Agriculture has traditionally been the major source of income for the Afghan people. Even today, about 70 percent of the population still lives in rural areas and some 60 percent of all Afghans with jobs work in low-productivity or subsistence agriculture.
But the agricultural sector is in bad shape. After 30 years of conflict and underinvestment, there is little infrastructure and internal markets are in disarray. In areas with no irrigation, one in three households can not guarantee producing enough food to eat.
Arable land is limited and climatic conditions are difficult in many parts of the country, with infrequent rain and recurrent droughts that severely affect rural livelihoods.
At the same time, rural people are often denied access to essential services such as water, roads and power. Only 30 percent of Afghans have access to mains electricity, leaving the majority of the population dependent on alternatives such as kerosene and firewood, which destroy the environment and fill homes with unhealthy smoke and fumes.
With all these problems, it is no surprise that 45 percent of rural people are poor, compared to 27 percent of the urban population.
There is no way to significantly reduce poverty in Afghanistan without a strong focus on agriculture, rural employment generation, the promotion of sustainable livelihoods and the development of rural infrastructure.
To this end, the National Area-Based Development Programme, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and UNDP, invests in social organization, infrastructure, local economic development and sub-national governance initiatives.
We have established and provide ongoing support to nearly 400 District Development Assemblies DDAsto make sure the concerns of rural people inform higher level policy making.
We provide access to basic services such as potable water, reliable energy, irrigation for livestock and crops, roads and bridges, as well as protection from natural disasters, through the implementation of rural infrastructure projects that have been prioritized by the members of the DDAs.
The programme operates in all 34 provinces with projects in 317 of 402 districts. In the past 11 years, it has implemented more than 3,862 projects reaching about 25 million beneficiaries.
- 388 DDAs established in 34 provinces.
- 5,878 men (70%) and 2,490 women (30%) re-elected as members of 305 DDAs.
- Grant-in-aid provided to 308 DDAs in 34 provinces, including organizational and physical capacity support.
- 181 District Information Centers established in 33 provinces.
- 239 Micro Hydro Power projects implemented in 22 provinces, providing 3,266 kw of electricity to 49,184 households (over 344,288 people).
- 44 Biogas projects implemented in three provinces, providing 479 households (3,353 people) with an alternative and sustainable source of fuel.
- 556 transportation projects implemented, including bridges, road graveling, asphalt roads and concrete roads. Some 1,628 km of new roads now connect 5,382 villages to health services, schools, central markets and highways.
- 344 public building projects implemented, including schools (for 51,000 children), community centres and clinics.
- 1,018 agriculture and irrigation projects completed covering 9,450 hectares of agriculture benefitting around 4.5 million families.
- 882 natural disaster mitigation projects completed to protect around 6.5 million families from floods and landslides.
- 671 water supply and sanitation projects implemented to provide clean drinking water to over 2.5 million families in all 34 provinces.