Friday Photo: Afghans Expand Job Skills and Improve Food Security Through IRD’s S-RAD Program
This Friday's Photo pictures Afghan women in burkas learning new sewing techniques through IRD's Southern Regional Agricultural Development (S-RAD) program. S-RAD works closely with the Afghan Directorate of Women's Affairs to develop training programs that will prepare women to earn an income. Recently, as part of the Women's Capacity Building component of S-RAD, seventy women completed a 12-day training course in poultry production. Each participant received 40 chickens and materials for building a chicken coop.
The Southern Regional Agricultural Development (S-RAD) program works to increase long-term agricultural jobs and incomes in Kandahar and Helmand provinces and improve the confidence of Afghans in their government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock. The $65 million, one-year program is funded by USAID. Through tightly integrated cash for work, agricultural vouchers, training and capacity building, and in-kind grant programs, S-RAD has increased incomes for at least 25,000 farm families, created thousands of long-term and short-term agricultural jobs, and measurably increased confidence in government among local residents.
While cash for work and agricultural vouchers may be viewed as stabilization activities, in S-RAD they also enable long-term agricultural development. For example, rehabilitating an irrigation system provides immediate jobs and contributes to the long-term objectives of protecting the environment and increasing farm efficiency and production. Other quick-impact interventions such as voucher packages can disseminate new technologies like high-quality non-hybridized seeds, which also contribute to longer term development. In addition to short-term activities, S-RAD builds enduring linkages between farmers and the private sector. Business development services and in-kind grants revitalize farmer cooperatives and associations, linking them to “upstream” farm input supply firms and to “downstream” traders, processors, wholesalers, and retailers.
S-RAD operates in “key terrain districts” identified by the Afghan government and security forces to address constraints along six crop and livestock value chains: fruits and nuts, vegetables, legumes, forage, livestock, and cereals. Extensive market analysis by IRD and others has identified these value chains as having the greatest potential to increase livelihoods and incomes as well as to achieve the region’s short-term stabilization and longer term development objectives. The project addresses specific weaknesses in each value-chain related to farming practices, transportation costs and infrastructure, packaging and processing practices, and market-related factors.
To succeed, S-RAD requires Afghan leadership. Ministry directorates and extension agents have broad knowledge of farmer needs and priorities, understand where resources should be directed, and know how to do so efficiently and effectively. Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock staff were therefore placed at the core of all project activities, given substantial decision-making authority, and benefited from capacity strengthening activities. This “Afghan first” design ensures that the project is understood by local communities as government owned and implemented.