Afghanistan: Resilience and Nutrition Security
Although most people in Afghanistan still live in rural areas, a strong urban migration trend – people moving from the countryside to towns and cities – is evident. In the nineteen-fifties, one Afghan in twenty lived in a town or city, today the figure is one in four. This situation raises a few questions mainly concerning the urban poor. Cities are growing quickly, not only without a proper plan, but also without suitable job opportunities, infrastructure or basic services.
One of the main causes of urban migration are job opportunities and fear of safety in rural areas. After arriving in the city, disenchantment often follows. A lack of job opportunities combined with insufficient savings are the biggest problems. Migrants from rural areas often do not have the required knowledge and skills and they lack a supportive social network which would orient them in their new environment. This is what causes poverty in cities and People in Need focuses on these problems in their programmes.
Poverty in cities
People in Need organises intensive training programmes in two Afghan cities, Herat and Jalalabad. These programmes help participants find a job or start up a business. Apart from classic sewing or pastry chef courses, we train up electricians, air-conditioning or mobile phone repairmen. All illiterate aid beneficiaries may attend literacy courses, which increases their chances of finding a job on the labour market and helps them in their daily life.
In addition, we help disadvantaged people organise self-help groups in cities, which serve as a instrument for saving money and at the same time allows their members to borrow money for starting their business. Self-help groups established by People in Need already have over 7,500 members. Every one of them has access to savings ranging from CZK 5,480 – 24,330, enabling them to live through a crisis period or even start up a business. For instance, in Jalalabad some women took advantage of the loan to start up their own sewing shop. After the end of their professional training they continued to rent the training premises and sew scarves and dresses there every day for the local market. Every woman earns around CZK 2,160 every month.
Improving food security in the Mazar-i-Sharif area
PIN’s programme for reducing urban poverty aims to support the livelihoods of households in temporary settlements in the area of the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, which suffers from a severe food shortages. The goal was to reinforce their resilience and self-sufficiency and achieve permanently sustainable development in the area.
We supported long-term development in the city areas was supported through a wide spectrum of activities. Gardening helped increase food variety in every family and led to reducing food shopping costs. Afghanistan has a chronic lack of water sources, so we are trying to raise awareness of irrigation techniques and methods of collecting rainwater. For further development of farming techniques, we started dozens of small experimental projects to establish which ones are best for the given conditions.
We also organised independent self-help groups for women. These promote community life and resilience by providing small loans for its members for starting up a business. They are also important as a platform for training in a broad spectrum of skills. Women may borrow money for starting a small livelihoods and also learn how to read and write. Aid beneficiaries and members of self-help groups for women attend training focused on nutrition and hygiene in the first 1000 days of a child’s life, which covers the most important period of a child’s development from conception to the age of 24 months. This training focuses on hygiene, nutrition, learning to cook and also individual consultations for each family.
For further strengthening and diversification of the family income, some aid beneficiaries may attend other training on how to starting a small business. This training is both theoretic and practical. Training groups are composed of seven men or three women.
Working in the city areas of Afghanistan is new to us, and so this programme also means research work aimed at understanding the situation of different groups of the urban poor, the differences between the new arrivals and the original residents, or the role of women in the context of a city. This research may help us with creating future programmes so that they suit with the needs of the locals.
Supporting small businesses
People in Need also supported non-agricultural business activities, which are vital for the sustainable development of the areas where People in Need operates. These are for example support of transport, wool processing, fabric production and in the future education for people to have more chances for employment. Apart from direct support, PiN has focused on assisting saving groups, which associates mostly women in order to raise physical and social capital for running small businesses in the future.