In 15 years of work in Afghanistan, People in need helped more than a million peoplePublished: Dec 6, 2016 Reading time: 9 minutes
We contributed to efforts which resulted in seven times as many school goers compared to 2001
People in need (PIN) started its systematic activity in Afghanistan in 2001, shortly after the fall of Taliban. The organization is now marking the 15th anniversary of the first humanitarian aid it delivered to the country, which laid foundation to its longest-running development program. The Afghan team helped more than a million local people since the beginning of its activities. More than a thousand colleagues managed to run about one hundred projects worth 73 million euro. During the early years, PIN helped organize returns of internally displaced persons as well as refugees from neighbouring countries. PIN built schools, clinics, and provided much needed job opportunities on reconstructing the country’s damaged infrastructure. Gradually, five independent programs have been formed, focusing on the development of agriculture, improvement of the quality of agricultural education, development of rural infrastructure and good governance. The organization also helps fight urban poverty and provides humanitarian assistance to people affected by natural disasters or armed conflict.
Work in Afghanistan is challenging mainly due to the escalated security situation in the region. PIN faced its most tragic moment on 2 June 2015, when several unidentified gunmen murdered nine local colleagues in one of the field offices. Yet, PIN decided to continue its program. “As the results of our work show, our help in the country has a positive impact on the lives of local people. It is also thanks to our aid that Afghans’ life expectancy is now approximately 18 years longer compared to 2001, and seven times as many children go to school,” says Petr Drbohlav, PIN Regional Coordinator for Asia, commenting on the effectiveness of international aid. However, Afghanistan still remains one of the world’s poorest countries and help is still needed.
15 years of PIN in Afghanistan in numbers:
140 379 people affected by natural disasters or armed conflict provided with financial or material aid
10 716 repaired or newly built houses after natural disasters
118 repaired or newly built schools, 28 medical clinics and 115 cultural centres
3 679 dug wells and other water sources; 62.8 km water channels
5 661 new toilets and latrines
130 newly built power stations, 2 331 solar systems and 303 km of power lines
5 900 km of new paved roads and 75 775 km of dirt roads
26 198 farmers were trained and equipped with necessary tools
100 new greenhouses and 351 fruit orchards and tree nurseries
115 agriculture schools supported, 7 047 teachers trained, to the benefit of 146 185 students
Humanitarian aid and prevention of natural disasters
Afghanistan suffers from armed conflicts as well as natural disasters. Local people struggling with poverty have to cope with severe droughts, destructive floods, frosts, avalanches and earthquakes. Last year PIN helped hundreds of families from Baghlan province in the north of Afghanistan, after a devastating earthquake of magnitude 7.5 hit the area. Zahra’s family is one of those almost killed, but managed to escape from their house in time. “My father dragged my four-year old brother, who was sleeping in his parents’ bed, and rushed all of us out into the courtyard,” Zahra* recalls. Suddenly, the front part of the house collapsed and fell down the hill. The family moved to their relatives’, while, with the help of a cash grant from PIN, the father started building a new house further away from the edge of the hill side. He used the bricks and beams from the devastated house. “My Dad now leaves the light on at night. That way we could easily run outside without getting hurt in case of another earthquake. But it is difficult to sleep with a light bulb hanging over your head,” Zahra adds. PIN provides similarly affected families with a cash grant, which enables them to buy basic essentials, such as clothes, sheets and food, or invest into repairs or into building a new house. At the same time, it is important to mitigate the impact of future disasters. PIN educates local people in disaster risk reduction, and also builds flood barriers, retention reservoirs and reinforced houses resistant to quakes.
Implementation of new agricultural technologies
Agriculture and cattle herding represent the main source of livelihood for Afghans. The profit rates are however rather low, the used technologies are outdated and the know-how of local farmers is limited. PIN therefore concentrates on effective and sustainable use of natural resources, implementation of new agricultural methods and technologies, introduction of new crops as well as improvement of agricultural production. The organization also supports particular farmers or arranges demonstration fields in the region, titled Farmer Field Schools. “I found the idea of having my own demonstration plot very attractive. I informed the local Community Development Council so that they could decide if my garden was meeting its requirements,” explains Abdul* from the Samangan province. Thirty-year-old Abdul spent the most of his adulthood in Pakistan as a refugee, and had to start from scratch after his family returned to native Afghanistan. Abdul’s family lives on hilly, parched land unsuitable for growing crops. This was the reason why he joined the PIN project, where local farmers learn about new methods of soil preservation and water distribution and improve their harvests. “It was really a turning point in my life. Now I can grow crops like pumpkins, tomatoes or okra,” says Abdul, who now teaches 30 other farmers from his community how to do a better job. So far, PIN has provided assistance to more than 26.000 farmers.
Within the agriculture assistance program, PIN also improves agriculture secondary education by promoting new teaching methods, training local teachers and starting school farms. So far, 115 agriculture schools, more than 7.000 teachers and more than 140.000 students have joined these activities. With increasing number of agriculture high schools, institutions started to struggle with lack of capacity at the Deputy Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (DM TVET). Therefore, PIN has focused also on assistance to this ministry. The aim is to achieve structural changes on both central and local levels as well as to support better operation of the agriculture high schools in the country.
Infrastructure development in rural areas
Since 2005, along with 30 other partners, PIN has been a facilitating partner in the National Solidarity Program, which aims for infrastructure and governance development of Afghan rural communities. Within this project, local communities elect their Community Development Councils, whose members, together with local elders, pick the most urgent project activities for infrastructure development. Those can be subsequently implemented thanks to the cooperation with the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. Local schools, water resources, roads, bridges, micro hydro-power stations or power lines have been built this way. During the past 15 years, PIN worked in 1.002 villages in 14 districts with nearly a million people. PIN workers trained the members of development councils, oversaw the fairness of elections and guaranteed women’s participation.
Rural areas and poverty in cities
The people of Afghan rural areas, who often lose their livelihoods due to local natural disasters, are extremely vulnerable. That is why a high number of the population searches for jobs in urban and suburban areas, where poverty is however rapidly growing. Food insecurity and high unemployment caused by illiteracy and lack of skills rank among the most prevalent problems. PIN therefore provides vocational trainings to help vulnerable people find employment or start their own business. PIN also organizes self-help and saving groups. Also, development of urban gardening and implementation of low-cost innovative technologies, such as greenhouses, solar cookers or bio-sand filters for drinking water, are supported. It enables even the poorest from the suburban areas to improve their nutritional intake through consumption of fresh vegetables, as well as gain access to clean water.
“When the People in Need team explained kitchen gardening to me, I was so happy because for me it was an opportunity to get fresh vegetables for my family and, at the same time, fulfil my dream to have a green backyard“, explains Amir*, who lives together with his widowed mother, wife and their seven children in the suburbs of Mazar-e Sharif, where they had fled from the neighbouring province. “Growing our own vegetables saves some money and by selling the surplus produce I am able to make a little profit”, he adds. Amir is a day labourer. Job offers are however rather rare and it is not easy to earn enough to feed a large family. That was why he was invited to participate in a project activity focused on fighting poverty in urban areas through kitchen gardening. The participants were trained and obtained basic gardening tools, seeds, vegetable seedlings and a simple plastic greenhouse. “Now I am familiar with the agricultural technologies and so able to do it alone. Some of my neighbours and friends started their plastic greenhouses too and now come to me for help”, says Amir about his new hobby.
Working with local communities
PIN activities are currently run from six regional offices located in Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Aybak, Herat, Jalalabad and Gardez. PIN Afghanistan has employed more than 1.000 people throughout the years. At this moment, it involves 180 employees, of whom only five people are from abroad, and Afghans represent the rest. “While planning our project activities, we work closely with the local communities. The long-term systematic assistance to the most vulnerable ones is important for the development of the whole country. Afghan program is currently our most diverse one, with a complex portfolio of varied project activities. Within the 15 years there, we managed to establish ourselves and gain a respected status in the country”, says Jaroslav Petřík, the PIN coordinator for Afghanistan. The fifteenth anniversary commemorating event is to be held on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at PIN’s Langhans Centre. The evening will see a premiere of a short anniversary documentary, open a photography exhibition of the Afghan programs and offer an opportunity to discuss with former PIN employees in Afghanistan. Everyone who would like to learn more about Afghanistan will be welcome.
Michal Kaplan, the Director of the Czech Development Agency, evaluates the advantages of Czech aid to Afghanistan. “I am very happy that the Czech Republic supports development projects in Afghanistan. Thanks to improving of the local people’s lives, we are able to make our own lives safer too. Our activity has to be long-term and complex, though; not only must we run the programs, but also keep a political dialogue with Afghan government and support regional cooperation as well.”
People in Need program in Afghanistan is possible only thanks to the generous support of a range of donors and institutions. Currently, the main supporters are the European Commission (EC), the Czech Development Agency (Czech Aid), Federal Foreign Office (AA), the German Development Ministry (BMZ), The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), UN World Food Programme (WFP), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Last but not least, the support of the Czech public, such as the of People in Need Club of Friends, the Real Gift charity project and the fundraising campaign the Real Aid, are extremely helpful. People in Need would like to thank all donors for their help and support.
For more information, please contact:
Jaroslav Petřík, PIN Coordinator for Afghanistan and Mongolia, M: +420 778 485 029 firstname.lastname@example.org
Petr Drbohlav, PIN Regional Desk Officer for Asia, M: +420 724 329 285 email@example.com
* Names of people have been changed in the article for security reasons.