USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Afghanistan

From the Field

In Lebanon, in order to improve student achievement in Lebanese Public Schools, we will improve learning environments through physical repairs and provision of equipment, increase learning opportunities through in-service teacher training and extra-curricular activities, and raise stakeholder engagement in public schools.  This effort is expected to benefit thousands of students and teachers in over 1,300 public schools. Ambassador Maura Connelly, USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Christopher Crowley and USAID/Lebanon Mission Director Dr. Jim Barnhart will announce the program with the Lebanese Minister of Education & Higher Education; Dr. Hassan Mneimneh.

In Afghanistan, we will hold our second Water Conference. In this Forum, key water sector stakeholders can develop a shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges of sustainable development and management of water resources in Afghanistan and set a road map for addressing the challenges.

In Cambodia, on December 10th in Phnom Penh, we will celebrate the 62nd Anniversary of International Human Rights Day.

Refrigerated Containers Open the World’s Markets to Fresh Fruit From Afghanistan

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

On December 3, 2010, Afghan farmers and merchants took an important step forward in world trade by exporting Afghanistan’s first-ever, 40-foot refrigerated container (“reefer”) of pomegranates, destined for buyers in Canada. Subsequent reefer shipments will go to Dubai and Holland through the seaport in Karachi, Pakistan.

President H.E. Hamid Karzai inspects Afghan pomegranates ready for export as Roots of Peace President and founder Heidi Kuhn looks on. Photo credit: USAID/Afghanistan, CHAMP

Canadians will soon enjoy the juiciest and tastiest pomegranates from Afghanistan. In the past, exporting chilled fresh fruit to distant markets was impossible, because Afghanistan did not have the required cold-chain infrastructure, trade agreements, or skilled merchants. Now, however, the U.S. Government is assisting with the infrastructure and trade policy essentials for Afghan exports of chilled fresh fruit. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is bringing these components together by training farmers to produce higher quality products, and linking them with merchants who have been trained in packaging techniques, and connecting them to new international markets.

USAID, through its Commercial Horticulture and Agriculture Marketing Program (CHAMP), has facilitated the shipment of fresh fruit through Karachi to international markets. In August, CHAMP assisted Afghan merchants with the first-ever reefer shipment of chilled grapes to India by road. Shipments through Pakistan are now an option due to recent changes in Afghanistan-Pakistan trade policy. The chilled fruit was packed in refrigerated houses built with funding from local merchants, and the governments of the United States and India.

The incentives to adopt new practices lie in increased profits. Pomegranate growers receive price increases of 136 percent for their higher-quality fruits. Merchants have seen enough increase in profits that they are continuing to use the new marketing techniques without CHAMP assistance. After testing the market with CHAMP assistance in 2009, merchants shipped 28 reefers of grapes to Karachi. Following the trial to India this year, merchants are planning to continue chilled grape shipments next year.

Afghan farmers, merchants, and government officials are optimistic that this year’s marketing trials will yield results that will sustain the expansion of pomegranate, grape, and other fresh fruit exports. USAID and collaborating merchants are planning to test fresh fruit markets in Australia, Ukraine, Germany, and Russia next year.

Kabul National Cricket Stadium Gets a New Look

This originally appeared on DipNote.

A large crowd of cricket enthusiasts watched today as Finance Minister Mohammad Omer Zakhiwal and United States Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry laid foundation stones to inaugurate the renovation of the Kabul National Cricket Stadium.

Because of the national team’s exceptional success in many international tournaments, cricket in Afghanistan is gaining popularity. The growing number of players includes not only men, but women as well. More than 100 young women are currently playing cricket in Kabul and the Afghanistan Cricket Board is about to create a National Women’s Cricket Team for the 2011 Asian Elite Cup Tournament in February 2011.

“Cricket in Afghanistan is more than a game. It is a means for bringing Afghan youth from different backgrounds together. It has become a source of pride for ordinary Afghans and an example of their resolve and determination. It is a game that can contribute positively to peace and stability in our country. That is why, today, we are so very grateful to USAID in supporting the construction of the Kabul National Cricket Stadium,” said Minister Zakhiwal. Minister Zakhiwal is also the Chairman of the Afghan Cricket Board.

With an estimated completion in July 2011, the renovation will include a new boundary wall, pitch, sprinkler system, and seating. The renovated stadium will serve as the main hub for hosting both domestic and international events and will accommodate more than 6,000 cricket fans. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the project will employ labor-intensive construction methods to provide short-term employment for unemployed Afghans.

“I am honored and proud to be part of this project that will rehabilitate this cricket stadium and provide a safe venue in which Afghan youth and the Afghan National Team can play for years to come,” said Ambassador Eikenberry. “I am looking forward to working together on future projects that enhance the lives of Afghanistan’s young people through sport.”

This project is an excellent opportunity for the governments of Afghanistan and the United States to work closely together to meet the needs of Afghans, especially youth. This project will be implemented under USAID’s Community Development Program (CDP) with additional support from the Local Governance and Community Development (LGCD) project. These USAID projects are designed to assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to extend its reach into unstable areas, engage at-risk populations, create an environment that encourages local communities to take an active role in their own stability and development, and address the underlying causes of instability.

You can find photographs of the event here.

Robert Sauers serves at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Pic of the Week: Afghan Boy Sits in Sunshine

A Hazara Afghan boyA Hazara Afghan boy sits in the sunshine in Bamiyan. Bamiyan, some 124 miles northwest of Kabul, stands in a deep green and lush valley stretching 100 kilometers through central Afghanistan, on the former Silk Road which once linked China with Central Asia and beyond. The town was home to nearly 2,000-year-old Buddha statues before they were destroyed by the Taliban, months before their regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001. Photo is from AFP Photo/Shah Marai.

Kabul Goes Green

Mayor Muhammad Yunus Nawandish of Kabul needed a creative solution.  He wanted to build street lamps to light the darkened city, and provide safety and security to residents and visitors.  However, with limited power generation and distribution systems, an innovative approach was needed.

Mayor Muhammad Yunus Nawandish of Kabul. Photo Credit: Abby Sugrue/USAID

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked closely with the Mayor’s office and Sustainable Energy Services Afghanistan (SESA) on a pilot program to use renewable energy to provide street lights to the 6 million people living within the city limits.  With over 300 days of sun, Kabul City is an ideal place to explore the usage of the sun to power its streets.  These solar street lights will not only provide more security and raise community morale, they will also support economic development by encouraging new nighttime commerce, and increasing civilian movement and emergency response.

The pilot program broke ground on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 in a roadside ceremony in the heart of Kabul, near the Jumhoriat National Specialized Hospital.  The ceremony was covered my local media and attended by Mayor Nawandish and Deputy Mayor Abdul Ahad, as well as senior U.S. officials.

“Lighting is essential to improving the quality of life throughout Afghanistan,” Mayor Nawandish said.  “I’m proud that Kabul is leading the way down the path to renewable energy for our country.”

The street lights are expected to be installed and operational by the end of the year and will include 28 stand-alone Solar LED street poles, providing light in one of the most critical commercial corridors.

This project represents a true collaboration between the United States Government, the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Mayor of Kabul City, and the Kabul City Working Group, a cross-cutting advisory panel dedicated to the issues and concern of Kabul.  This partnership will continue as further project sites are being identified throughout Kabul.

Women’s Garden Reopens in Kabul

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry joined senior Afghan officials, including the Minister of Women’s Affairs, the Mayor of Kabul, the Governor of Kabul province, and members of parliament, to celebrate the reopening of the Women’s Garden in Kabul on November 3, 2010.

The garden, once a sanctuary, was destroyed during the Afghan civil war. During the paralyzing restrictions of the Taliban era, women and girls were unable to enter the park, and it became a garbage dump.

Now that the historic Women’s Garden has reopened its doors, the eight-acre enclosure provides the women of Kabul a safe space to participate in a range of recreational and educational activities. The garden hosts gym and sports classes, vocational training, literacy classes, and serves as a place to socialize. It is also home to the provincial Directorate of Women’s Affairs.

The reconstruction project was led and implemented by the Director of Women’s Affairs, Ms. Karima Salik, who had played in the garden as a young girl before it was destroyed. The Women’s Garden was rehabilitated through USAID’s Food Insecurity Response for Urban Populations (FIRUP) and the Local Governance and Community Development (LGCD) programs, with CARE International acting as the implementing partner for FIRUP, and DAI as the implementer for LGCD. Fifty percent of the laborers who rebuilt the garden were women.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Dr. Husnbanu Ghazanfar, Minister of Women’s Affairs said, “Over the last 30 years this garden turned into a ruin but with the assistance of the U.S. government and other international donors, the garden has a new life now. More than ever, it is both a place to relax and to learn.”

Acknowledging the dedicated work and leadership of Ms. Salik, and the tremendous efforts of Minister Ghazanfar, Governor Zabihullah Mujadadi, Mayor Mohammad Yunus Nawandish, and the entire Provincial Development Committee for their efforts to advance the rights of women, Ambassador Eikenberry noted, “Today marks a new day — and the hope that Afghan women can again have a garden of their own in Kabul. While this Garden heralds the strength of Afghan women, it is my hope that it will also be seen as a symbol of the United States government’s — and, for that matter, the whole international community’s — support for a lasting friendship and partnership with all Afghans.”

Midwives from Afghanistan Gather for Capacity Building Training in Alexandria, Egypt

On October 21, USAID/Egypt Director James Bever and Dr. Hassan Sallam, Director of the Suzanne Mubarak Regional Center for Women’s Health and Development (SMC) participated in the graduation ceremony of a mix of 31 Afghan Midwives of various ages and from various provinces. The Midwives attended the training program at the SMC in Alexandria and it was funded through the Health Services Support Project, implemented by USAID/Afghanistan.

Afghan midwives with their Egyptian trainer at the end of the USAID/Afghanistan funded capacity building training held in Egypt. Photo Credit: USAID/Egypt

Afghan midwives with their Egyptian trainer at the end of the USAID/Afghanistan funded capacity building training held in Egypt. Photo Credit: USAID/Egypt

The SMC was selected as a training provider for its excellent results in the areas of women’s health and development in Egypt and in neighboring countries. The SMC is the lead partner organization for the USAID/Egypt funded Global Initiative for Breast Cancer Awareness. The training focused on the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to provide care to Afghani women with the ultimate goal of ensuring safe motherhood.

In his remarks during the event, the USAID/Egypt Director lauded Egypt as it has achieved its Millennium Development Goal Number 4 of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015 and it is approaching the achievement of MDG 5 in reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015.  “Egypt is now leveraging those achievements by hosting training programs like these where our Egyptian counterparts can share valuable lessons learned and effective practices with efficient health practitioners from Afghanistan to improve health not only in Egypt, but around the world.”

Video Highlights Civilian-Military Coordination of Task Force Mountain Warrior

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

State Department officers, USAID development experts, and representatives from several other U.S. government agencies serve alongside the U.S. military throughout Afghanistan as part of our efforts to integrate civilian and military operations, including with Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), with combat battalions, Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and District Support Teams.


BCT Task Force Mountain Warrior’s area of operations covered the four eastern Afghanistan provinces of Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar and Laghman, and the BCT was deployed from June 2009 to June 2010. Task Force Bastogne replaced the Task Force Mountain Warrior team, but many civilians under Chief of Mission authority remain in the area, providing valuable continuity.

In March 2010, Time.com embedded with Task Force Mountain Warrior and produced a video that reflects the work of the Brigade Senior Civilian Representative and other State Department Officers in Kunar province over the past year. The video shows the integrated nature of the Task Force’s work and the important role that civilians are playing on the front lines, working hand-in-hand with their military colleagues.

You can watch their video here.

Picture of the Week: Afghan Women Participate in Elections

Afghan women in Kabul proudly show their blue fingers as evidence of their vote in the 2010 Parliamentary Elections. Photo is from Courtney Body, USAID/Afghanistan.

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