6 World Bank Projects Improving Quality of Life in Afghanistan

For nearly 20 years, the World Bank has supported the ongoing reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. Working closely with other bilateral and multilateral agencies to ensure the best use of donor resources, the World Bank has implemented programs and projects across a diverse range of focus areas—including institution and capacity building, job creation, human capital development, citizen engagement, infrastructure, and connectivity—all to help improve the quality of life for every Afghan citizen.

As of February 2021, more than two dozen World Bank projects are ongoing across Afghanistan. These include:

The Afghanistan Second Skills Development Project (ASDP II)

One of the key ways in which the government of Afghanistan aims to boost economic growth and development is by helping Afghan workers improve their vocational and technical skills. The World Bank supports this goal through the ASDP II. Like the original program, this second iteration of the ASDP focuses on strengthening the technical vocational education and training (TVET) institutional system as a whole, enhancing the performance of individual TVET schools and institutes, and ensuring that TVET teachers have the competencies needed to provide the appropriate training. Key achievements of ASDP II so far include supporting an in-service Technical Teacher Training Institute and redeveloping the curricula for a number of priority trades (such as construction and information technology) to better respond to market needs.

The Access to Finance Project

The ability to access credit when necessary is one of the most important factors that allows businesses to grow and thrive. However, many micro, small, and medium enterprises in Afghanistan struggle to access the credit they need because most traditional financial lenders are not well equipped to serve them. In response to this problem, the Access to Finance Project is working to build institutional capacity within the finance sector so that these smaller businesses will have more—and better— financing options. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as of the end of 2020, the Access to Finance Project (through its support of the Afghan Credit Guarantee Foundation) had provided loans of nearly $20 million to over 530 enterprises.

The COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project

Over the last year, one of the World Bank’s major priorities has been to help Afghanistan cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the creation of the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project, the World Bank is working to mitigate the threat of the pandemic and improve Afghanistan’s readiness for potential future public health emergencies. Key components of this project include slowing the spread of COVID-19 by improving disease detection and diagnosis capabilities, strengthening the delivery of essential healthcare services, developing comprehensive communication strategies addressing social distancing and other mitigation practices, and providing an immediate and effective response to pandemic-related crises.

The Afghanistan Sehatmandi (Health) Project

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most critical health issue in Afghanistan for some time, other World Bank projects in the area of health care are still in operation. The most important of these is the Afghanistan Sehatmandi (Health) Project, which is a major multi-year initiative that aims to improve access to and quality of healthcare services across the entire country. By financing performance-based contracts for health service delivery, building and honing a performance management culture in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, and conducting extensive health-related outreach work in Afghan communities, the Sehatmandi Project aims to keep building on the considerable progress the Afghan health system has made during the past decade.

The Herat Electrification Project

In many areas of Afghanistan, demand for electricity has outstripped supply in recent years. It is, unfortunately, not uncommon for Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), the country’s national power utility, to be unable to meet its customers’ needs, and power outages are particularly common during periods of extreme summer and winter weather. The Herat Electrification Project aims to address the problem of electricity supply in Herat province by giving DABS the necessary support to connect over 230,000 people and 1,600 institutions with new or improved electricity services. As part of this project, new transmission lines and substations are under construction, sections of the grid are being densified and extended, and a grid code for the Afghanistan power system is being developed. In addition to these activities, the project recently supplied and installed solar-powered backup systems for 10 COVID-19-designated hospitals in Herat province—a truly remarkable and life-saving accomplishment.

The Afghanistan Digital CASA 1 Project

Since 2018, the Afghanistan Digital CASA 1 Project has been working to bring all of Afghanistan into the digital era. The project’s primary aims are to increase access to affordable Internet for all Afghans, stimulate private investment in the sector, and support a regionally integrated digital infrastructure that will allow the delivery of digital government services. To achieve these objectives, the World Bank is working closely with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which is the implementing agency for this project.

Everything You Need to Know about Afghanistan’s Textiles Industry

The Afghan government is currently implementing initiatives to revive the country’s textile industry. In this article, we look at the history of cotton, silk, and cashmere production in Afghanistan and potential future growth in the textile sector.

Afghan Cotton

Afghanistan produces more than 59,000 tons of cottons per year. Despite this, the country’s lack of processing factories presents significant challenges. In the past, Afghanistan boasted several major textile factories in Balkh, Kabul, Baghlan, Kandahar, and Parwan provinces employing around 30,000 people, but the industry declined over the last few decades.

cotton

Currently, only 6 percent of Afghan land is being cultivated. Afghanistan is a rugged, mountainous country. Just 12 percent of the nation is composed of arable land. Despite this, more than 80 percent of Afghans rely on agriculture to make a living.

As Afghan Finance Ministry spokesman, Ajmal Hamid Abdul Rahimzai explained to the Fashion Network website, industrialists have recently campaigned to have their recommendations to revive Afghanistan’s textile industry discussed by the high economic council. Revitalizing this valuable economic sector could create economic growth throughout Afghanistan.

Afghanistan and India entered into a Memorandum of Understanding regarding textiles production. As per the memorandum, both countries have pledged their commitment to cooperating, developing closer economic relations, and strengthening bilateral ties in the production of textiles, cotton, clothing, handlooms, and man-made fiber.

Afghan Silk

located on the Silk Road, the Afghan city of Herat has a long history of silk production. After years of decline, Afghanistan’s silk industry is currently experiencing a revival. Silk thread is produced by silkworms. The creature is indigenous to Herat, thanks to the abundance of mulberry bushes found there. These plants provide the insects with a plentiful supply of food.

Silkworms use the silk thread they produce to build a cocoon around themselves. When unraveled, the silk fiber from just one cocoon can measure up to a mile in length. Just 8 kilograms of silkworms can produce up to 48 kilograms of cocoons. Silk collectors earn up to $140 biannually from collecting cocoons. This is a significant income in Afghanistan.

Spinners purchase silk cocoons from gatherers, using the fibers to spin silk thread. Historically, this was performed by hand. Since the process is somewhat protracted, this significantly limited a spinner’s income. Nevertheless, the advent of modern technology has led to largescale mechanization in the trade. A spinner with more than 30 years’ experience, Azatullah Amidi, explained to the Guardian that he was able to double his production thanks to the implementation of mechanized spinning equipment.

Once the thread is transferred onto bobbins, it is transported to other regions of Afghanistan, such as Mazar, Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city. Another celebrated stop on the ancient Silk Route, Mazar remains an important commercial trading center.

Afghan Cashmere

The cashmere goat is one of many native animals in Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Mongolia, and China. It takes a single goat up to 12 months to produce enough wool to make just one cashmere scarf. For hundreds of years, farmers in Herat have collected the thick undercoat shed by the goat every spring, throwing it on the fires used to cook food and heat their homes. It is only relatively recently that some isolated Afghan communities have learned that this fluff could be refined and spun to make a luxury product.

Cashmere

The discovery was life-changing for Mohammad Amin, a goat herder with a flock of 120. Every springtime, after his nanny goats have kids, they shed cashmere in huge handfuls. As Amin explained to AP News, buyers travel from far and wide to buy premium quality cashmere. He sells the surplus at market. With each animal yielding up to 250 grams, Mohammad Amin can earn more than $1,100 each season. This represents a sizeable income in a country where the national average is under $700 annually.

According to statistics published by the World Bank working in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development, despite the fact that 95 percent of Afghanistan’s 7 million cashmere goats could be used in cashmere production, as few as 30 percent are currently being combed for cashmere in this way. The majority of raw Afghan cashmere is purchased by Chinese intermediaries supplying low-cost clothing manufacturers.

Afghanistan ranks third in the world in terms of cashmere production. Mongolia comes second, producing 15 percent of the world’s cashmere, lagging far behind China, at 70 percent. In recognition of this lucrative market, the Afghan government recently unveiled a Cashmere Action Plan targeting the high end of the cashmere market, where just one sweater can cost anywhere up to $1,000. The strategy forms part of broader efforts enacted by the Afghan government designed to breathe new life in the country’s textile industry.

5 Charities Seeking to Improve Lives in Afghanistan

Of the numerous charitable organizations working in Afghanistan, many are helping to support a broad range of large-scale initiatives and development goals. Other charities are taking a different approach. Rather than offering wide-ranging development support, these organizations are focusing their efforts on tackling and solving highly targeted problems: issues that may not seem as big or as impressive as reforming the educational system or improving access to health care, but which are still vital to a functional and prosperous Afghan society. Read on to learn about five international organizations that are helping Afghanistan to deal with very specific challenges:

1. Dutch Committee for Afghanistan Livestock Programs

Specific mission: Improving the health and production of Afghan livestock.

The livestock programs of the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan (DCA-VET) are intended to support the roughly 24 million Afghans who live in the countryside and depend on livestock and agriculture for their livelihood. Most rural families keep at least some livestock—cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, and poultry are the most common animals—but local farmers are often prevented from making the most of their livestock due to rampant animal diseases, an insufficient knowledge of animal husbandry and nutrition, and a lack of good market opportunities for their livestock products. DCA helps farmers to overcome these issues by developing quality veterinary services throughout rural Afghanistan, offering comprehensive extension and outreach programs on animal health, and creating value chains for livestock product processing and trading.

Livestock

2. The HALO Trust

Specific mission: Landmine clearance and mine risk education.

Afghanistan is one of the most mined countries in the world. An estimated 640,000 land mines have been laid out in Afghanistan since 1979, and the country is littered with unexploded ordnance. As a result, the subsistence of rural communities is threatened in areas where there is a risk of landmine contamination because land cannot be safely used to grow crops or graze animals. In order to address this deadly issue, The HALO Trust has been working in Afghanistan since 1988 on landmine clearance and mine risk education programs. Over the course of the last 30 years, the organization, which employs 2,500 Afghans, has destroyed close to 700,000 emplaced and stockpiled mines, and has helped to clear almost 80% of recorded mine and unexploded ordnance land in Afghanistan.

3. Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity (GERES)

Specific mission: Disseminating energy-efficient techniques.

As a development NGO specializing in sustainable energy and environmental protection, GERES has been working internationally to improve community living conditions while preserving natural resources for more than four decades. In Afghanistan, GERES’ work focuses on facilitating the adoption of energy-efficient techniques in public buildings and income-generating agricultural activities. A large portion of Afghanistan’s population is affected by energy poverty. Only about 6% of Afghans have access to electricity, even intermittently. Consequently, schools are closed for much of the year due to a lack of heating, and hospitals are hampered in their operations by high energy costs. Introducing energy-efficient techniques to these institutions is therefore an important first step in helping them to make the most of the energy that they can access.

4. Terra Institute

Specific mission: Securing equitable access to land.

Based in the United States, Terra Institute is a nonprofit focused on issues related to land tenure, land administration and management, and land policy reform. Throughout its four decades of work all around the world, the organization has strived to help people improve their lives by empowering them to deal with land issues. Such issues are prevalent in Afghanistan, given its large rural population and heavy economic reliance on land-intensive activities such as agriculture and livestock. As part of its work in Afghanistan, Terra Institute has collaborated with a number of partners to design and pilot a community-based method for achieving community consensus around the legitimate users of rangeland and appropriately documenting them.

Sheep grazing

5. PARSA

Specific mission: Supporting Afghan community leaders.

PARSA believes that it takes dedicated and passionate Afghan community leaders to create a better Afghan society. This is why PARSA is still operating as a grassroots organization after working for more than 20 years in Afghanistan. Unlike many other development organizations, PARSA is directly engaged with the communities that it supports, and it takes cues from community leaders as to what interventions and resources will work best for each community. These inspired leaders then leverage PARSA’s support and guidance to implement programs that will spark positive change for their families and neighbors, and that can evolve organically over time as community needs change. Since PARSA itself receives support from a wide community of small donors, it is able to be highly creative and flexible in its program development without being hampered by the rigid limitations that are often attached to large-scale government and institutional funding.