Today the first ever prefab Bio-gas units arrived in Bamyan! Bio-gas units convert livestock dung in to gas for cooking. BORDA (the Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association) supplied COAM with a unit for demonsatration in the Bamyan Environment Center. This is the beginning of an exciting new partnership aiming to increase awareness in the benefits of biogas throughout Bamyan.
We have completed a 2023 self-assessment and are street-proven desiging our next 7 year work plan.
Protect, connect, support.
In conclusion of the DFID-funded LANSA (Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia) project, conducted jointly by ECOA and SOAS University of London, two workshops were held in Bamyan on 8-9 July 2018, hosted and catered by Noorband Qala Hotel.
The workshops pursued the following objectives:
- gather inputs from community beneficiaries regarding the project and potential follow-ups
- share our outputs and findings with primary beneficiaries of the project
- gather inputs from other INGOs, government stakeholders and UN clusters on the issues of food security, nutrition and agriculture
- gather inter-agency and inter-cluster inputs to develop an integrated strategy for agrinutrition policies and practices
The workshops concluded ECOA’s part of the LANSA project, carried out jointly with SOAS University of London in 2016-2017. Dr. Nigel Poole, the project lead, delivered keynote presentations on both days, followed by NEPA and MAIL, Medair, CRS and WCS who talked about related activities they conduct across Bamyan province. Presentations and discussions were held both in English and Dari, with the help of bilingual speakers and some interpreting by our own project officer Islamudin Farhank.
The first day of presentations was dedicated to community consultations, whereby 35 beneficiaries (both men and women) attended the event, participated in the discussion, asked questions and voiced their concerns.
Initial research data collected by ECOA showed that despite the abundance and variety of agricultural and livestock produce, nutrition remains a strong seasonal issue in Shah Foladi villages, with some families attesting that they experience particular nutritional and food security challenges in winter (when road infrastructure does not allow to travel to Bamyan bazaar and buy food, reducing nutritional availability to wheat and potatoes), and others – in spring (when winter stocks are depleted, the farming season is just taking off, and mountain forage is not available). Winter storage, or rather availability of a cold storage that could be gradually filled up during the summer for winter season, has been highlighted as one of the key challenges that stand in the way of diversifying winter and spring diets in Shah Foladi rural communities. While some families make use of driers to store fruit and vegetables for winter consumption, this is not a widespread practice, and not all households see orchards or vegetable gardens as essential for food security. All women from the communities who attended the workshop, however, noted that they would be happy to allocate more of their time in the summer for gardening and maintaining fruit orchards, if provided with necessary training. In local agricultural practice, while most men spend the entire day in the field, women are focusing on household duties, dairy farming, and collecting mountain forage (like rewash/rhubarb, shiresh, etc.)
Development and humanitarian NGOs across Bamyan are actively tackling the issue of micronutrient deficiency and related agricultural needs. A presentation from Medair Bamyan focused on the project that implements kitchen gardens alongside compost and WASH trainings in the Central Highlands, in order to develop capacities for sustainable households and empower women. With consultations provided by experienced Medair agri-nutrition specialists, kitchen gardens are envisioned as durable and sustainable solutions for improved household economy.
On the other hand, many families from Shah Foladi communities noted that they do not consider stocking up on summer produce for the winter simply because of insufficient outputs. Most dairy products, essential for nutrition (especially for young mothers, pregnant women and children), are consumed and sold as they are produced, throughout the summer and early autumn. While yoghurt, qurut, milk are still available in Bamyan bazaar during the winter, most Shah Foladi villages do not have access to dairy in winter and spring due to poor household economy and road infrastructure.
Asked about the possibility to increase dairy outputs throughout the summer, all women from Shah Foladi communities agreed that they have both time and capacity to do so, given sufficient equipment and livestock. While one of the suggested initiatives to boost dairy outputs would be to increase livestock numbers and improve its maintenance (which CRS Bamyan discussed in their project presentation), this would produce an obvious impact on biodiversity in Shah Foladi, an area already faced with threats of overgrazing, unsustainable fuel and fodder collection, and soil erosion.
Same concerns would apply to the proposed expansion of farmland, which was taken by the community representatives with a grain of doubt: many villagers said they did not have sufficient access to land or irrigation to maintain more agricultural farmland than they currently do. For a few of them, cultivation of rain fed wheat is a complementary way of securing their livelihoods alongside irrigated farming. Research data presented by WCS Bamyan showed evidence of how unsustainable grazing and widespread cultivation of lalmi (rain fed wheat) is affecting the ecosystem health in Band-e Amir National Park, despite the positive effect of tourism on local economy.
If we were to look into the future of Shah Foladi as a protected area, and the development of ecotourism with reliance on local communities, we must plan ahead to ensure that agriculture and livestock maintenance are developed with a knowledge-based approach, by studying inputs from qualified agriculture professionals and practitioners as well as environmental experts, and careful assessment of previous experiences of integrated approach to ecosystem conservation and livelihoods improvement.
During the community-focused workshop on Day 1, a representative from Jawzary valley (one of the target communities in our research) noted that their village would benefit from professional consultants who could advise on agricultural cycles, nutritional value of different types of produce, and types of crops that could be cultivated throughout the summer to produce sufficient yields and enrich the soil for the following year.
On a policy side, discussed in detail during Day 2, Dr. Poole placed emphasis on the great potential of Citizen’s Charter for decentralized development of agriculture in Afghanistan. To ensure that policies really benefit local communities, they need to be based on local knowledge and experience rather than on top-down approach from Kabul. To ensure that government agencies like MAIL, NEPA, MoPH, MoE are empowered to draft local policies that really benefit community stakeholders, it is vital to gather up-to-date inter-cluster data from local and international stakeholders, academia, and CDCs. The issue of agri-nutrition is relevant not just for the development sector and its long-term projects to enhance agricultural potential of Afghanistan, benefit smallholder farmers and contribute to economic prosperity. Leveraging agriculture for nutrition in Afghanistan could also help government agencies to face humanitarian challenges across the country (related to migration or natural disasters), and tap into some problems within school education (such as irregular attendance due to lack of school meals, and parents pulling children out of school to work on family farms). More importantly, it is only on local basis that we can develop relevant environmental policies to ensure that the enhancement of agriculture does not impact fragile mountain ecosystems in Bamyan province and is ready to correct its course according to environmental assessments and concerns.
As an interactive bonus of the workshop, just before lunch, both men and women were invited to take part in a cooking challenge under instructions of Zainab, a talented chef from Noorband Qala hotel. In order to underline the importance of dietary diversity, the cooking challenge included ingredients of balanced nutritional value, trying to minimize the use of oil and sugar that are extremely popular in local cuisine.
Green pods of okra (bāmīā) are well known and widely used in Bamyan throughout the summer season. If you want to use our recipe, here’re a few simple steps:
- 1/2 kg of okra pods, chopped
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 onion, sliced
- spices – depends whether you want to breathe like a dragon or not after the mealFry the onions in the oil and add chopped tomatoes with a little salt. Throw the chopped okra pods in and add a little water if you fear it might burn. Cook on slow fire until the pods are soft and brownish in colour, adding spices according to your taste. Serve with fried rice or shir berenj (sticky salty milk rice).
In Afghanistan, gender gaps are widespread in health, education, access to and control over resources, economic opportunities and power and political voice. Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, currently estimated at about 31% of the adult population (over 15 years of age). Female literacy levels average 17%, with high variation, indicating a strong geographical and gender divide. The highest female literacy rate is 34.7%, found in the capital, Kabul, while rates as low as 1.6% are found in some southern provinces. Male literacy rates average about 45%, again, with high variation. The highest male literacy rates are in Kabul, at 68%, while the lowest are found in Helmand, at 41% (UNESCO, 2015).
It is COAM’s belief that children are the nation’s greatest resource. There is no task more important than facilitating their education in order for them to lead secure, happy lives. Families, schools, and communities each play an important role in a child’s development. The Baba Green School is dedicated to building bright futures for children and their communities.
One hundred and thirty children from five village communities – Sayed Abad, Naw Abad, Dasht-e-sakhan, Zargaran, and Sarasya – currently attend the Baba Green School. Additionally, there is a kindergarten class for children between the ages of three and five years old and an elementary school for children ranging from six to sixteen years old. It is the only co-educational school in the region, maintaining a gender balance of 50% boys and 50% girls. It is designed to be a model of environmental sustainability and energy efficiency.
Environmental education and awareness is one of the main pillars of COAM’s conservation approach. COAM works to develop a deep understanding of the root causes of environmental degradation and how to prevent them. The installation of solar a solar energy system teaches children and parents alike about renewable energy. It is an interactive way of educating the community about the use of sustainable energy and the environmental benefits of solar power.
With the help of COAM, three solar panels (with a lifetime of 25 years) were installed. A solar water heater was also installed to provide warm water for hand washing and use in the kitchen. The solar energy system is a safe, sustainable, and clean way of powering the school.
The solar energy system receives enough sunlight to generate a daily supply of electricity and to store the surplus for cloudy days and nights. The system provides energy for the entire school, generating enough electricity to power all of the relevant amenities including lights and computers.
Two wood and coal-burning stoves were installed which will heat the entire school throughout the winter. Modifications to the traditional bukhari stoves, which can be hazardous due to their carbon monoxide emissions, ensure a safe and clean environment at Baba School. The stoves will keep the teachers and children warm throughout the winter, which will allow them to better concentrate on their studies. Additionally, curtains have been put up in the windows to conserve heat in winter. Entrance gates to the school have also been installed.
These special facilities greatly support and enhance a child’s education and learning experience. The solar system generates enough electricity to power the lights, heating and energy necessary for the day-to-day running of Baba School. Most primary schools in Bamyan do not have access to these facilities. In winter, there is no electric lighting, heating system or even electricity for the use of computers. Baba School has become exemplary in its leadership of children’s learning. By installing this solar system, COAM and Baba School have greatly increased the children’s capacity to learn throughout the entire school year and enriched the community and the lives of the people who now have access to these facilities.
Baba Green School is expecting an increase in the number of students in attendance due to the implementation of the solar energy system. Now that Baba school has stoves to keep the building warm during the wintertime, and solar panels to provide electricity for computer classes, the school will be able to offer winter classes in addition to classes during the school year, and more students will attend the school. COAM and Baba School have provided children with a clean, safe and wholesome environment in which to learn and grow.
In order to support vulnerable communities in addressing challenges faced from natural disasters, COAM proposes to implement practical community based action components as part of UNEP’s Eco-DRR programme ‘Promoting improved ecosystem management in vulnerable countries for sustainable and disaster-resilient development’.
UNEP, MAIL and NEPA have determined the Koh-e-Baba mountains as key area in which to develop conservation and restoration work, because of a number of factors:
- harsh winter climatic conditions,
- the largely subsistence economy presently suffering bad harvests,
- the scattered nature of communities and
- the increasing rate of inflation
The COAM project will reduce community vulnerability to natural disasters, through landscape interventions, increase awareness of the multiple benefits provided by ecosystems and community engagement and provide a practical field based model for Eco-DRR in Afghanistan.
After many months of developing and changing the curriculum, the final draft of the Beekeeping Training Programme- Basic level is published. The BEES team wanted this programme to be a fun learning experience while also teaching the complexities of beekeeping to a high standard.
We had to think differently, most of these women are illiterate and have either never been to school or only until they were 10 years old. The usual lecture style of teaching would simply not work. We tried to make it fun for the women and as interactive and participatory as possible.
Ms. Hadia – Curriculum developer and beekeeping trainer.
The team spent weeks thinking of visual ways to convey the different beekeeping topics. The programme includes interactive worksheets and the participants will create their own beekeeping manual from pictures and symbols, this will then be used as a reference after the course. There is a real incentive to pass the programme assessment, those who pass will be provided with a complete tool box for setting up their own beekeeping business.
COAM’s graphic designer volunteer, Evelyn Kitt, has produced a wonderful logo for the Bamyan Beekeeping Associations in Yawkalang and the Bamyan Center. Evelyn was supported through ideas and feedback by six ladies that will be managing the Association in the two locations. We are very proud of the final result!
The 13th of March was another landmark date for COAM. Unanimously, it was accepted for membership with the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR). The General Assembly meeting held in Kabul, and attended by 75 national and international NGOs, outlined 6 new members, among which was COAM.
An intense process with numerous questions and challenges, the membership approval was by 100% positive.
We would like to thank all our continuous supporters- the Mr. Ari Mäki, the Ambassador of Finland to Afghanistan; GERES and WCS, in particular Maude Piegay and Richard Paley.
View more on the ACBAR web page: