Between insecurity, restrictive cultural norms and a disparate population spread across difficult terrain, Afghanistan is Hand in Hand’s most challenging operating country. Hand in Hand Afghanistan was established in 2007 when, having caught wind of our success in India, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai approached co-founder Percy Barnevik about working in the country. In keeping with Hand in Hand’s commitment to South-to-South knowledge transfer, teams from India were working with local trainers inside of a year.
Self-Help Groups are difficult to mobilise in Afghanistan, where recruiting women in particular requires patient hard work. Only after mobilising men and building their trust over time do we engage women, typically group members’ wives, sisters and daughters. Over time, we’ve been able to build a female participation rate of 70 percent – well above the target of 35 percent for third sector programmes set by the Afghan government.
Businesses are an important metric for Hand in Hand – especially in Afghanistan, where the clearest path to women’s employment is creating more female business owners
Hand in Hand Afghanistan entrepreneurs are mostly rural. Some engage in traditional crafts like weaving. Others farm or rear cattle, or prepare and can food for sale in local supermarkets. Whatever their occupation, each contributes to the country’s fragile post-war development.
23,627 kits distributed
Credit is virtually non-existent in rural Afghanistan, where Sharia and local customary law prohibit charging interest. Instead of making loans, we provide members with enterprise start-up kits worth an average US $100. Kits provide the inputs required to launch a business in nine accessible, high-margin sectors (poultry, tailoring, etc.). To qualify, members have to provide persuasive business plans and make complementary contributions towards the kits’ cost.
Hand in Hand recently audited two of our biggest completed projects to date, funded in-house and by the European Union, to establish our return on investment (ROI): the amount our members earn per year for every dollar donated. Total project expenditure was US $2.14 million. And the total annual income generated by our members’ enterprises in the first year alone? US $3.12 million, for an ROI of 46 percent. To put those figures in context, consider that the S&P 500 has generated annualised returns of 9.7 percent, including dividends, since 1965.
Hand in Hand Afghanistan works in some of the country’s most remote rural communities, where few other NGOs operate. We have operations in 10 provinces, and plans to expand into one more.
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"As an organisation giving the most marginalised in society an opportunity to start a small business and raise their income, Hand in Hand is a natural partner for the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust. We have supported Hand in Hand since 2011, funding one of their programmes in Afghanistan and more recently in Kenya and have been impressed with the results." Frank Welvaert | Managing Director | The Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust