More work and income in northern Afghanistan

Project description

Title: Sustainable economic development and employment promotion in Afghanistan (SEDEP)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Afghanistan
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI)
Overall term: 2014 to 2020


Around 40 per cent of the Afghan population are underemployed or unemployed, and women are worst affected. Every year, around half a million young men and women enter the labour market. Given the security situation and the political uncertainty following the withdrawal of international troops, businesses are reluctant to invest – and young people struggle to find jobs.

Around 80 per cent of the population work in agriculture, agricultural processing and agricultural trade. Agriculture in Afghanistan is mainly subsistence farming, and productivity is low. Surpluses are mostly exported as raw produce. Poor quality and high production costs mean that it is difficult to produce processed goods that are regionally competitive and capable of replacing imports or serving the export market.

There is little cooperation along the value chains: production, procurement, marketing and interest groups rarely interact. As a result, there are not enough jobs in the private sector and on farms.


Sustainable productive employment and income opportunities have been created for economically active men and women in the six northern provinces of Badakhsan, Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz, Samangan and Takhar.


The project improves the value chains for poultry products, milk, wheat and vegetables, as well as for walnuts, almonds and pistachios. It develops the technical, organisational and business skills of employees and managers and establishes networks between the stakeholders. Training is given to service providers and interest groups so that they are able to tailor their services to future demand.

Close interaction between public and private sector decision-makers along the value chain increases the visibility and legitimacy of the Afghan state and strengthens mutual trust among those involved. In all activities, there is a particular focus on the interests and concerns of women.

Together with its partners, the project rehabilitates or sets up rural micro-infrastructure such as irrigation and storage systems. Where necessary, the people and the municipal authorities are taught to operate these facilities themselves.

In 2017, the project began implementing the Returning to New Opportunities programme in Afghanistan. By integrating people into local training and employment programmes, the programme offers returnees, refugees, internally displaced persons and disadvantaged local groups better opportunities for a fresh start. To this end, the project is working with both domestic and international non-governmental organisations, primarily in rural regions.

The project’s partners are the GFA Consulting Group, Caritas International and Hand in Hand International.


From 2014 to 2020, the project has reached over 50,000 people with training, advisory and needs assessment measures. Of these, over 15,000 were women. The project has also created training fields where participants learn improved farming techniques, appropriate use of pesticides and more efficient harvesting methods. Quality has been improved in the poultry and dairy industry too, with a focus on improving the conditions in which animals are farmed and fed, as well as hygiene in the stables. In addition to this, 1,514 people have been trained in the rearing of laying hens. To improve farm productivity, the project supported farmers in the introduction of new production techniques in tunnel systems and greenhouses that should ensure larger and more secure crop yields. Thus, the income of 19,000 agricultural enterprises increased by an average of 67 per cent (2017-2019). Small and medium-sized enterprises also increased their turnover by an average of eleven percent during the period.

Thanks to the project, new dialogue platforms are now available where producers, processors and traders can share experience on a regular basis to minimise existing obstacles to trade and discuss future opportunities and prospects. As part of these activities, two special events have also been introduced for women entrepreneurs and business women, where participants can talk about experiences, plans and opportunities for women.

Furthermore, the project created 8,300 permanent and 13,000 seasonal jobs, 32 per cent of which were for women (2017-2019). In the same period, 28,000 returnees and internally displaced persons participated in measures to promote employment. 94 per cent of them confirmed that the measures improved their chances of getting started.

The project has also supported smaller infrastructure measures in the six target provinces, for example, the construction of two roads and a water reservoir and the renovation of a canal. This has given more than 112,700 people access to key infrastructure facilities in the different value chains. From 2014 to 2019, a total of 125,000 families gained access to improved irrigation, storage and processing facilities.

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