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Social Development

AKDN projects are planned as part of a comprehensive rural development programme aimed at enabling people to improve their own quality of life. AKDN social development programmes in Afghanistan range from midwifery courses to the construction of bridges, water supply schemes and irrigation canals.
AKDN's social development programmes span a wide range of projects that encompass rural development, microfinance, education and health. All these activities are coordinated with the large cultural and economic projects which are also underway in the country.

Most of these programmes began in 2002, when low levels of food security in Afghanistan threatened starvation. Building on the work started by Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an AKDN affiliate that had been offering emergency assistance since 1995, the Aga Khan Foundation’s (AKF) rural development programme began distributing quality seeds and fertilisers to improve agricultural yields and productivity.

Shortly thereafter, AKDN began mobilising and partnering with communities to build community infrastructure projects, including water supply schemes, latrines, irrigation channels, micro-hydroelectric plants, roads, bridges, schools and health centres. Infrastructure projects are integrated within a comprehensive rural development programme comprising community mobilisation, natural resource management, and enterprise development.

AKDN’s rural development programme is mainly implemented through village-based Community Development Councils organised under the Afghan Government’s National Solidarity Programme. AKDN, a facilitating partner of the Programme, has been working with more than 1,200 Community Development Councils since 2007.


Microfinance plays an important role in driving economic development in rural areas. AKDN has also pioneered the provision of innovative and flexible microfinance products to discourage people’s involvement in the cultivation and trafficking of opium. Microfinance has eased the burden on over-indebted farmers and, in some cases, allowed them to re-purchase land sold to drug barons.

Since 2002, AKDN’s Rural Microcredit Programme has disbursed more than 90,000 loans, totaling over US$71 million. It now operates in more than 50 rural districts across 12 provinces to create licit income-generating opportunities and to encourage entrepreneurship. With an outstanding portfolio of nearly US$19 million, the bank has more than 28,000 active clients.

In 2004, AKDN also launched the First MicroFinanceBank of Afghanistan to operate primarily in urban areas. The institution was the first of its kind under the country’s new regulatory structure. The Bank provides microfinance to small businesses, helping Afghans to create productive and sustainable sources of income. With a portfolio of US$28 million, the Bank is the largest microfinance provider in Afghanistan, serving some 38,000 borrowers and savers in towns and cities in 8 provinces. Since 2002, the AKDN has disbursed more than 166,000 loans, totaling US$187 million.


AKDN has established health centres and provided services in northeast and central Afghanistan since 2003 to assist the Afghan Ministry of Public Health in its delivery of basic health and hospital services. AKDN manages the flagship French Medical Institute for Children in Kabul and the Bamyan Provincial Hospital, both among the best hospitals in the country. AKDN staff also work in more than 30 health centres and clinics and in over 180 health posts across the northeastern and central provinces. In addition, the AKDN has revised Afghanistan’s nursing curriculum. Today, all of the country’s pre-service nurses are trained through this curriculum. To enhance the capacity of existing and future health professionals, AKDN also conducts refresher training for doctors, nurses, and midwives; operates two Community Midwifery Training schools; and assists in the management of the Government’s Institute for Health Sciences in Kabul.


AKDN’s activities in education include the construction and rehabilitation of schools, the construction of facilities for two Government teacher training colleges, adult literacy classes, in-service teacher training, the distribution of learning aids, as well as tutorial assistance and extra-curricular programmes in English and information technology. The Network works to support the Afghan Ministry of Education’s National Education Strategic Plan, paying special attention to female pupils and teachers. More than 93,000 pupils and 3,800 teachers benefit from AKDN activities to provide better access to quality education.