A Stronger Ministry of Agriculture in Afghanistan (Infographic)

October 30, 2017–After four years, the Capacity Building and Change Management II Program in Afghanistan has concluded. See what we accomplished in this handy infographic.


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With New Skills Come New Attitudes

Amina Haidari coaches her civil servant counterpart in Kandahar DAIL.

For civil servants at the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture in Kandahar, learning new skills was an eye-opening experience.

Every morning, Amina Haidary arrives at work at the provincial agriculture office in Kandahar, where she has worked since 2012. Among her 76 colleagues, she is the only woman.

Haidary, who specializes in finance and administration, works alongside civil servants to provide them with on-the-job training and mentoring. She is one of 93 change management specialists who work with USAID’s Capacity Building and Change Management II Program to strengthen the human and institutional capacity of the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, as well as its 20 provincial offices and 50 district agriculture offices.

“I always had to work hard being among people who believe that a woman cannot train a man,’ she said. ‘Even though many wanted me to leave the job, I stayed and showed that a woman can do her job as well as a man.”

Haidary is part of the four-member capacity-building program team in Kandahar.

“My days typically begin with training in computer and internet skills. I simultaneously teach them administrative and finance procedures, basically everything they need to perform their jobs more effectively and provide better service to our farmers,’ she said.

Even small changes can make a huge difference for the civil servants in their day-to-day jobs. Qasam is human resource manager at the Kandahar office. In the past, he said, it was difficult to find and access the files of colleagues who had left.

‘Since Amina showed us how to create folders and make simple databases on our computers, we can now find employees’ data easily and finish our work on time,’ he said.

Haidary provides support and training to civil servants in inventory, accounting, procurement, human resources, and more. ‘They accepted me once they recognized how much these new skills have improved their performance and made their work easier,’ Haidary said.

“Thanks to [Amina’s] dedication and patience, many of [our public employees] have advanced in ways they never would have thought of before”

‘Esmatullah Ghafri, program team leader, Kandahar agriculture office

Esmatullah Ghafri is the program’s team leader in Kandahar. He says Haidary is dedicated, energetic, and always positive.

“She proved her ability and used her skills to make changes and build the capacity of her male counterparts,’ Ghafri said. ‘Thanks to her dedication and patience, many of them have advanced in ways they never would have thought of before.’


This story is made possible with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of IESC and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Solar Panels Power Rural Agriculture Offices

CBCMP-II installed solar panels in three offices in Nangarhar Province

For civil servants working in the local offices of the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, there are many challenges to their daily work. A stable electricity supply is one of the main obstacles that keeps them from providing good services to Afghan farmers and herders.

To tackle this issue, the Capacity Building and Change Management Program II (CBCMP-II) installed solar panels in three local offices in Nangarhar Province. Together, these three offices serve more than 13,000 farmers who cultivate 28,000 hectares of land, making them the most important agriculture offices in the region.

In addition to the solar panels, the program provides technology, equipment, and long-term, on-the-job training to civil servants to improve their skills. Across Afghanistan, in 20 regional and 40 local agriculture ministry offices, CBCMP-II has deployed ‘change management specialists’ who are embedded throughout the ministry and work side-by-side with civil servants. The goal of the program is to strengthen the human and institutional capacity of the ministry to provide better services to Afghan farmers and herders.

The improvements to the civil servants’ working environments have been dramatic.

“Whenever we needed to prepare a document, we had to go to [the office] in Jalalabad, which is almost 50 kilometers away. Now, with all new equipment and stable electricity, we can print and produce our documents in a timely manner, and efficiently communicate with farmers,” said Aziz Ullah, agriculture manager in Kama District.

“We provided all necessary equipment to make these local Ag offices functional, and our staff have been training civil servants to adopt new technologies and improved administrative practices to increase their work efficiency and expertise,” said Noor Seddiq, who directs the program in Afghanistan.

The agriculture sector is critically important to Afghanistan’s economy and future development, since about 80 percent of the population relies on agriculture for its livelihood, either directly or indirectly.

The Capacity Building and Change Management Program II runs through July 2017.

This story is made possible with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of IESC and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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.

Finding a Voice, Finding a Path

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Finding a Voice, Finding a Path

by Esther Lee
Najeba, a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock in Kabul, Afghanistan.

As a recent transplant to the D.C area, I can’t help but feel like a small fish in a big pond from time to time. This city attracts the best and the brightest. It can be ruthlessly competitive ‘a harsh reality for someone from a relatively small town where, to a degree, I felt ‘special.’ It is easy to succumb to feelings of insecurity and anxiety, to not speak up for fear of saying something ‘stupid.’ Sometimes I feel as vulnerable as an egg without its shell.

I have been the Afghanistan programs intern at IESC, for just a short time, but thankfully, the environment has been truly welcoming and non-hierarchical. I welcomed the opportunity to contribute a blog post for International Women’s Day, even though I had no idea what I would write.

And then I read about Najeba Karemi. Her story struck a chord.

Najeba is a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock in Kabul, Afghanistan. As a woman in the male-dominated world of government and agriculture, her path was not easy.

‘I lacked the confidence to even raise my hand and voice my opinions in front of my peers,’ she said. ‘I lacked the required skills to be able to effectively carry out my position’s responsibilities; I felt hugely inadequate.’

For me’a woman and a minority who did not come from privilege’this hit close to home. Suddenly I felt a kinship with a woman I’d never met, who lives many time zones away, and who has likely experienced far more hardship in life than I ever will.

But for one small moment in time, we carried the same heavy heart. We shared a desire to speak up, a yearning to stand tall.

Najeba received coaching and mentoring through the Capacity Building & Change Management II Program, which IESC implements. The program strengthens the agriculture ministry by modernizing systems and technology and by embedding a cadre of ‘change management specialists,’ experienced Afghans who work side-by-side with civil servants to build their skills.

Najeba’s skills increased, and so did her confidence. ‘The agriculture sector in Afghanistan is still very much a male dominated environment even though women have always played a critical role,’ she said. ‘It can be intimidating at times, to enter into a meeting and be expected to speak your mind, it was not easy for me at the beginning. Now I lead meetings.’

As a manager with the home economy department at the ministry, Najeba designs and implements food security and other agriculture projects to women farmers, a task that can be dangerous as well as undervalued. Because of her own struggles and achievements, she encourages a legacy of women to feel empowered and strong. ‘It’s a truly great feeling to go out to the villages, speak to the women who live there and be able to provide them with the technical knowledge they so desperately need, to raise their income and adequately feed their families. It’s a feeling of pride that I am now trying to install into my own children.’

As the world recognizes International Women’s Day, we see Hollywood actresses given large and well-funded platforms to discuss global women’s issues and garner a worldwide audience. While their accomplishments are impressive, celebrity spokespeople are detached from everyday life. It is women like Najeba who truly inspire me.  Candid about her insecurities, relentlessly hardworking and quick to recognize those that helped her along the way, Najeba is blazing a trail. To me, she is bravery personified and a role model’not just to me, not just to women, but to all.

This blog was written as part of IESC’s International Women’s Day 2016 campaign. To view all posts related to this campaign, click here

Saluting Unsung Champions, This International Women’s Day and Beyond

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Saluting Unsung Champions, This International Women’s Day and Beyond

By IESC President and CEO Tom Miller

Dr. Shahla, gender director of IESC’s CBCMP-II Program.

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. In many of the countries where we work, March 8 is a true holiday. Women receive flowers, gifts, and other expressions of honor and appreciation, and the IESC field offices participate in these celebratory traditions.

Here in Washington, DC, the IESC home office will recognize the day by having our annual staff retreat, when we spend some time reflecting on our accomplishments during the previous year, but, even more importantly, look enthusiastically to the future, planning how we will bring about inclusive, sustainable economic development in the next year and beyond.

Over the past several days, you have heard voices from across our organization’interns, volunteers, program associates, senior leaders, and beneficiaries. Our bloggers champion the strength, determination, and achievements of women in every corner of the globe, yet every one of them shares these stories with a keen awareness of just how far there is to go.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #PledgeforParity. At IESC, we know that no community, no society, no nation can truly prosper when half the population is cut out of the equation. In its latest estimate, the World Economic Forum forecasts that it will take 115 years to close the gender gap.

I believe we can do better than 115 years, but things will not change overnight, especially in certain parts of the world. IESC has two large programs in Afghanistan, where we are supporting the growth of small- and medium-sized businesses, and strengthening one of the government’s largest ministries, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock. In a place like Afghanistan, the international development community can do a lot to improve infrastructure and systems, and bolster the private sector, improve access to health care, even advocate for changes in the legal and regulatory framework. But it is harder to change minds and mindsets in places where deeply held religious and cultural customs work against equal rights for women.

But there are voices’strong, confident women’s voices’that are working actively to bring about change in the country they love. One of those women is Shahla Amiri.

Dr. Shahla’as everyone calls her’is the gender director of our program with the agriculture ministry. She is a highly educated, committed, and passionate advocate for women’s empowerment and the future of women in Afghanistan. Dr. Shahla is a consummate professional, but don’t expect her to back down from an argument. In a completely male-dominated environment, she speaks her mind, argues her position, and quite often, gets her way. She is a change-maker.

In Afghanistan, the vast majority of the population’around 80 percent’depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce, yet own none of the land and control little of the profits.

Dr. Shahla knows that gender is not an issue on its own. Issues of gender equity and gender constraints cannot be separated from agriculture, or health, or nutrition. Last year, under her leadership, the Afghan agriculture ministry established the first ever Women’s Empowerment Working Group.

The working group serves an advisory role to the ministry leadership on gender issues, advocates for the hiring of female employees, and promotes increased transparency and accountability within the ministry when it comes to women’s empowerment.

Not even a year old, the working group is already making its mark. This year in Nangarhar province, the ministry is establishing 700 kitchen gardens, greenhouses, and small-scale food processing facilities. Ultimately, the project will create 34,600 home-based kitchen gardens with drip irrigation systems in 20 provinces, increasing food security and promoting sustainable livelihoods. The primary beneficiaries of the project are poor and vulnerable women, including widows and their children.

Dr. Shahla didn’t waste any time extending women’s empowerment groups out into the regional offices of the ministry, with immediate plans for groups in seven provinces. And I’m told that the ministry receives ongoing requests from other regional offices for their own women’s empowerment working groups. Dr. Shahla is clearly onto something.

It is stories like these that give me hope for the future. In the meantime, we at IESC will keep working to promote strong and resilient economies’that benefit everyone’and to champion women like Dr. Shahla. Happy International Women’s Day.

This blog was written as part of IESC’s International Women’s Day 2016 campaign. To view all posts related to this campaign, click here

Agriculture Sector Strengthens and Afghan Women Advance

One woman’s journey from fearful speaker to confident leader
Najeba Karimi. Photo: USAID CBCMP-II

With a largely agricultural economy, Afghanistan is working to build up its institutions to better support the sector and the nation’s food security. In the process, women are finding new opportunities to develop professional skills and career paths.

When Najeba Karemi accepted a job with the Ministry of Agriculture at a provincial office in Kabul 27 years ago, she knew she was entering a position that once would have been guaranteed to a man. In a country where women do not have much of a voice in society in general, Karemi felt more confident to develop professionally after she became involved in a USAID program in March 2015.


IESC implements the USAID-funded Capacity Building and Change Management II Program in Afghanistan.

Read the rest of this story on the USAID website.