The development of the agricultural sector in Afghanistan is viewed as a critical element in restoring the country’s stability and sustainability. Agriculture provides a livelihood for 80 percent of the population, but Afghanistan’s agricultural base has been eroded by years of war and internal conflict.
At the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), which has oversight responsibilities, found itself unable to facilitate the restoration of the agricultural sector, due to lack of direction, coordination, and investment in employee development and automated management information and communication systems.
Starting in 2008, agricultural development became the focus of particular attention by the governments of the United States and Afghanistan. The U.S. government developed a new Agricultural Assistance Strategy for Afghanistan, and MAIL launched a new National Agricultural Development Framework. In addition, President Karzai appointed a new minister who demonstrated a commitment to improvements in response to public perceptions that the ministry was out of touch with its rural constituency.
To assist MAIL in its efforts to increase its effectiveness, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) managed, a Capacity Building and Change Management Program (CBCMP) for MAIL, launched in November 2010. In announcing the program, former U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry set forth a vision of “an Afghanistan of green valleys and abundant food . . . of proud and prosperous farmers and bazaars full of its agricultural bounty.”
USDA selected the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) to implement the program. ICMA, a VEGA member, served on a team headed by the International Executive Service Corps (IESC). Other team members were Land O’Lakes (also a VEGA member) and the Institute of International Education.
The overall objective of the program was to support the leadership and directorates, or departments, of the ministry as they implemented institutional reforms designed to improve the ministry’s ability to effectively plan and administer agricultural programs in Afghanistan. Like other U.S. government funded programs in Afghanistan, it was designed to be “owned” by Afghans.
MAIL had more than 9,000 employees headquartered in Kabul with 34 provincial offices and almost 400 district offices. Against this challenging backdrop, the IESC team had the following primary objectives:
- Develop the capacity of key MAIL directorates to design, procure, account for, and report on utilization and performance of its financial, capital, and human resources provided through both donor and government funding.
- Design and implement a program of change management to build overall organizational capacity of MAIL to increase its effectiveness in delivering services; this objective was grounded in four “pillars”—performance scorecards, annual work planning, organizational assessment and realignment, and service delivery process improvement.
Program Activities and Accomplishments
To meet these objectives, the IESC team:
- Recruited and trained change management specialists
- Implemented automated systems for financial management, inventory and asset management, time-and-attendance tracking, and other management functions
- Established training and resource centers
- Acted on almost all of the 37 recommendations by an auditor that will enable directorates to qualify for U.S. government funds
- Provided training in English language, finance, and administration for directorate employees
- Provided training in building a workplan with dates and responsibilities for implementation
- Developed and finalized performance scorecards, enabling senior staff to collect ministry-wide indicators into a "performance measurement dashboard" that tracks and reports progress and provides data to support evidence-based decisions
- Worked with key directorates to prepare organizational alignment evaluations and create revised organization structures
- Worked with key directorates to map and improve service delivery processes
- Provided supplemental training for managers and technical personnel at all levels in MAIL to raise the level of their professional skills and to instill a culture based on performance and merit
- Organized workshops to help selected directorates develop a “Logic Framework” to help plan future directions and activities
- Rolled out CBCMP to eleven DAILS (MAIL subunits at the provincial level): Kabul, Nangahar, Balkh, Herat, Kandahar, Paktya, Kunduz, Helmand, Jawzjan, Takhar, and Khost
- Supported the ministry in the organization of successful agricultural fairs that attracted thousands of people.