Afghanistan Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East & West (IDEA-NEW)
Increasing Licit Livelihood Opportunities in Rural Areas
Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives – North, East and West (IDEA-NEW) was a USAID-funded initiative in Afghanistan that began in March 2009. IDEA-NEW provided agricultural incentives and economic alternatives in the poppy-prone regions of Afghanistan, continuing USAID’s agricultural sector efforts to promote legal productive agriculture in rural areas and to curb narcotrafficking.
IDEA-NEW’s long-term focus was sustainable growth in the agriculture and rural development sectors with major emphasis on job creation, agricultural sales, and capacity building to increase agricultural competitiveness. The program improved market access and alternative livelihoods through rural job creation and programs promoting women’s economic inclusion.
IDEA-NEW targeted all agricultural framework components including agriculture production, rural enterprise and infrastructure development, financial service access and value chain development for key regional industries and trade corridors. The program worked in collaboration with national, provincial and district-level offices of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, the Ministry of Counter Narcotics, and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, as well as provincial governors’ offices. IDEA-NEW was implemented by three partners: ACDI/VOCA in the North/Central Region; DAI in the East and West; and Mercy Corps in the Northeast.
Improving the Quality of Agricultural Production and Services
Yields of annual crops in Northern Afghanistan are very low and susceptible to drought, especially those grown on rain-fed lands, which sustain heavy losses due to weeds, fungal disease, insect pests and variable rainfall. Traditional cultivation methods broadcast too much seed, leading to waste and lack of stand uniformity and establishment.
To introduce farmers to improved methods of crop cultivation, IDEA-NEW conducted farmer field days at 133 demonstration sites over a four-year period. A total of 10,344 farmers were trained in improved agronomic practices of annual crops, including land preparation, seeding rates, improved varieties, fertilization, and harvesting techniques with proper control of weeds, insects and diseases.
Each demonstration site contained plots of wheat, oilseeds (flax, sesame, safflower or canola) and pulses (lentils or chickpeas). The program supported 31 agricultural cooperatives through provision of 92 sets of two-wheeled tractors and to four agricultural cooperatives on laser land leveling machines to increase adoption of this agricultural technology. Over 60 hectares of land have been leveled using this technology.
The IDEA-NEW project also trains farmers on the use of the two-wheeled tractors. So far, over 250 two-wheeled tractors have been sold to interested farmers at subsidized prices. Over 2,000 hectares of land have been cultivated using these tractors.
Traditionally, vines have been grown on the “jui” or earth trellised vineyard system throughout Afghanistan, but thanks to IDEA-NEW training, technical assistance and equipment grants, farmer groups are now able to use a trellising system to double production yields. To achieve this outcome, IDEA- NEW facilitated the establishment of four small, local enterprises to supply and install the concrete trellis posts.
Agricultural retailers have been trained to supervise the field layout and establishment of trellising systems and are incentivized to oversee correct installation of each system. Over 55 hectares of traditional vineyards have been converted into the trellised system through IDEA-NEW’s grape value chain activities. The owners of these vineyards have been attending regular training on improved vineyard management including pruning, thinning, canopy management, irrigation, fertilization and disease management.
ACDI/VOCA also trained over 1,000 farmers in improved methods of potato cultivation and distributed 45 MT of improved seed potatoes to over 200 potato growers. This resulted in up to 40 percent increase of potato yield.
Supporting the Livestock Industry
IDEA-NEW worked with a local organization—the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan—to train 111 paramedic-veterinarians throughout the five target provinces. Through this initiative, 8,718,926 livestock animals were vaccinated and/or medicated and 25 feed banks were established, which now benefit 3,750 livestock owners. Livestock extension trainings on the health and production of small ruminants have been regularly provided to livestock owners and herders. Through this program, 8,820 people received training.
IDEA-NEW worked directly with 500 female dairy farmers and established eight village milk collection and processing centers in five provinces. In addition to providing opportunities to sell surplus milk locally, these centers are used as collection points for the milk processing center in Balkh Province that is supported by IDEA-NEW to produce cheese, yogurt, ice cream and pasteurized milk.
ACDI/VOCA also worked to increase private sector partnerships between farms/agribusinesses and successful local and international firms in order to promote business development. The small grants component of the program encouraged strengthening of producer organizations, trade and business associations, and community-based organizations. IDEA-NEW supported six non-profit provincial agricultural retailers’ associations. These associations served farmers through 122 agricultural retailing shops currently operating in the five northern provinces of Afghanistan.
Improving Access to Quality Infrastructure
Through IDEA-NEW’s construction of microhydropower units (MHPs), ACDI/VOCA supplied inexpensive electrical power to remote communities, encouraging alternative industries such as handicrafts, and enabling children to study in the evening. Twenty MHPs were completed in two provinces and provide a total of 3,815 households with electricity to light their homes at night, giving them extra time in the evening to relax or perform housework. Throughout the life of the program, cash-for-work projects created 150 full time equivalent jobs, injecting over $270,000 to poor community members. In addition, 73,500 households have benefitted from infrastructure projects.
Helping Home-based Businesses
The carpet-weaving and silk production industries are two of the most important home-based industries in the North. ACDI/VOCA worked with an Afghan women-owned handicrafts company to train 600 vulnerable women in northern Afghanistan on new yarn-spinning methods, sorting and cleaning of wool, and marketing skills. Upon completion of the training, the women were supplied with spinning wheels to continue applying their new skills to increase production and potential revenue. By imparting skills and expanding access to resources and local markets, the project encouraged financial independence and enterprise sustainability.
In supporting the silk industry, ACDI/VOCA distributed silkworm eggs to 2,400 women as part of training on silkworm rearing and worked closely with the provincial-level agricultural ministry on the production of silkworm eggs. The program also worked closely with a woman-owned silk production business in Mazar-e-Sharif that has been highly successful and purchases silk from female producers in the region. An automated silk-reeling machine has been granted to Rabia Maryam Handicrafts Company in order to speed up the production and improve the quality of silk thread produced by this company. The company processes silk thread into cloth used for production of different hand-woven final products.