Afghanaid continued to provide emergency relief to people affected by conflict and natural disaster in the 1990s, but also began to focus on the rehabilitation of infrastructure and rural development.

Road and Bridge Building

In 1990, Afghanaid began building roads and bridges in Badakhshan province, where the poor state of roads left many remote communities cut off from other areas in the flood season. Transportation costs were high, and the prices for food and other essentials out of reach for many families. In order to improve access to markets and help reduce prices, Afghanaid paid for the construction of a 50km link road along a major trade route in Badakhshan. The road was able to accommodate motor vehicles for the first time. A further 46km of donkey tracks were widened and nine bridges were built. Afghanaid’s engineers also continued to repair irrigation systems and construct aqueducts, wells and water supply systems. 

Tree Planting

At the start of the decade, Afghanaid began setting up nurseries of fruit and timber trees to help introduce new varieties and demonstrate better ways of planting and cultivation.  By late 1994, we had grown a stock of over 67,000 almond, apple, apricot, peach and other fruit trees for distribution in four provinces. 



Seed and Fertiliser Distribution

From 1989 to 1991, we distributed large quantities of wheat seed to as many farmers as possible in Badakhshan, Takhar and Kunduz to help kick start grain production. Access roads to these remote districts were almost non-existent, making this a challenge. Seed and fertilizer were sent by lorry from Pakistan and the drivers had to contend with appalling roads and the odd avaricious local ‘commander’. Despite these challenges, we successfully distributed over 237 metric tons of seed, with less that 5% lost en route. But in 1991, as the Mujahideen tightened their ring around Kabul, it became impossible to transport large quantities of seed north by road. So from 1991 to 1992 we sent smaller quantities of high quality seed for local multiplication with selected contract farmers.

Refugee Support

During 1993, many refugees began returning to Afghanistan from Iran. In a joint programme with Christian Aid, Oxfam, the Refugee Council and the United Nations, Afghanaid assisted over 5,500 families in returning to their homes. Each family was provided with shovels, buckets and pick-axes to help them rebuild their lives. Later families were given wheat, enabling them to survive the first months as they worked to get their farms going.



Afghanaid began beekeeping projects to help families increase their incomes. In 1992 and 1993, fifty colonies of bees in hives were distributed to Badakhshan and 20 farmers were trained. A two week course had been planned but the farmers were so quick and keen to learn, that everything was covered in a week. The hives were an instant success. By late 1994, the number of hives had been increased to 98, shared among 28 families.


Crisis in Kabul

During 1994 over 8,000 people - mainly civilians - were killed and 100,000 injured in Kabul. Hundreds of thousands were trapped in the city without adequate food and shelter. Afghanaid distributed food, blankets and tarpaulins for families. In an effort to prevent the outbreak of diseases such as cholera, Afghanaid later began a water and sanitation programme in Kabul. By September 1994, engineers had restored a supply of clean water to thousands of families in the most densely populated areas of the city. 


Food Emergency in Badakhshan

Drought and disease over a number of years devastated harvests and claimed the lives of farm animals, leading to a serious food emergency in the province. Many families faced starvation over the harsh winters. Afghanaid responded to the emergency by improving the road between Badakhshan and the neighbouring province, Takhar. This enabled food to be imported and reduced transport costs. Local people employed on the project were paid in wheat. Afghanaid also set up low cost projects to increase the production of cereal grains and started an animal health programme to ensure the survival of as many animals as possible.



Afghanaid’s New Strategy

In 1996, Afghanaid moved its headquarters and senior staff from London to Peshawar in Pakistan in recognition of the increasing amount of work being done inside the country. In the same year the trustees decided to change the long-term focus of the work from emergency relief to the rehabilitation of infrastructure and rural development.   A new strategy was launched with a focus on helping those Afghans in greatest need. 


Pilot Project on Community Priorities

Under its new strategy, Afghanaid began to respond more directly to the priorities of local communities for assistance in their villages. We carried out a major survey in three remote districts of Badakhshan and following this a pilot project was set up. Meetings between Afghanaid staff and village representatives identified the major problems in the area and trial projects were set up. These included food production, the widening of dirt tracks, road and bridge repairs, tree planting and health education training for women. The pilot project was highly successful and the model was used to implement Afghanaid's current ‘Community Development' approach.


Village Organisations Key to New Approach 

Following the success of the pilot programme, Afghanaid began a community development approach to all of its programmes. We established Village Organisations (VOs) as decision-making bodies. Through these groups we set up wheat banks, health education, income generation projects, veterinary care, and agriculture programmes. The VOs also decided on engineering projects and contributed labour and materials, alongside Afghanaid's technical expertise and equipment, to carry them out. This community focus was used to drive an integrated programme of economic and social development in the rural areas.

Animal Health Programme

Afghanaid’s animal health programme in Badakhshan provided a service to farmers through a system of paravets and basic veterinary workers. The paravets had six months’ training and were capable of diagnosing and treating simple illnesses. They were provided with the medicines and supervised the basic veterinary workers, who carried out the vaccinations and provided basic care. The system proved a very cost-effective way of reducing animal losses and was later reproduced in Samangan and Ghor.

Women’s Resource Centres

In the mid-1990s, Afghanaid set up women’s resource centres in Badakshan to provide a space for women to meet, to improve their literacy and awareness of health issues, and to learn vocational skills. Training in tailoring and embroidery was later expanded to include training in small business management and computer literacy. The model was later replicated in Samangan, Ghor and other provinces.


Earthquake Response  

Afghanaid was among the first agencies to respond to the two devastating earthquakes which hit northern Afghanistan in February and May 1998. Working jointly with other organisations, we delivered food, tents, wood stoves, plastic sheeting and medicines. Later we funded Oxfam's work rebuilding homes and improving sanitation in the affected areas.



Work Starts in Three New Provinces 

In 1999, Afghanaid began work in two districts of Nuristan province to the south of Badakhshan. The following year, after a detailed survey of local needs, we began work in Ghor province in north western Afghanistan and Samangan province in the north central region. All these provinces were chosen because they met Afghanaid’s criteria of being remote or impoverished and short of assistance.