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The Transition to Peace and Recovery in Rural Afghanistan

Posted on 07 Jul 2022

On March 15, 2022, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) officially launched its one-year Area-Based Approach for Development Emergency Initiative (ABADEI) funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of a multi-agency effort to promote socio-economic recovery and strengthen community resilience in Afghanistan. Working in crisis-ridden communities across 11 provinces, the project takes an important step beyond one-off humanitarian assistance by addressing basic human needs with immediate emergency response, including cash for food, health, and other fundamental needs, while supporting communities in their transition towards economic recovery, peacebuilding, and resilience. The following accounts from community members reflect the impact that the ABADEI programme is already having on individual lives since the project’s commencement.

Shaista Khan, 79-years-old, male, Kandahar Province

Livelihoods, social structures, and community leadership in rural Afghanistan are complex and diverse components of vibrant and dynamic societies. Communities have been engaged in processes of adaptation, survival, and mutual care across a near half-century of conflict and recurrent climate-related disasters.  Shaista Khan, an elderly head of household in Khakriz district of Kandahar, exemplifies the impacts of this complex environment.

Shaista Khan, nearly 80-years-old and physically ill, has been fully reliant on community support to meet his family’s basic needs, including donations of food and key household items. However, due to devasting cycles of drought and increased poverty as a result, the support from his neighbours has come to a near halt as more families fight for survival with little to nothing to spare.  Under the ABADEI programme, DRC has provided much-needed emergency assistance to Shaista Khan in the form of cash support (USD $310). The direct cash assistance is just the first of numerous steps in supporting individuals and their families, like Shaista Khan through the ABADEI programme. Direct cash assistance not only allows for the purchase of urgent supplies, such as food for his family, but injects much-needed cash into the community to foster broader community resilience and independence from ongoing humanitarian support.

Shaista Khan and his family are among 4,330 of the most vulnerable households to receive emergency cash support under this project, recognizing the importance of addressing families’ basic survival needs before they can begin to recover. As of May 2022, DRC has reached a total of 1,886 acutely impoverished families with humanitarian cash assistance, with plans to implement longer-term livelihoods interventions.

Now, I can buy food for my wife and children which should cover us for several months.

/  Shaista Khan

'Cash-for-work' activities in Zindajan Herat, May 2022

'Cash-for-work' activities in Zindajan Herat, May 2022

Zahra, 28-years-old, female, Herat Province

Zahra, now 28-years-old, graduated from Herat University several years ago but was unable to find work in the male-dominated economy, which had been further weakened by COVID-19.  Instead of becoming discouraged, Zahra saw this as an opportunity to work for herself and began establishing a small laundry detergent production facility in her home. With an academic background in pure sciences, Zahra was able to perfect her product but struggled to make her business profitable due to limited start-up funds and knowledge of the market.  Under the ABADEI programme, she is among 900 existing micro-businesses to be supported with life skills, technical production, financial management, and enterprise trainings, as well as conditional cash grants (average USD $1,000) and on-the-job mentorship to enable them to grow and sustain their businesses through these challenging times and potential ones to come.

With the country’s tightened grip on women’s rights following the takeover by the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan (IEA) last August, now it is more important than ever to support women-led initiatives. Using her cash grant, Zahra has purchased a mixer, quality products, packaging materials, and containers to improve the marketability of her detergent and is learning important skills to increase sales. As of May 2022, DRC has provided cash grants to 307 business owners, including 169 women like Zahra, and will continue to provide hands-on support to ensure their business plans become a reality.

Mujibur Rahman, 40-years-old, male, Herat Province

Elsewhere in rural Herat, Mujibur Rahman, a 40-year-old husband and father to five children, spent much of his days collecting metal scraps of remnants of war that littered their community over decades of armed conflict, and would store these in his home to later sell in the local market to earn a couple of dollars. What he didn’t know was the dangers this posed – this was a risky pursuit, that could eventually kill him. In the last nine months, more than 180 Afghans have been killed by unexploded munitions, many of whom were trying to collect and sell scraps, according to United Nations and IEA officials.  In areas with high casualty rates and recent contamination, like Mujibur Rahman’s village, DRC is conducting Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) sessions for community members to provide life-saving information on how to mitigate risks and prevent life-altering injuries and deaths.

After the awareness session, a man brought scraps of ammunition to Mujibur Rahman for sale, and now recognizing the risks – he immediately reported it to DRC EORE teams. Through coordination with the Directorate of Mine Action Coordination (DMAC) of Afghanistan, DRC was able to carefully remove the threat the next day, and Mujibur Rahman and his family are now safe. Under the ABADEI project, DRC is providing risk education awareness to 400,000 women, men, girls, and boys, including at border points for Afghans returning from Iran and Pakistan who are unfamiliar with their surroundings and face risks along their journey home.

Before attending the awareness raising training, most of my community didn’t know about the risks of mines and unexploded ordnances in our area. Now, we understand the dangers and are able to protect ourselves and our children.

/  Mujibur Rahman, Herat

Abdul Jaleel, male, Maidan Wardak Province

Nerkh district lies in the central province of Maidan Wardak, with a rural population heavily dependent on agriculture and livestock farming. Nerkh is historically one of the most conflict-affected districts in the province, with heavy rounds of armed clashes causing extensive damage and destruction to vital community infrastructure, including roads, irrigation canals, and arable land.

To make matters worse, Nerkh has been affected by water shortages for several years.

Since 2019, communities have reported that farms were producing less and poorer quality of produce, meaning residents could not export their crops to generate an income. Under this project, DRC is providing temporary employment opportunities by engaging community members in the rehabilitation or construction of communal irrigation infrastructure – enabling participants to earn an income for their labour, while providing long-term solutions to poor agricultural productivity and food insecurity.

Abdul Jaleel, the technical supervisor for cash-for-work projects in Nerkh, is optimistic of the expected increase of water for both drinking and agriculture as a result of this support.

Since May 2022, approximately 300 unemployed men have been engaged in cash-for-work activities on infrastructure projects prioritized by their communities and local leadership. By the end of the project, 3,470 vulnerable individuals will benefit from these temporary employment schemes, including women, to work on 58 projects in different areas across the country covered under ABADEI.

While the projects are temporary, the training and skillsets acquired by project participants will support the long road to Afghanistan’s recovery with every plot of irrigated land allowing for better community harvest and more economic development opportunities.

DRC conducts mine risk education in the Kandahar province, June 2022

DRC conducts mine risk education in the Kandahar province, June 2022

ABADEI Project Information

As of May 2022, over 117,000 Afghans have been involved in various activities under the ABADEI programme across Kabul, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Kandahar, Zabul, Nimroz, Herat, Farah, Nangahar, and Kunar provinces.

The project aims to promote shock-affected households’ self-reliance and community resilience through an area-based approach, integrating basic needs, economic recovery, and protection assistance with peacebuilding and social cohesion initiatives.

The balance of short-term emergency response with longer-term solutions will ensure humanitarian and development activities are more complementary and mutually reinforcing.

DRC is sensitive to the chronic and newly emerging vulnerabilities of Afghan women and girls and aims at providing assistance in a manner that does not exacerbate their susceptibility to violence and deprivation of opportunities and rights.

To implement the project, DRC has received USD 12 million and plans to directly reach more than 400,000 individuals.

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