The destruction of the agricultural infrastructure and a lack of training during the years of war in Afghanistan have severely hampered the country’s ability to feed itself. Compounding this problem are the market distortions caused by the drug trade, which have led farmers to abandon production of certain foods and gravitate towards production of opium. Until recently in northern Afghanistan, for example, most eggs were imported from Pakistan.
The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) recognised that it had to develop sustainable alternative livelihoods for a large number of rural Afghans whose incomes depended on opium poppy cultivation. In 2005, AKF launched a pilot project in the poultry sector in Badakhshan. AKF’s Enterprise Development Programme (EDP) believed that commercial poultry had great potential as a sustainable alternative livelihood for a large number of people. By early 2007, the success of the EDP efforts was marked by the complete substitution of imported eggs by local production. Moreover, EDP subsidies were no longer required.
EDP’s strategy also involves reviving traditional crafts and industries such as weaving, silk production, carpet making and handicrafts; and developing profi table enterprises around local resources including poultry, honey, gems, cashmere, apricots, agriculture inputs, and processing for seed multiplication and dairy production. Vocational training includes carpentry, computer and English skills, tin metalwork, hairstyling, wooden pot making and tailoring.
The programme is coordinated with many other AKDN activities in Afghanistan. Since 2002, AKDN has mobilised over US$ 700 million for the development of Afghanistan.