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 2018


Around half of the Afghan population is underemployed or unemployed, with women being particularly hard hit. 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. As a result, there are simply no jobs available for young people.

The agriculture sector, along with the processing of and trade in agricultural products, together account for roughly 80 per cent of jobs in the country. The sector is characterised by high levels of subsistence farming and low productivity. Production surpluses are mostly exported as raw produce. Poor quality, coupled with high production costs, mean that it is difficult to produce processed goods that are not only able to compete on a regional basis but can also substitute imports or serve the export market.

Stakeholders in the agriculture sector in Afghanistan lack the knowledge they need to be able to increase their value added. Cooperation along the value chains is limited, thus hindering smooth interaction between production, procurement, marketing and advocacy. As a result, the private sector and farms are unable to generate sufficient jobs.


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 increases 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 demand in future.

Close dialogue 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 the stakeholders. 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 population and municipal authorities are taught how to operate these facilities themselves.

In 2017, the project began implementing the Returning to New Opportunities programme in Afghanistan. During the civil war at the start of the 1990s, millions of Afghans were forced to flee the country, mostly to Pakistan and Iran.

By integrating people into local training and employment programmes, the programme improves the chances for a new start for returnees, refugees, internally displaced persons and the disadvantaged local population. To this end, the project is working with both domestic and international non-governmental organisations, especially in rural regions.

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


Between 2015 and 2017, around 19,000 enterprises and smallholder farms benefited from the training measures carried out under the project. According to the participants, their income rose by approximately one third, with half of them attributing this increase to the new knowledge they had acquired. Over the same period, almost 13,000 new jobs were created, of which roughly 7,000 were permanent and around 6,000 seasonal. Accounting for over 20 per cent of the new jobs, women are also sharing in this growth – a major success in a cultural environment in which it is once again becoming more difficult for women to find and accept employment.

One example of the project’s work is its support for the Pakiza dairy in Mazar-e Sharif. SEDEP helped in devising a business plan and training staff members. Milk supply groups were organised and farmers trained in how to increase milk yields and to improve the health of their cows. The project conducted hygiene training for milk collectors and developed innovative products and marketing ideas together with workshop participants. In the Pakiza dairy alone, 20 new jobs were created.

Since the project began, 44 micro-infrastructure projects have been completed with SEDEP support to improve production and marketing conditions along the value chains. Around 34,000 people benefit directly from these small-scale construction measures.

The procurement locally of poultry products for the Afghan army is a major positive outcome of the dialogue forums fostered by the project between the administration and the private sector. At least 23 per cent of the supplies to the armed forces, comprising more than half a million people, come from local produce.