Southern Regional Agricultural Development in Afghanistan
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 will increase incomes for at least 25,000 farm families, create thousands of long-term and short-term agricultural jobs, and measurably increase confidence in government among local residents.
While cash for work and agricultural vouchers may be viewed as stabilization activities, in S-RAD they will 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 will build enduring linkages between farmers and the private sector. Business development services and in-kind grants will revitalize farmer cooperatives and associations, linking them to “upstream” farm input supply firms and to “downstream” traders, processors, wholesalers, and retailers.
S-RAD will operate 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 will address 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 will therefore be placed at the core of all project activities, given substantial decision-making authority, and benefit from capacity strengthening activities. This “Afghan first” design will ensure that the project is understood by local communities as government owned and implemented.