Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

Potato production is the mainstay in Bamyan province. Until 2010 productivity was low due to two fundamental factors: the high price and questionable quality of fertilizers available in the province, and the use of recycled and low quality seed.  While farmers were generally aware of the potential benefits of the appropriate use of fertilizers and the use of certified seed, they lacked the financial capacity to purchase them, and credit was simply not available.

Rural communities often have to vie with their neighbors for vital natural resources, creating tension. Three villages – Tort Kol, Faizabad and Rahmatabad – in Shirin Tagab District of Faryab Province, with a long history of conflict over irrigation water were brought together through a USAID-funded Community Based Stabilization Grants Project.

This USAID-sponsored activity will help the Afghan Government identify geological data for sites not surveyed since the 1960s Afghanistan’s mineral and hydrocarbon resources will be an important source of employment and revenue for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), with 25 percent or more of GDP generated directly or indirectly by the mining / hydrocarbons sectors. In order to maximize the future benefits of Afghanistan’s mineral resources, USAID is assisting the Ministry of Mines (MoM) gather and evaluate geological data. 

Kesa Topac Village in Ali Abad District of Kunduz Province was a safe-haven for insurgents in the early post-Taliban years. In 2011, the area was cleared of insurgents through military operations making critical community linkages with the local GIRoA essential if the area is to remain free of insurgent influence.

Great strides have been made in health and education, bringing more Afghans back into economic and civic life. Institutions that can accountably respond to people's needs and aspirations are being restored. Investments in infrastructure and human capital are making the country less vulnerable to insurgents and illicit business and more attractive for private-sector enterprise.

Hikmatullah Omari describes two tenant farming systems in the Province of Logar: "In one method, the tenant farmer splits the cost of fertilizer, seeds, and tools with the landowner. In the other method, the landowner provides all of the materials." The former arrangement is covered under a 50/50 split with the tenant farmer, while the latter is covered under a 75/25 landowner-to-farmer split. "This makes sense," he says, "because the landowner is bearing much more cost and risk."

When their supporting irrigation system failed, the villagers of Muhammad Agha District in Logar Province faced the expensive prospect of drilling test wells into the water table. This is a risky prospect in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan because water pools unevenly below rocky mountain surfaces and probing through layers of granite and limestone can be far more expensive than probing through soil. Often, test wells miss the water table entirely. The process typically costs $32 per meter, turning the exploration into an expensive gamble for poverty-stricken villages.

 Afghanistan is an overwhelmingly rural country. More than 80 percent of Afghans live in farming villages, and 75 percent of all residents depend on arable land for their livelihoods. When asked about this land, subsistence farmers are quick to talk about crop yields. Farmers who have moved past subsistence agriculture often see land as an asset in its own right. At the same time, agricultural gains are narrow and can be easily lost. Seasonal volatility in crop yields can push a farming community from profitability to subsistence in a single season

While construction resources are easily available in major cities such as Kabul and Kandahar, smaller cities and towns may struggle to provide all of the resources needed for major development projects. Contracting agencies are often forced to source materials, such as concrete slabs, from larger regional cities. This not only drives up project costs, but also dissipates money that would otherwise be directed toward intended project beneficiaries.

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Last updated: January 12, 2015