In order for Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security, governance and development, it is critical that the Afghan people have confidence in their own government. That very confidence depends in turn on the ability of Afghan authorities to deliver basic core services to their people, such as the provision of education, electricity, health care, drinking water, sanitation, and irrigation to improve lives and livelihoods in Kandahar. They are the most pressing needs cited by Kandaharis.
In implementing the measures required to support this priority, Canada established a single—but extremely important—goal for 2011: for Kandahar’s provincial administration and the core ministries of the Afghan government to be better able to provide basic services to key districts of Kandahar province.
Canada measured progress toward this objective using indicators such as the number of hectares irrigated and jobs created through the rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and Arghandab Irrigation Rehabilitation project, and the number of schools built or rehabilitated, teachers trained, infrastructure projects completed, and jobs generated.
Recognizing that the delivery of basic core services is fundamental to Afghanistan’s economic growth and future stability, Canada also assumed a multi-faceted approach to building Afghan institutions that extended programming to the provincial and national levels.
Education is vitally important to sustaining advancements made in rebuilding this failed state and to creating greater opportunities for the people of Afghanistan and all of Canada’s targets for this sector were surpassed.
Much of Canada’s investment in the Afghan education sector from 2008 to 2011, in Kandahar and nationwide, focused on improving access to quality education, especially for girls, through the provision of safe learning spaces; training opportunities for teachers; support to special programs for vulnerable populations; and most importantly, helping the Afghan government become better equipped to manage its education system and deliver education services to all Afghans.
In Kandahar, Canada served as the main contributor to school construction and rehabilitation projects completed in partnership with the Ministry of Education. The goal of Canada’s education signature project was to build, expand and repair 50 schools in key districts of Kandahar province that were identified by Canada in 2008. A total of 52 school projects—two more than the target—were completed by December 2011, which include the construction of an additional 361 classes that will provide learning spaces for up to 9,000 students per year. Actual enrolment at these schools, however, will be determined by a number of factors, principally security. In addition to this effort, Canadian education programming contributed to the construction and rehabilitation of a further 7 schools in other parts of the province.
Canada also surpassed its benchmark to train 3,000 teachers in Kandahar by providing training to over 3,100 teachers in core teaching skills. In addition, over 2,000 training packages in specific subjects such as math and science, peace education, public health and disaster risk education were provided to Kandahari teachers. Canada also worked to improve teaching and learning in the long term through the rehabilitation of the Kandahar Teacher Training College, which includes the first women’s dormitory in Kandahar. This facility will now contribute to educating future generations of teachers and offer opportunities for more women to become teachers in a region that desperately needs more women in the profession.
Canada’s contribution to education in Afghanistan extended beyond Kandahar province. Canada has served as the lead donor to Afghanistan’s Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP), the largest education program in the country. To date, the program has supported the construction or refurbishment of more than 800 schools across Afghanistan since 2005, with an additional 700 scheduled to be completed by 2013. The program also enabled the training of more than 110,000 teachers and principals and helped to establish more than 10,000 community-based School Management Committees that now serve as a voice for improving access to education at the local level.
In addition to EQUIP, together with a variety of other trusted partners, Canada helped to establish more than 4,000 community-based schools and accelerated learning centres in rural and remote areas across the country, including more than 200 in Kandahar. These learning facilities provide education to more than 120,000 students nationwide, the majority of whom are girls who would otherwise have no access to education.
According to the Government of Afghanistan, an estimated 7.1 million youth, of whom one-third are girls, now have access to an education. This represents a major improvement over the 700,000 children who were in school in 2001, all of whom were boys.
In terms of literacy, in Afghanistan today, only 12.5 percent of adult women and 39 percent of adult men are literate. In Kandahar province in 2008, a scarce 1.5 percent of Kandahari women could read and the literacy rate among men was estimated to be only 14 percent. As a result of these circumstances, Canada decided to play a major role in advancing literacy and vocational training in Kandahar province and across Afghanistan.
Due to Canadian contributions to literacy efforts in Afghanistan, more than 27,000 individuals, over 70 percent women, completed literacy training programs, surpassing Canada’s established target of 20,000. Over 6,500 individuals completed vocational training, which is six times Canada’s target of 1,070.
Finally, Canada has also been instrumental in establishing the Education Development Board (recently renamed the Human Resources Development Board or HRDB in 2010), which provides strategic education policy advice to the Government of Afghanistan. Canada co-chairs the HRDB’s Education Management Working Group, which strives to increase the effectiveness, accountability and transparency of Afghanistan’s education programs.
Canada’s efforts in the education sector have been designed to have a significant, long-term impact. On the ground, these investments have contributed to millions more students in schools, hundreds of thousands of better-trained teachers, and more opportunities for adults to learn important skills.
Building on these successes, as part of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan to 2014, we will continue to support basic education initiatives in the country. Priorities include increasing access to quality education through community-based education in remote areas, and improving the quality of education through the training of new teachers, particularly women. Canada will continue to work closely with communities and to support the Afghan Ministry of Education in its efforts to provide better access to quality education for all Afghan children, especially girls.
Kandahar is the agricultural heartland of Afghanistan, and a region that once produced enough food crops to feed the entire nation. Decades of war and little maintenance on the Dahla Dam and Arghandab irrigation system, however, left this infrastructure in such disrepair that it became unreliable. As a result, Kandahar’s food production and economy suffered, vital agro-infrastructure became unusable and jobs were lost. Many of the farmers that remained shifted from growing legitimate crops to the cultivation of poppies, which have a high value because of their use in the production of heroin.
Canada’s signature project to rehabilitate the Dahla Dam and Arghandab Irrigation System, an investment of up to $50 million, was critical in improving a way of life for most Kandaharis as it promised to create a dependable supply of irrigation water to Kandahar province. It has been calculated that 840,000 Kandaharis depend on the agricultural sector to earn a living.
Extensive consultations with Afghan government representatives and technical professionals prior to project commencement provided important input on the project’s planning and design. As a result of these consultations, it was decided that system repairs and upgrades would be divided into three phases, with Canada assuming responsibility for the first phase. This phase included three main components:
Despite daunting security challenges, the project has completed the necessary rehabilitation activities through numerous dry and wet seasons, achieving the 2011 target, through the removal of hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of silt and other materials from the canal system and by repairing water valves, generators and control gates. The work is improving the control of water flow and ultimately the amount of water available to Kandahari farmers.
As a direct result of these efforts, during the spring of 2011 and for the first time in decades, water reached the tail end of the irrigation system, over 90 kilometres downstream from the dam.
This increased water flow resulted in the first saffron crop and best pomegranate yield that Kandahar province has seen in decades. In addition, other valuable agricultural products such as saffron, honey and mint are now being produced thanks to the investments made by Canada as part of the signature project. Though the effect of this effort will not be fully experienced until Kandahar’s summer crops are sown, the increased water flow and crop diversification made possible by the project are already visible and will form the basis for the rejuvenation of Kandahar’s agro-economy. For example, estimates suggest that there will be a net expansion of irrigated orchard farms with a 125 percent increase in cropping intensity.
Assessments of the project, once completed this spring, are expected to show that 30,000 hectares of land have benefited from improved water flow and increased irrigation, meeting the 2011 target, compared to 17,200 hectares before the project commenced. Moreover, more than 5,000 construction jobs have been created as a result of the rehabilitation project and it is projected that over 5,000 seasonal jobs in the agro-economy will be created when water flows into the irrigation system in the spring, which, again, are in keeping with Canada’s targets for this project.
To ensure that the future of Kandahar’s agricultural productivity continues to improve, the knowledge base of local farmers must continue to develop as well. To this end, Canada is funding the Master’s Degree studies for four Kandahar University Faculty of Engineering members. These members will help develop a new faculty at the University focused on water resource and environmental management. In the long run, engineers who are educated more locally in water management will be available to the provincial government to maintain and operate the province’s extensive irrigation system. All of these faculty members will write their theses on the Dahla Dam and/or the Arghandab Irrigation System, thus increasing the depth of local knowledge on the system.
With Canada’s support, a soil and water testing laboratory project for Kandahar University was also launched in 2011. The services provided by the laboratory will help determine the crops best suited for this region of Afghanistan and will help build Afghan institutional capacity to deliver better agricultural assistance to local farmers.
Canada also supported Afghan efforts to establish an Arghandab Sub-Basin Authority along with farmers’ associations and water users’ associations using traditional water management authorities. These bodies will form the basis for critical decision making at the community level in terms of coordinating the use of irrigation water across the network of secondary canals.
Training was provided by Canada to ensure that Afghan officials have the knowledge and ability to maintain the dam and the irrigation canals, thus sustaining the achievements of the past three years.
Canada also played an important role in supporting the efforts of over 11,000 Afghan farmers through the distribution of wheat seed and fertilizer.
Canadian support in the delivery of basic services extended beyond education and agriculture to include a number of initiatives and projects that improved economic growth across Afghanistan and led to the creation of more jobs for Afghans, especially Kandaharis.
The number of business enterprises and cooperatives in operation is a key indicator of progress. In this regard, Canada met its 2011 target of steadily expanding the number of enterprises in Kandahar, with over 1,300 new enterprises now operating in key districts.
Canada also contributed to the provision of microfinance loans through the Microfinance Investment Support Facility of Afghanistan (MISFA). Since Canada began investing in this program, it has provided loans to some 430,000 clients nationally (60 percent of whom have been women), including over 1,100 clients in Kandahar, exceeding Canada’s 2011 loan target of 500.
Access to such credit is a vital economic building block, as it enables low income households to purchase basic goods like food and clothing, while providing the necessary start-up capital to build a small- to medium-sized business. We also know that microcredit acts as a force-multiplier for the wider economy and studies have shown that when borrowers use the funds to start new businesses, each loan, on average, is said to create 1.5 jobs.
Women borrowers in particular have benefited from Canada’s support for economic growth initiatives, by receiving microfinance loans and vocational training that enable them to participate in the local economy by, for example, selling poultry or dairy products, making crafts to sell at markets, or operating tailoring shops.
With Canadian support, the Vocational Training for Afghan Women Project, implemented by CARE and the World University Service Canada, has been training vulnerable women, including widows and their adult children, in skills that enable them to seek employment and earn a wage to provide for their families. The project addressed barriers to the economic empowerment of women in Afghanistan, provided business management training, and helped the women gain access to microcredit. Since the inception of the project, 1,976 trainees (62 percent women) have completed trade training, graduating with marketable skills. This number exceeded the original project target of 1,750 participants by 12 percent.
The Through the Garden Gate project, implemented by the Mennonite Economic Development Associates, has been successful in providing training to as many as 5,000 women in horticultural best practices, including new farming methods and post-harvest practices. The women also receive training in basic business management, from which a significant number launched new businesses. The women farmers formed savings and credit groups, to help them save for emergencies and access credit more readily. In addition, the project assisted women access to local markets, including in Kabul, for the fruit and vegetables they produce. As a result of this project, the women’s status in their household and their community has improved and they participate more freely in decision-making processes.
Canada’s work with Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) has also produced important results. The PDT is an award-winning organization that conducts innovative activities to promote local procurement and the sustainable growth of small- and medium-sized businesses across Afghanistan. The work of PDT has already led to an increase in the goods and services procured in Afghanistan via supply chain solutions, and has facilitated the awarding of almost 1,300 contracts with a value of over US$1.1 billion to Afghan businesses.
The PDT was also instrumental in establishing the Afghanistan Building Markets Portal, an online directory of Afghan businesses that links international and local buyers with Afghan sellers. By creating formal economic opportunities for Afghan entrepreneurs, it contributes to increasing productivity and tax revenues, thereby strengthening Afghanistan’s economy.
Canada supported the economic, social and cultural regeneration of the historic district of Murad Khane in Kabul. Murad Khane was once a hub for skilled craftsmen and women, such as carvers and carpenters, but had fallen in disrepair with skilled workers leaving the area. The project reinvigorated the area by providing short- and long-term training, and mentoring for new businesses. This project helped to improve living conditions and boosted the economy while strengthening Afghanistan’s identity and traditions.
Finally, in regard to the percentage of communities in key districts that have completed infrastructure projects undertaken by locally elected bodies, Canada completed infrastructure projects in 76 percent of the communities in key districts in Kandahar, slightly more than the 75 percent target set for the period 2008–2011 and up significantly from a baseline of 60 percent in December 2007.