How Afghanaid Makes Life Better in Afghanistan

Afghanaid

For over 35 years, the British humanitarian and development organization Afghanaid has been working to improve the lives of millions of Afghans who are vulnerable and underserved. The organization it maintains a presence in some of Afghanistan’s poorest and most remote communities.

Afghanaid develops and runs programs across a broad range of focus areas, including basic service delivery, livelihood enhancement, emergency assistance, and disaster risk reduction. Through the organization’s community-led approach, ordinary Afghans play an important role in their own development. They have the opportunity to become active participants in shaping not only their own futures, but the future of their country as well.

Afghanaid’s recent and current projects include:

1. Restoring Mine-Contaminated Land

For the past two years, Afghanaid has worked in partnership with the HALO Trust, a charity focused on land mine clearance and mine risk education. Due to the decades of conflict it has experienced, Afghanistan is one of the world’s most heavily mined countries. Many regions are still littered with unexploded ordnance.

This makes life extremely difficult for the 80 percent of Afghans who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. When land cannot be used for crops or grazing because of land mine contamination, whole communities are trapped in poverty and lives are put at risk on a daily basis.

Afghanaid is working to address this issue by coming to areas that the HALO Trust has cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance. It then helps local families rebuild their livelihoods by making good use of their cleared land.

In Samagan and Logar provinces, for example, Afghanaid has provided training in improved agricultural techniques, orchard and greenhouse management, and poultry rearing to nearly 3,000 people. The organization has also supplied the technical assistance and tools needed to transform this previously dangerous land into a valuable, productive resource.

landmine

2. Improving Livestock and Animal Welfare

Most families and households in rural Afghanistan rely on animals, whether for food, transportation, or economic livelihood. Despite this dependence, however, few Afghans have the skills, knowledge, or resources to provide proper care for their animals. In addition, access to experienced veterinarians is rare in remote regions.

As a result, the well-being of many animals is seriously compromised. This negatively impacts both the animals themselves and the people who rely on them.

To help improve animal welfare in rural Afghanistan, Afghanaid recently launched a new partnership with the international equine welfare charity Brooke. This collaborative project will see Afghanaid working in Daykundi province to provide mentorship and specialized training to vets as well as education for farmers regarding the benefits of good animal welfare and the importance of veterinary services.

The organization will also teach farmers critical animal husbandry skills, such as appropriate animal handling, proper housing and feeding, and the identification of diseases. The aim of this initiative is to create a “virtuous cycle” in which improvements to animal welfare lead to greater productivity, which in turn leads to greater prosperity.

3. Responding to Severe Drought

Recent years have seen Afghanistan struggling with severe drought. Because of the resulting water shortage, crop yield has been much lower than usual for the past several seasons. As a result, many rural households have insufficient food for either themselves or their livestock. This has led to significant income reduction and has greatly increased vulnerability to environmental and economic crises.

This devastating situation has left thousands of Afghan families in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. In coordination with the World Food Programme and local partners in Afghanistan, Afghanaid has worked to provide essential food and supplies to nearly 11,000 struggling families in Ghor province, which has been one of the regions hit hardest by drought.

With this assistance, these households can stave off hunger and malnutrition. In addition, they can avoid the negative coping strategies (such as selling off livestock at a very low price) that are unfortunately common in these extreme situations.

drought

4. Promoting Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

When Afghan families in rural areas need food, water, fuel, medicine, and construction materials, they often turn to the forests, rangelands, and rivers that surround them. However, over the years, a lack of proper regulation and oversight of these resources has led to severe depletion and deterioration of many of these natural systems.

Today, the strain on Afghanistan’s natural ecosystems is even further exacerbated by increasing pressure from rapid population growth, rising land prices, climate change, and recurring natural disasters. This is not only problematic from an environmental point of view, but a social one as well. Resource scarcity is often a significant factor in ethnic, political, and regional conflicts.

To help transform scarce natural resources into sustainable assets, Afghanaid is embarking on a major four-year project in collaboration with the Liaison Office, an Afghan NGO, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Taking place in Daykundi province, the project will support 4,500 rural families as they learn to more effectively manage the natural resources they depend on.

A key element of the initiative will be the creation and training of local rangeland management associations. This will help communities work together to manage rangelands in a way that is equitable, inclusive, and sustainable.

8 Things to Know About One of Afghanistan’s Biggest Holidays

Earlier this summer, during the first week of June, Muslims all around the world gathered together to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. In Afghanistan, as in most other countries with significant Muslim populations, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important traditional holidays, and it is welcomed with great enthusiasm by Afghans all across the country. Read on for a look at eight interesting facts that you might not know about Eid al-Fitr in Afghanistan.

1. It celebrates the end of a long fast.

One of Islam’s most sacred traditions, Ramadan is a period of ritual fasting that honors the month when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. During Ramadan, most Muslims do not eat (or drink) from dawn until dusk, and they may also abstain from activities like smoking or taking medications. Eid al-Fitr is the festival that marks the end of Ramadan, and consequently, the end of fasting. Appropriately enough, therefore, the literal translation of Eid al-Fitr is “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast” or “Feast of Fast-Breaking.”

breaking fast

2. It begins with the sighting of the new moon.

Like Ramadan, the start of Eid al-Fitr is determined by the date and time that the new moon is first sighted. This means that most of the time Muslims must wait until the night before Eid to verify the exact timing of the festival. Many Muslim countries depend on local moon sighters to catch the first glimpse of the new moon; when the sighting has been confirmed, the beginning of Eid is declared at mosques and on television and radio stations. For uniformity, some Muslim regions choose to celebrate Eid when the new moon appears over the holy site of Mecca, rather than over their own location.

3. It is held on different (Gregorian) dates every year.

The Gregorian calendar, in use in many parts of the world, is based on the solar cycle, whereas the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, which means that months start and end with each new moon. Therefore, because lunar months are slightly shorter than solar months, Eid al-Fitr always arrives about 10 days earlier than it did the previous (Gregorian) year.

4. It usually lasts for at least three days.

The festival of Eid al-Fitr and its associated celebrations traditionally last for a three-day period. In many countries, including Afghanistan, all three days are observed as national holidays. However, depending on where Eid al-Fitr falls during the week, the festivities can sometimes last longer. For example, if the three days of Eid occur mid-week, it’s not uncommon for the celebrations to last all the way through the weekend.

5. Cleanliness and grooming are an important part of Eid al-Fitr.

On the first morning of Eid al-Fitr, Muslims begin the day with a ritual called “ghusl,” a ceremonial cleansing of the body. Then, they will often dress in new clothes—some people wear traditional dress from their country or region, while others choose contemporary clothing. In some areas, women will decorate their hands with intricate henna designs.

6. The festival begins with prayers.

After getting dressed, Muslims gather together with their families and communities for morning prayers. These prayers are usually followed by a special sermon and a prayer known as the Salat al-Eid. The prayers are often held at local mosques or in large halls, but in many countries, people also gather for prayers outdoors. After prayers, the rest of the day is spent visiting and celebrating with family, friends, and neighbors. In some countries, people also visit cemeteries to offer their respects to late family members.

Prayer
Image by DVIDSHUB | Flickr

7. Special dishes and meals are prepared.

Since Eid al-Fitr is a festival that marks the end of a month of fasting, it’s not surprising that food plays a major role in the celebrations. (In fact, voluntary fasting is actually not allowed on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, as Muslims are instead encouraged to feast and celebrate the conclusion of a month of fasting and worship.) Each country has different traditional foods that are prepared before Eid begins or on the morning of the first day; many of these foods are sweets or desserts, but savory dishes are also important. In Afghanistan, a dish traditionally prepared and eaten at Eid is bolani, a type of flatbread stuffed with different fillings like spinach, lentils, potatoes, or pumpkin.

8. Gifts are given.

To celebrate the end of a month of sacrifice and abstinence, Muslims embrace abundance during Eid al-Fitr. This means not only abundant food, but gifts as well. The most common gift at Eid is money, but flowers or goods for the home may also be given. Known as “Eidi,” gifts are most often given to children, who are a special focus during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

Spotlight on 7 More AICS-Certified Organizations

The certification program operated by the Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society (AICS) plays an extremely important role in the development and advancement of the Afghan civil society sector. Under this program, local civil society organizations (CSOs) can apply to be independently evaluated and certified.

Certification is measured against high international standards and best practices for all aspects of CSO operation. These include internal governance, financial management, and program delivery.

When a CSO receives certification from AICS, it is a testament to that organization’s reliability and effectiveness. This is an important step in promoting transparency within the civil society sector and increasing both local and international trust in Afghan CSOs.

As of June 2018, AICS had provided certification to 27 Afghan CSOs. Previously, we profiled seven of these organizations. Today, we shine the spotlight on seven more of these important, dependable organizations.

1. Organization of Human Welfare

Organization of Human Welfare

Founded in 2007, Organization of Human Welfare (OHW) focuses on humanitarian aid, development aid, peace building, governance, and capacity development. OHW’s vision is of an Afghan society in which vulnerable and marginalized people can access the opportunities and tools they need to improve their well-being and break the cycle of poverty.

The organization operates across 19 different provinces. Some of its specific activities and programs include the distribution of winterization kits, the distribution of food and non-food items to regions impacted by emergencies, and conducting disaster risk reduction activities in local communities.

2. Organization for Research and Community Development

Organization for Research and Community Development

With a staff size of over 1,700, the Organization for Research and Community Development (ORCD) is by far the largest of the AICS-certified organizations. Established in 2011, ORCD has a broad mission to use evidence-based best practices to assist and empower communities to set, and attain, their own development goals.

The ORCD operates major programs across a wide range of thematic focus areas, including health, education, agriculture, rural development, and emergency relief. It is active in 14 of Afghanistan’s provinces.

In 2015, ORCD was granted special consultative status with the United Nations. This made it the first Afghan civil society NGO ever to participate in the UN’s Economic and Social Council.

3. Bu Ali Rehabilitation and Aid Network

Bu Ali Rehabilitation and Aid Network

Another very large AICS-certified organization is the Bu Ali Rehabilitation and Aid Network (BARAN). An independent, non-governmental, and non-political organization founded in 2006, BARAN has a mission to provide Afghans with quality health care, education, rehabilitation, and social services.

BARAN’s 1,250-plus staff members use a community development approach to deliver the organization’s programs and services. Capacity-building programs that enhance communities’ self-sufficiency are a particularly important focus area for BARAN.

4. Sanayee Development Organization

Sanayee Development Organization

For nearly 30 years, Sanayee Development Organization (SDO) has been working to create a peaceful, free Afghanistan where people can sustain themselves and manage their own development with pride.

SDO is focused on peacebuilding initiatives, including community-based resources for conflict resolution; community development activities, including capacity-building for disaster prevention; health services, such as mobile health clinics and HIV/AIDS harm reduction programs; and educational interventions, especially vocational training programs and literacy and numeracy classes.

Over the course of its history, SDO has joined a number of important local and international networks. These include the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, the Asian Disaster Reduction & Response Network, and the Afghan Civil Society Organization Network for Peace.

5. People’s Action for Change Organization

People’s Action for Change Organization

Founded in 2012, People’s Action for Change Organization (PAC.o) envisions an equitable and just society in which every person is free from hunger, poverty, and suffering. Much of PAC.o’s work focuses on food insecurity and initiatives to end hunger.

One of the organization’s most important initiatives is the REALISE project (Resilient Agriculture and Livelihood Initiative for Socioeconomic Empowerment). This endeavor is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and carried out in partnership with ActionAid Australia/Afghanistan.

The REALISE project works with vulnerable households and communities to improve food and nutritional security; grow their economic asset base; and strengthen their engagement in local, provincial, and national decision-making around food security issues.

6. Afghanistan National Re-Construction Coordination

Afghanistan National Re-Construction Coordination

Afghanistan National Re-Construction Coordination (ANCC) was established in 1994 to assist vulnerable Afghan refugees and internally displaced families during the country’s civil war. Today, ANCC works to build prosperous and developed communities in Afghanistan by partnering with stakeholders to offer agricultural, food security, and community development support.

One of ANCC’s most important recent projects was the National Solidarity Program. It worked to build and strengthen local Community Development Councils and maintain them as effective institutions for local governance and socioeconomic development.

7. Afghanistan Rehabilitation and Educational Program

Afghanistan Rehabilitation and Educational Program

Another civil society organization established in 1994, Afghanistan Rehabilitation and Educational Program (AREP) understands the close connections between education, community development, and capacity building. It further understands how these key areas relate to the progress of Afghan society.

Today, AREP leverages its extensive experience managing multiple projects to deliver a range of programming. It has a particular focus on formal and information education.