National Solidarity Programme

Place: afghanistan, Asia
Sustainable development of small rural communities Sustainable development of small rural communities
Total Budget: € 34.000.000,00 | Period: From January 2003 To December 2015


Certain Best Practices of Food Security (BPFS) were acquired as components of rural development programs within the NSP of MRRD. Above the good results achieved through the components of food security, the BPFS of particular significance is represented by the mechanism of project implementation and by both Participatory Community Empowerment (PCE) and  bottom-up approach, successfully applied by the NSP of MRRD.
This mechanism of implementation, once adjusted to meet the needs of agriculture, could be used and replicated by the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture at national level, thus equipping itself with an effective tool for the development of food security that is among the priorities of development sectors in Afghanistan.
The CDCs are the actual gateway for any organization willing to work at village level in Afghanistan.


Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development - Afghanistan

Lead applicant

The Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has the main objective of improving the political, economic and social well-being of rural communities. MRRD pursues its objective paying attention to the vulnerable people, strengthening good governance at local level and providing for tools and extension services. Rural communities are supported to shift from illegal cultivation to a proper agriculture production.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs -Directorate General for Development Cooperation - Italy

Initiative partner

L’organizzazione delle attività di Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, componente essenziale della politica internazionale dell'Italia, fa parte dei compiti del Ministero degli Affari Esteri (MAE), che demanda tali attività alla Direzione Generale per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo (DGCS) che è l’organo preposto ad attuare tale politica, in attuazione della legge n.49/87. La DGCS attua le linee di cooperazione e le politiche di settore nei diversi Paesi, stabilisce rapporti con le Organizzazioni Internazionali, con l’Unione Europea e con le Organizzazioni non governative; programma, elabora ed applica gli indirizzi della politica di cooperazione e le politiche di settore tra cui sanità, ambiente e sviluppo imprenditoria locale; realizza iniziative e progetti nei Pvs; effettua interventi di emergenza e fornisce aiuti alimentari; gestisce la cooperazione finanziaria e il sostegno all’imprenditoria privata e alla bilancia dei pagamenti dei Pvs; promuove e realizza la cooperazione universitaria.

Ministry of Finance - Afghanistan

Initiative partner

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is responsible for managing and executing of the budget, collecting taxes, organizing and controlling public expenditure and payments and finally managing Customs. Its task is knowing the status of revenues and expenditures, managing its financial resources and allocating them effectively. The Ministry of Finance, as the responsible body for public finance and expenditure, has an increasing influence on coordination and management of donors' financial assistance to Afghanistan, while assuring the International community about the standards required for channeling funds through National budget. MoF manages the country's financial affairs through sound economic principles aiming at making Afghanistan budget sustainable, effective and self-sufficient, ensuring that national resources are used in an accountable and transparent manner.

The National Solidarity Program (NSP), in the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), employs a community-led approach that works to empower rural Afghan women and men to design, implement, and monitor development projects in their communities. NSP facilitates a process which fosters new forms of engagement amongst citizens and between citizens and the state and encourages communities to take responsibility of their own development process. This is achieved through Community Development Councils (CDCs), with council members being elected through secret ballots to represent the populations in their constituencies. CDCs serve as democratic forums for local people to discuss development needs, take decisions, create plans, and with the support of the larger community implement these plans. Twenty percent of projects involve irrigation which enable communities to increase food production and twenty seven percent are transport projects which aid in the movement of goods.

NSP was designed to enable rural people to ‘re-build’ their communities through infrastructure projects. It is funded through the government’s development budget by the international community. Whilst the ‘hardware’ component is a key output of the program, in that it contributes to laying the foundations for socio-economic development (through irrigation systems, tertiary roads, electricity, schools, etc.), the CDCs and community-led processes provide the forums and spaces for more inclusive discussions in the context of communities’ development priorities. NSP has paved the way for democratic processes to take hold at the village level. Existing informal bodies of local governance were traditionally dominated by tribal and clan elders and tended to be all male and NSP was designed to bring women into the decision-making process and increase their participation in public life. Women now represent over 40 percent of CDC members. 

EXPO step 2.1_Sharing ideas The picture shows an example of a CDCs meeting held in Herat province. Representation and wider consultation are key governance features embedded in the CDCs' mandate.
EXPO step 2.2_Democracy in action The picture shows an example of a CDCs election held in Herat province. Secret ballot and democratic elections were introduced into rural Afghanistan by the NSP.

Following decades of conflict,NSP began work in September 2003 to assist Afghanistan’s rural population to mitigate and overcome the destruction of infrastructure,the erosion of livelihoods,and the fragmentation of society.Large parts of Afghanistan are uninhabitable, precipitation is erratic, and only 12 percent of its total area is cultivable. In 2003, a large number of Afghans depended on food aid or migrated. To overcome the population’s vulnerability, NSP provides grants to communities for infrastructure construction and works through participatory and inclusive processes to create understanding between people through collective work. Communities contribute a minimum of 10 percent of the value of each infrastructure project, creating a sense of ownership, accomplishment, and pride. Irrigation to bring water to fields and roads to transport goods to markets make up nearly half of all projects and directly contributes to increases in food security.

EXPO step 3.1_Developing a new mind set The picture shows an example of a CDCs training held in Herat province. FP staff build the capacity of CDCs on good governance, gender issues, conflict resolution and mitigation, identification, management and monitoring both development projects and funds.
EXPO step 3.2_NSP subprojects contributing to food supply The picture shows an example of project realization held in Kabul province. Such irrigation canals contribute to increased yield and/or increased area of production.

NSP has established over 33600 CDCs and trained over 900000 CDC and community members, who have implemented over 82900 development projects. Projects related to irrigation make up just over 20 percent of all projects with 840000 hectares of land being irrigated, making a significant contribution to increases in food production.The program also builds retaining and protection walls to prevent floods, protecting crop land.Transport projects make up 27 percent of all projects and facilitate access to markets, hospitals, and schools.  Since 2003, NSP has created over 40 million labor days.Communities’ own contributions to projects amount to USD 192 million, making rural Afghans one of the largest donors of NSP. The Italian contribution, since 2009, has funded the creation of 1300 CDCs with 20000 CDC members trained and nearly 1650 projects implemented. These include irrigation schemes, water and power supply networks, flour mills, protection walls, culverts and roads.  

../file-system/small/pptx ../file-system/small/pptx EXPO step 4.1_Afghanistan NSP_May 2014 EXPO step 4.1_Afghanistan NSP_May 2014

NSP works in all provinces and nearly all districts in Afghanistan.The program directly benefits 6045602 families in rural Afghanistan through improved irrigation,roads,water supply,schools,and health facilities.Irrigation contributes directly to food production,whilst roads facilitate the transport of goods to markets.To ensure sustainability,the program does not only invest in infrastructure,but also in people and NSP has build the capacity of 460000 CDC members in finance and procurement,project management,and participatory planning.The Italian contribution places considerable emphasis on food security and since 2009,in Herat Province,over 16000 CDCs members have been trained and 1.1 million people have benefited.These are largely small landholding households and cattle keepers benefitting from access to water,agricultural land,markets, and power.Much work has been done with women to generate income through homestead gardens,cattle breeding and bee keeping.

EXPO step 5.3_The future of Afghanistan The photos depict NSP subprojects prioritized and implemented by communities themselves. This Girls School is an example of the beneficiaries' commitment in the field of gender equality.
EXPO step 5.4_A new generation is growing up The photos depict NSP subprojects prioritized and implemented by communities themselves. Children are collecting water from the shallow well with hand pump, they will drink safe water and they will growp-up healthy.
EXPO step 5.5_Walking The photos depict NSP subprojects prioritized and implemented by communities themselves. This basic access road allows peolple to cover more distance in less time and to reach places inaccessible before.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf EXPO step 5.1_NSP Beneficiaries & output summary July 2014 EXPO step 5.1_NSP Beneficiaries & output summary July 2014
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf EXPO step 5.2 EXPO step 5.2_NSP Irrigation & Transport Subprojects impact on the beneficiaries

NSP is guided by a Steering Committee, chaired by the First Vice-President, with 10 line ministers serving in the committee.The program is Afghan-led and the implementation unit consists of 946 staff, including four international advisors. There are 662 field staff working in 34 provinces. NSP’s financial management is outsourced to a Financial Management Agent who manages the program’s financial operations. NSP works through 34 Facilitating Partner NGOs, with 981 male and 445 women social mobilizers who work with CDCs and community members. At the village level, there are 460,000 CDC members who manage the projects. The Italian contribution deals with 30 NSP staff deployed at the PIU and the Provincial Offices.There are 13 FPs and over 20,000 CDC members involved in activities linked to the Italian contribution. There is 1 Program Coordinator, an expert in rural development, who works in Kabul at the Italian Cooperation headquarter with frequent travel to Herat.

EXPO step 6.2_FPs' role Facilitating partner staff training communities in participatory community development planning and social audit.
EXPO step 6.3_FPs' role 2 NSP builds the capacity of the CDC members in a variety of functions related to both governance and development. This includes participatory community development planning, project management, basic accounting and procurement, etc.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf EXPO step 6.1_NSP flowcharts Illustrative charts on NSP stakeholders, field partners and project implementation unit structures.

The two profound challenges for the program have been ensuring women’s inclusion in CDCs, and the deteriorating security.For the former, NSP has instituted a quota system, whereby key positions in the ‘core committees’ of CDCs are reserved for women. This scheme has increased women’s inclusion in key positions in CDC from 4 percent to 35 percent and 45 percent respectively in first and second block grant communities. Studies have shown that men are now more accepting of women’s involvement in public affairs. In terms of security, the situation is highly fluid with areas in which anti-state groups do not allow government programs to operate. In consultation with stakeholders, NSP has developed a strategy that includes frequent assessment of the security situation from the locality and more flexibility during implementation. In highly insecure areas, the CDCs take greater responsibility for projects and facilitation takes place through locally recruited staff.  

EXPO step 7.1_Women Empowerment 1 Given cultural and traditional restrictions on rural Afghan women, NSP ensures separate trainings and female social organizers to build the capacity of women CDC members.
EXPO step 7.2_Women Empowerment 2 Given cultural and traditional restrictions on rural Afghan women, NSP ensures separate trainings and female social organizers to build the capacity of women CDC members.

NSP is administered by the World Bank, who is committed to ensure that its projects and programs do not adversely impact the environment. NSP follows the WB’s Environmental and Social Safeguards Rules and has several staff committed to this work. Prior to construction, each project is first assessed in terms of its impact on the environment and building begins only after the government engineers from NSP’s provincial offices have given clearance. All of NSP’s projects are small-scale with low environmental impact. Further, many of the projects are environmentally friendly, e.g. protection of arable land from floods, water reservoirs that allow for additional crops, and micro hydro-power plants that produce electricity through ‘clean’ methods. Similarly, the reconstruction of karez represents good development practice’ as the irrigation method is ‘green’ and is based on a tradition of community management and contributions to maintain the system. 

EXPO step 8.2_Retaining wall project A retaining wall protects agricultural production from flooding and natural disaster.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf EXPO step 8.1_NSP Environmental Social Safeguard Framework NSP follows the World Bank approved environmental and social safeguards framework

NSP’s methodology of community led development places people at the heart of the development initiative and people analyze their situation,discuss potential actions,decide and plan,and mobilize resourcesThis leads to self-determination and builds confidence,ultimately adding up to empowerment and self-reliance.As a result,CDCs take action on their own and examples include better off households providing poorer households with livestock to address their food insecurity,collective action to construct rural roads,pooling of resources to construct schools,and other important infrastructure.Further,a Policy passed in 2013 formalizes CDCs and instructs all government and non-government organizations to work through these participatory institutions by channeling development funds,thereby institutionalizing CDCs and ensuring their sustainability.Some line ministries are already working through CDCs and these bodies are slowly emerging as a nation-wide public service delivery.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf EXPO step 9.1_The NSP Working in the Mountain Ranges_Success Story EXPO step 9.1_The NSP Working in the Mountain Ranges_Success Story

NSP has a Public Communications Department that uses various media–radio, film, photos, and reports to disseminate information and knowledge. Local radio programs in the two national languages allow rural people to phone in and share their experiences, knowledge, challenges and successes with each other. Every three years, NSP brings hundreds of CDC members together in a CDC Conference at Kabul, facilitating face to face learning and sharing amongst CDC members from across the nation. The Italian contribution has financed several videos in local languages. These have been widely shown across the country and abroad and are available on NSP’s and the Italian Cooperation’s website. 

Italian contribution to National Solidarity Programme: http://www.coopitafghanistan.org/?p=1724

NSP Official Website: http://www.nspafghanistan.org/ 

Italian bet on NSP The video shows when, where, what and why Italian Government funded the second round of NSP from 2008 up to 2012