the project was successful in creating the much-needed capacities for conflict mitigation and helped promote awareness of rights among the target communities; with 98% of respondents suggesting that their feeling of security and peace had improved after participation in the project activities.

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Supported by:

United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Development Programme
Area-Based Approach for Development Emergency Initiative (ABADEI)
Area-Based Approach for Development Emergency Initiative (ABADEI)
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