Technical Assistance to Support Agriculture and Rural Development project in Afghanistan

Gathering of Common Interest Groups (CIGs) on monthly bases to discuss agro technologies in Herat Province, Afghanistan.

Photo credit: SARD project team

Technical Assistance to Support Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) project reflects the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to supporting and promoting food and nutrition security in alignment with National Priority Programme 2016-2020 (NPP5) for comprehensive agriculture development in Afghanistan aimed at improving the food security in terms of agriculture production and market development in the two Districts of Karokh and Zindajan in Herat Province since April 2015 through the provision of agriculture services and inputs adopting an "Extension system" mechanism.

The SARD project could be an effective on-budget extension model project for extension delivery services as a result it introduced a mechanism for the General Extension Directorate to support Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) on mobilizing on-budget delivery services which was accepted and adopted as a culture of the Ministry as well as for the rest of the stakeholders. This extension model is the participatory bottom-up demand driven agriculture extension system covering to identify farmer’s priorities and find available sources to link farmers with market actors.

The SARD project is designed to build the capacity of the decentralized governmental institutions in targeted districts. Together with the local communities a participatory assessment has been undertaken to identify the relevant improved livelihood strategies as well as a gender mainstreaming approach followed.


Women vegetable processing center is showcasing their products in the picture. 

Photo credit: SARD project team

It is also designed to support the training and strengthening of farmer producers and the formation of Common Interest Groups (CIGs), as a result this structure avoids fragmentation and organize the farmers into groups to improve coordination among farmers and stakeholders with a view to improve economies of scale in production, marketing and service demand among others. Additionally, the project distributed inputs within the groups on a cost recovery basis to generate capital to strengthen the groups and to sustain the activities as well as the gender balance and positive discrimination towards women emphasized.

Project Implementation Mechanism

The purpose of this good practice example is to outline project initiatives in term of methodology, processes and effective interventions in order to transfer knowledge and lesson learned on future livelihoods interventions. The project documented how a good practice example can be facilitated and coordinated in on-budget project that could support the most vulnerable and food insecure households through its decentralized institutions.

The good practice example is outlined at each developmental stage of the project consisting of comprehensive assessment and staffing; baseline survey; group formation; input distribution; TOTs; and exit strategy. Farmer field schools, monitoring and evaluation and gender mainstreaming are also the parts of the project interventions.

How the project contributes to change in rural women’s lives?

Agricultural production is largely a household activity, with women and children undertaking important roles alongside men in crop production, horticulture and the rearing of livestock in Afghanistan.

Women support men in translating agriculture and livestock output into enterprise opportunities- weaving wool from sheep into carpets; making jams, drying fruit, tending bees and sealing the honey. Men often market the women’s produce and tend the field crops and livestock outside the compound.

In Afghan culture, we have a family system where all male and female have equally benefited from the support received by any- as per the baseline survey report Karokh and Zindajan districts have 51.2% female and 48.8% male in the households. Besides this, the SARD project paid special attention to the empowerment of women and successfully included female farmers and female extension workers in project implementation, as a result 6.8 percent of female CIGs contributed in the project.

The project further provided gender training to extension agents and generally to all field staff and engaged farm households in decision-making and implementation of activities and indicators to measure the success in involving both the men and women of these households.

Under SARD project, based on demand of the women groups in Zindajan and Karokh Districts, women CIGs are involved in beekeeping, vegetable cultivation in plastic tunnels for household use in off season time in both Districts, milk processing and food processing programs in Karokh District.

Afghan women come together to process the local products in their vegetable processing centers.

Photo credit: SARD project team


Since the beginning of year 2016, four women vegetable processing centers established and equipped for women headed families in Karokh district, Herat province, each center consist of 30 women and total groups members of four center become around 120 women. The project provided processing equipment, conducted food processing trainings to each food processing CIGs theoretical and practical in District Extension Unit of Karokh. They have eagerly started processing their harvested products during the off-season for their household utilization and local market.

Ms. Farzana, Head of  “Poshta Yakhdan Food Processing Center” added, I was a housewife and we had poor economic situation. I was interested to work and support my family therefore, I became a member of CIG then took a lead of one processing center. I am very thankful of SARD project team who provided food processing package and conducted trainings on vegetable processing.

As usual, we have fruits and vegetables processing during the season while the price is low in the market and products are available in cheaper price and in the off-season, we supply to the local market. Now we are getting sustainable day by day and our assets are increased to 55,000 AFS, as approx. each member received 500- 600 AFN in each period (12-15 days). In November 2017, the group participated in exhibition arranged by Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Programme with support of World Bank in Kabul, we sold products in the range of 25,000 AFS out of it, we received 12,000 net income.

The project assisted the marginalized food insecure and vulnerable farming families including both women and men and to the right to food and the right to decent work through empowering farmers in agriculture productivity and production, processing, improved market linkages and access to markets through the participatory social inclusion approaches.      

SARD project key achievements

As a response to improve living conditions of the rural communities and to develop subsistence farming and small-scale agriculture production, in April 2015, FAO introduced SARD project in two districts of Herat province, Afghanistan. SARD project demonstrated an effective on-budget extension model mechanism for extension service delivery, as a result it introduced a mechanism for the General Extension Directorate to support MAIL on mobilizing on-budget delivery services. The direct beneficiaries of the project were 409 CIGs consisting of 7 465 people, including 6.8 percent of female families headed CIGs contributed. To address the specific needs of the farmers’ groups, helped farmers to enhance their capacities in agriculture production, processing, marketing, and value addition, 25 TOT trainings provided benefited 1246 people.

Besides this, 24 farmer field schools (FFSs) established as result of this activity the extension officers reported that the production increased 32.5 percent compare to the local methods adopted by the farmers, especially in saffron and wheat production.

Afghan women come together to process the local products in their vegetable processing centers.

Photo credits: SARD project team


Photographer & Videographer Credit: SARD project team
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