Who We Are Our History 2000s: Communities Take the Lead Despite the fragile security situation after the 9/11 attacks, considerable efforts were made to continue our programmes throughout this period. In 2003, Afghanaid became a facilitating partner of the National Solidarity Programme. This formed the backbone of our work for the next thirteen years. Disaster Response In the winter of 2001-2002, Afghanaid distributed food, blankets and other emergency aid items to some 350,000 Afghans. We provided a milking goat and kid to nearly 3,000 elderly individuals in the drought struck highlands of Ghor. We also provided basic building materials so returning refugees could repair damaged housing in the town of Paghman outside Kabul. Despite heavy fighting in much of Afghanistan, Afghanaid’s two hundred field staff worked in severe winter conditions, providing relief for emergencies in the period following the international intervention. National Solidarity Programme In 2003, the transitional government launched the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), with the aim of establishing elected community development councils in the country’s thirty thousand villages and providing them with the funds to implement their own development priorities. Afghanaid became one of the first implementing partners of the new programme, working in several districts of Badakhshan, Nuristan, Samangan and Ghor provinces. The programme provided an opportunity for women as well as men to participate in local self-government and to achieve office in their localities. Between 2003 and 2016, Afghanaid facilitated the development of community development councils in over 3000 villages, providing the expertise for them to develop plans for the building of schools, roads and bridges, the provision of water and electricity supplies, and the repair of damaged infrastructure. Kitchen Gardens In order to improve family incomes and nutrition in rural areas, Afghanaid piloted kitchen gardens in Badakhshan in 2003, developing a model which was later introduced in other provinces. We provided families - particularly women-headed households - with the seeds and basic tools they needed to grow their own vegetables to supplement their children’s diet and reduce malnutrition. New varieties such as broccoli and courgettes were introduced and many women were able to sell their surplus produce to supplement their incomes. Afghanaid provided training in cultivation, food processing and storage techniques. At a later stage, the use of plastic tunnels extended the growing season and enabled families to obtain better prices for their produce. Child Development Programme In 2003, Afghanaid commenced its Child Development Programme on a pilot basis in ten communities in Badakhshan. The aim of the programme was to assist communities to move towards an environment where children’s fundamental rights are respected and put into practice. Activities included awareness training on child rights based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the initiation of child peer groups, and the distribution of relevant literature to schools and community bodies. The child rights training was also delivered to village organisations, religious leaders and teachers. By the time of its completion in 2009, there were 232 peer groups of boys and girls in three provinces and the project had helped to change community attitudes towards girls’ education and early marriage in these communities. Dahan-e-dara Bridge In 2004, Afghanaid’s engineering department completed its most ambitious project – the building of the Dahan-e-dara bridge over the Kokcha river south of Faizabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan. At the time, the bridge was the longest stressed steel concrete bridge in the country and required technical support and equipment to be imported from Pakistan. The bridge linked communities on the west bank of the river with the main road to Faizabad, dramatically cutting the journey time for farmers' produce. This bridge was the last major engineering project completed by Afghanaid. From 2003, the Government made major engineering projects the responsibility of the private sector, though our engineers continued to build local infrastructure. Rights-Based Programmes in Samangan In 2004, Afghanaid began a nine-year partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to reduce poverty and vulnerability in four districts of Samangan province. The programme built on Afghanaid’s previous rural development work in the province - particularly in agriculture and animal husbandry - but had new aims to make community organisations more gender sensitive, to diversify employment opportunities and to increase the influence of communities with local government. The project benefited from the donor’s long term commitment. It fostered hundreds of new small businesses, improved market linkages and produced a much greater level of participation and leadership by women in local institutions and public life. Savings Groups Afghanaid introduced self-help groups in 2005 after an exposure visit to India. They were piloted first in Badakhshan, where women’s savings groups soon outnumbered men’s groups, and introduced the next year in Samangan and Ghor. The groups typically had about twenty members, who saved a fixed sum with the group each month and used their accumulated capital to support small business development by their members. Afghanaid facilitated the formation of the groups and trained the members in book-keeping and minute-taking. By 2007, there were over 150 groups in the three provinces and a wide range of small businesses had been started, from shop-keeping to small industries and trades. Perennial Horticulture In 2007, we began a European Commission funded programme to rehabilitate old orchards and start new ones in Badakhshan, Samangan and Ghor. New varieties of apples, almonds, apricots and plums were trialled, and farmers’ associations were formed to share expertise and rationalise marketing. New storage methods were introduced in Badakhshan to enable farmers to benefit from better apple prices outside the growing season. With support from Afghanaid, growers’ associations in each province attracted several hundred members. They began to support each other with loans; improve quality control, packing and marketing of the fruit; and increase their bargaining capacity with the buyers. Natural Resource Management In 2008, Afghanaid began a nine year project to rehabilitate part of the upper catchment of the Amu Darya river basin in Badakhshan province. The aim of the project was to replant the hillsides, increase vegetation cover, reduce erosion, and strengthen the role of communities in natural resource management. The project covered 7500 families and over two hundred hectares of land across five districts. It introduced more scientific methods of rangeland and pastureland management and revived community ownership and policing of these vital natural resources. The project helped to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods in these remote mountain areas. Bio-briquettes made from local materials were introduced as an alternative fuel to firewood, providing local employment and reducing deforestation and pollution. Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Security Helping small-scale farmers and producers to increase their productivity and add value to their produce is one way that Afghanaid helps to combat the effects of drought and food insecurity and improve poor people’s coping mechanisms. In 2009, we began a project in Lal-wa-Sarjangle, the easternmost district of Ghor province, which linked relief with rehabilitation. We set up three technology transfer centres and introduced new varieties of wheat and vegetables in 235 villages, increasing productivity and improving storage facilities. New potato varieties increased the crop by 30% and the introduction of plastic tunnels enabled farmers and kitchen gardeners to extend the growing season. Over 1500 farmers received technical training and over 2400 kitchen gardens were set up, mostly by women. In addition, we trained men and women in food processing and gave them the means to ensure their produce could feed them during the winter.