From One Project to Another: Lending a Helping Hand to Advance Afghanistan’s Agribusinesses


ABADE’s Chief of Party awarded the three MAIL civil servants certificates of appreciation for their assistance.

By Emily Harper, with reporting by Andja Cosic 

Issues of global development do not exist as discrete, independent problems. The global problem of tuberculosis, for example, is more than a single bacterium and its associated illness.  Tuberculosis as a development issue involves health care delivery systems, which require facilities and trained health care workers; vaccines, from development to production and delivery; drug resistance, as a likely consequence of the overuse of antibiotics; and issues of drug pricing, which require policy and trade agreements.

One of the biggest criticisms of development is that it is too siloed, and everyone stays in their lane. Individual development programs sometimes neglect to coordinate with one another to maximize their impact, and occasionally, efforts can be duplicative. To do development well, we must apply integrated and robust solutions and cultivate a culture of collaboration and learning.

It is particularly satisfying to witness this collaborative problem-solving when it involves two of our own programs operating in the same country.

Malika and Refa Environmental Solutions is a small company in Kabul, Afghanistan, that does environmentally-conscious solid waste disposal. Most of the company’s employees are women. The company had a business strategy and a plan to grow their operations, but small business loans are incredibly hard to come by in Afghanistan. A lack of access to financing is what holds many businesses back.

IESC’s Assistance in Building Afghanistan by Developing Enterprises (ABADE) Program, funded by USAID through VEGA, is strengthening Afghanistan’s private sector, collaborating with small and medium enterprises to accelerate productivity and job creation by modernizing or expanding production.

Malika and Refa Environmental Solutions partnered with ABADE, and the program helped the company acquire state-of-the-art tractors to streamline their work.

The tractors arrived, but there was a small problem (one which should be familiar to anyone who has worked in development): the company staff didn’t know how to operate the new machinery and couldn’t locate an expert who did.

To get Malika and Refa moving forward as quickly as possible, the ABADE Program recruited the help of a nearby friend: another IESC program in Afghanistan.

The Capacity Building and Change Management II (CBCMP- II) Program, also funded by USAID through VEGA, is strengthening the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and its provincial and district offices. Since about 80 percent of Afghanistan depends directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood, the ministry plays a critical role in supporting the agricultural sector’and Afghanistan’s economic future.

CBCMP-II connected ABADE with three civil servant engineers at the Ministry who not only got the tractors up and running, but also trained the company’s staff on how to operate them.

It is gratifying to see two projects in our portfolio collaborate to solve a problem, and with obvious benefits to the beneficiaries: Malika and Refa are able to realize their plans to modernize and expand, and have a knowledgeable resource for support with the new equipment, and the civil servants at MAIL had an opportunity to engage with the private sector and provide a service. A ministry that works for the people increases confidence in government institutions, and that, too, is good for Afghanistan.

While this modest example doesn’t solve all the big development problems, it is but one small case where collaboration works.

We will have better development when we act on more such opportunities and mechanisms to facilitate collaboration and learning, both of which are key organizational values at IESC. Only then will we truly solve the world’s greatest problems.