Protected: Behind the news in Afghanistan with Dr. Kamran Hekmati, Director of Programmes, Hand in Hand Afghanistan
Dr. Kamran Hekmati,
Director of Programmes, Hand in Hand Afghanistan
How has life changed in Mazar-i-Sharif since the Taliban arrived?
At first everyone was frightened and everything closed. But then, life carries on. The shops, markets and businesses, private schools and private universities reopened. For us in Mazar life is OK but it varies across the country.
What’s life like for women?
It is more difficult for women now. If we want to employ a woman we have to get special permission to do so and the working conditions are governed by strict rules limiting their interaction with men and their travel, unless accompanied by a male member of the family.
Are you and the team able to travel freely – especially to visit our members?
Now the Taliban have given us our license, we can operate almost normally.
In some ways things, especially travel, are easier. Now the Taliban are in control the armed roadside checkpoints have gone.
The new regime has actually opened up the countryside. For example in Chimtal district, just south of Mazar, previously it was only safe for us to operate in the 10 government controlled villages – the other 70 were ‘no go’ areas under Taliban control. Now the Taliban control the whole area we can go to all 80 villages. All we need is the funding to do so.
What about the economy?
You used not to see many people begging on the streets, but now you do.
So many people have lost their jobs – the 350,000 employed by the army are now unemployed. Although the private businesses, schools etc are open, the government operations are not. And, everything is smaller because no one has any money to spend.
But, what about the rural economy in northern Afghanistan, where you are?
The farmers aren’t affected by what’s happening in the cities. They rely on the land, livestock and weather for food and living.
They are much more worried about how they and their families will survive the winter – the drought meant the wheat and barley died in the fields this summer, as did much of the livestock.
Everywhere families are hungry.
What are we doing to help our members as famine looms this winter?
People are so hungry they cannot join our programmes until they have had something to eat, so we give every member a food package.
Hand in Hand partners with FINCA in Tanzania
Hand in Hand is teaming up with FINCA, one of the world’s leading microfinance providers, to help hundreds of women micro-entrepreneurs in Tanzania beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs.
Launched last month, the partnership will see FINCA provide financial training and small loans to Hand in Hand’s members in Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions. The loans, which will be offered via tailored Self-Help Group accounts, are crucial to helping members launch and scale up their businesses. Coming from a reputable provider, they could also act as a bridge to bigger loans from more traditional financial institutions.
For more information about the partnership, please email Programme Development Manager Isabel Creixell.
Statement on Afghanistan
Hand in Hand International has been deeply concerned at events in Afghanistan in recent months and, of course, days. With so much hanging in the balance, we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Our colleagues in Afghanistan are safe and accounted for – cautious but not cowed, and already planning ahead. Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, there will always be a place for the tireless efforts of Afghans dedicated to making Afghanistan a better place for everyone, women and men.
In the immediate term, in accordance with contingency plans, our colleagues will shelter in place and await the formation of a new government. Once this new government is formed, they will apply to continue working, helping to support the people of Afghanistan at this most crucial time. For our part, Hand in Hand International in London will redouble our efforts, and call on the NGO and donor community to do the same.
In almost 15 years of working in Afghanistan, we have been humbled time and time again by the strength and resilience of the members we serve. Today, that strength and resilience are at the forefront of our thinking, even as we send our hopes, prayers and wishes to a people that have already suffered so much.
-Dorothea Arndt, CEO, Hand in Hand International
‘They helped me to be so courageous’: Hand in Hand partnership with CARE boosts confidence, incomes
Members who completed Hand in Hand’s joint-programme with CARE in Afghanistan say they have higher incomes, more confidence, increased mobility and greater decision-making power inside and outside of the home.
The findings, reported during a series of focus groups conducted in December 2020, come as part of a wider evaluation of the project, designed to test what happens with programmes that target members’ social empowerment, courtesy of CARE, are blended with programmes that target their economic empowerment, courtesy of Hand in Hand. Launched in 2018, the 22-month project concluded in November last year.
All the project’s members – a greater number than expected – completed Hand in Hand’s business and skills training. Those who needed it also received extra training literacy and numeracy. With their training complete, members received start-up toolkits to help launch their businesses (think sewing machines and thread for tailors or chickens, coops and feed for poultry farmers). The rest was up to them.
By the time the project concluded, 1,101 enterprises had been launched, 11 percent more than the target of 990. What’s more, members had hired 117 of their neighbours as employees, bringing the total number of jobs created to 1,218.
Monthly net incomes rose to an average of AFN 2,152 (US $28), in most cases starting from zero. It was enough to lift the average member above the national poverty line.
The benefits of the programme weren’t only economic, however. Speaking to Hand in Hand Afghanistan evaluators during a series of post-project workshops, members reported improvements in a number of key areas. Here’s just some of what they had to say.
On mobility: “I can feel positive changes in both my household and in my community. Indeed, this project changed in my life. For example, I did not go outside much before my participation in this project but after my participation I become a well-known person in my area. I also became a social person by regularly attending group meetings and vocational training classes. Now I’ve started going to my relative’s houses and participating in their events, and I’m going to the market to buy raw materials for my enterprise too.” – Participant 6, Dehmiskin focus group
On decision-making and confidence: “I can decide on health issues in my family, on my enterprise, on buying food, buying cloths, registering children in school and more… During the two years of the project I received several trainings and they helped me to be so courageous. Before, it was our men who sold our eggs and milk at the market, but now I can decide where to sell them, how much to sell them for and how should I spend my money.” Participant 4, Dehmiskin focus group
On involving husbands in training: “[Before the project] we could not raise their voices and when we wanted to go out. People had negative thoughts about us. That’s changed since men and women both started attending meetings.” – Participant 7, Khulm focus group
Evaluators – and focus group members – made a wide range of recommendations for improving future programmes. Prioritising enterprises that maximise returns while minimising labour was one of them, with members pointing to poultry farming as one example. Caring for chickens only takes two or three hours a day, they said, and chickens lay eggs all year regardless of season. In a context when most men down tools during the harsh winter months, this was seen as especially valuable.
Evaluators also recommended involving more men in future programmes in order to change their attitudes about their wives’ work.
For more information about the programme, please click the link below or contact Hand in Hand International Programme Development Manager Isabel Creixell.
By the numbers
Average income: AFN 2,152 (US$28)
Hand in Hand joins calls for people-, planet-driven recovery at C7 Summit
“We, the representatives of over 200 civil society organisations from around the world have come together at this crucial moment in history to call on the leaders of the G7 to agree a bold and ambitious policy agenda that puts people and planet at the centre of the world’s recovery.”
So begins the communique from Hand in Hand Afghanistan Chair Seema Ghani and other leaders who gathered this month at the Civil Society (7) Summit. The two-day meeting, hosted by industry group Bond, aimed to help shape the agenda at this year’s G7 meeting in Cornwall.
Among other recommendations, the communique calls for governments to “Build Forward” from the pandemic sustainably and inclusively based a new, green economic model. It also calls for the G7 to close the global gap in funding for vaccines and build an early detection system for future pandemics.
To read the full communique, click here.
Hand in Hand CEO elected to SEEP Network board
Hand in Hand International CEO Dorothea Arndt has been elected to the Board of Directors of the SEEP Network, the leading global network for NGOs working in women’s economic empowerment, representing millions of savings groups members worldwide.
Dorothea joins a Board of Directors that includes senior leaders from some of the biggest names in the sector, including Habitat for Humanity International, Oxfam, the Mastercard Foundation and more.
“Each of the individuals shares a strong sense of commitment and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from their respective roles and as members of the network,” the SEEP Network said in a statement.
Dorothea said: “I look forward to advancing SEEP’s disruptive collaboration among members. Each member organisation brings a unique lens to our goal. We only succeed together.”
Established in 1985 with USAID support, the SEEP Network was originally focused on promoting enterprise development and microcredit. Today its 100-plus member organisations, active in 150 countries worldwide, also specialise in agriculture, resilient markets and women’s economic empowerment.
Hand in Hand looks forward to participating in SEEP’s plans to leverage its members’ collective power to foster greater collaboration around funding opportunities and influence government policy.
A letter to our supporters and friends
Dear friends of Hand in Hand,
Those of you who know me know I am not given to hyperbole. Sentiment and pathos aren’t really my thing. And yet, as I look back on 2020, I find myself overwhelmed by the generosity and steadfastness of Hand in Hand’s donors and partners. In this most challenging of years, a heartfelt thanks is in order.
To old friends who stuck by us or upped their support. To new friends who at a time of great personal uncertainty found room in their hearts for people living half a world away. When the world came to a standstill you stood behind us.
Here’s just some of what you did:
- As individuals, responded within 15 minutes – on a Sunday – to an email about our emergency response.
As corporate donors, responded within 24 hours to pledge emergency funds.
- Removed agreed restrictions on your funding, with an instruction to support our existing programme members whatever it took.
- Bid in our first-ever online auction, and got your friends to do the same.
- Went public with your stance not merely to maintain your charitable giving in 2020, but to increase it.
- Enabled Hand in Hand trainers to distribute soap, sanitiser and face masks to nearly 100,000 poor and vulnerable people in hard-to-reach villages and camps.
- Supported our programme members to create more than 250 jobs a day since June, even when a quarter of their small businesses had ground to a halt and more than 39 percent had used up all of their savings during lockdowns.
Last but not least I want to extend a huge thanks to our frontline colleagues in the network, who every single day displayed a humbling level of determination and bravery. “It’s a very heavy responsibility and we feel a sense of fear. If someone has the virus, it’s difficult,” said Hand in Hand Afghanistan trainer Zahra way back in March, as confusion reached its peak. “On the other hand, it’s a pleasure to help our people, who are really in need and live in poverty.”
As the virus continues to circulate across the globe, need and poverty will not be in short supply in 2021. An immense amount of work awaits us. Still, we can be proud of what we have achieved so far. And thanks to your outstanding generosity and our network colleagues’ prowess, we can go even further in 2021. For example, together, we plan to double our outreach year in Kenya, quadruple it in Tanzania and launch our first private-public partnership in Afghanistan.
But before then, have a restful, restorative holiday season and a happy, healthy new year.
CEO, Hand in Hand International
Hand in Hand teams up with IKEA Foundation on planet-positive agriculture
With the right mindset, turning a profit and restoring the environment can be one and the same. That’s why Hand in Hand and the IKEA Foundation are teaming up to help smallholder farmers in Kenya become leaders in planet-positive agriculture, equipped with the training and tools to lift themselves out of poverty, reverse environmental degradation and show their neighbours there’s a better way to farm.
Agriculture employs 70 percent of the rural Kenyans and contributes 26 percent of the country’s annual GDP. But most farmers lack the money, skills and tools they need to get the most out of their land and are forced to use practices that damage the environment, make the soil less fertile and threaten the future of their food systems.
Already, more than a third of Kenyan farmers grow crops on degraded land, costing the national economy an estimated US $1.3 billion a year. Unless we act now, more land will be damaged and productivity will continue to fall, breaking the backbone of Kenya’s economy while causing untold damage to its food systems and natural environment.
With support from the IKEA Foundation, Hand in Hand will train 1,600 smallholder farmers in regenerative and circular practices to increase productivity and reduce poverty.
Regenerative agriculture favours practices such as crop rotation and using organic fertilisers that help restore soil and water systems, ensuring farms remain sustainable long into the future. Circularity means reusing essential resources like water and natural fertiliser, cutting down on agricultural waste and encouraging vibrant local economies, independent from global demand. Together, they comprise a transformative approach to agriculture that does good for farmers and for the environment.
To help take this transformative approach to scale, Hand in Hand will generate evidence and spread project learning to its network of 250,000 smallholder members countrywide. At the same time, it will empower its core group of 1,600 planet-friendly farmers to be grassroots advocates for regenerative and circular practices at the local and regional levels.
The three-year, US $2.5 million project concludes in September 2023.
Why the IKEA Foundation is supporting the project
The IKEA Foundation is supporting Hand in Hand to test, share and scale up planet-positive farming methods so that smallholder farmers can earn a decent income and protect the planet, while laying the foundations for future efforts to promote this approach to farming across Kenya.
By the numbers
Project goal: 1,600 members trained in planet-positive agriculture
Project duration: 3 years
Project cost: US $2.5 million
Hand in Hand named ACT Charity of the Year for third year running
It’s being billed as the Association of Corporate Treasurers’ ‘(Not the) Annual Dinner’, but for the third year running Hand in Hand International most definitely is the Charity of the Year.
On Wednesday 11 November the ACT’s membership will not meet in a packed ballroom in London’s Mayfair to ring in the premier networking event in the corporate finance calendar. Instead, they’ll meet online as the event goes virtual – including a live online auction in support of Hand in Hand.
Funds raised on the night will go towards Hand in Hand’s Fund for Fearless Women, helping vulnerable women beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, lifting their families and their communities out of poverty.
Hosted by business leader and BBC presenter David Meade, the event features an address from Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Research: poverty rate doubles as coronavirus grips Kenya
When Kenya recorded its first case of coronavirus on 12 March, the government wasted no time in acting: within 72 hours strict lockdown measures were in effect, and inter-county travel bans, the closure of open-air markets and a countrywide 9pm to 4am curfew soon followed.
Now, original new research from Hand in Hand is providing perhaps the most detailed look yet at how the smallholder farmers and microenterprise owners that power Kenya’s informal economy, in particular women, are struggling to cope.
The findings, which come as the government of Kenya yesterday extended its curfew by 30 days even while loosening some travel restrictions, paint a bleak picture of shuttered businesses, dwindling savings, and a country with a long road to recovery.
But they also sketch a roadmap to recovery, capturing the areas where our members – and the 11.8 million Kenyans who work in the country’s informal economy – most need support.
In late-May, Hand in Hand staff surveyed 579 Self-Help Group members and 197 borrowers from our Enterprise Incubation Fund, almost 80 percent of them women, to find out they’d been affected by the lockdown. Respondents were randomly selected from 21 branches spread out across the central and southern portions of the country.
How were their businesses coping? Their savings and debt levels? What steps were they taking to adapt? What assistance did they need, financial and otherwise?
Here’s what they said.
83% living in poverty
Before coronavirus forced Kenya into lockdown, 44 percent of sampled members lived below the poverty line of US $1.90 per person per day (Countrywide, the poverty rate is 36 percent.) Eight weeks into lockdown, that number had almost doubled, reaching 83 percent.
25% of businesses closed
A full quarter of respondents’ had been forced to close their businesses. In some areas, that figure was as high as 40 percent. Transport and manufacturing were the hardest-hit sectors, with just 55 percent and 67 percent of Kenyan microenterprise owners still managing respectively. Agriculture, where 78 percent respondents of still had work, and retail, where 75 percent did, were faring best.
67% drop in income
Even when businesses managed to stay open, the picture was bleak: regardless of sector, location or gender, the average drop in business income was 67 percent. Not surprisingly, then, respondents identified low business incomes, a lack of customers due to market closures, and low demand as their most pressing challenges. Rising prices for farm inputs and a lack of affordable transport were other common themes.
69% drop in savings
Before the lockdown, 5 percent of respondents had no savings. Eight weeks later, that figure had shot to 39 percent. Just over half of all respondents, 54 percent, said they’d spent at least some of their savings on household needs including food. An almost equal number, 52 percent, had put at least some towards keeping their businesses running. Five percent were using their savings to pay off loans.
For almost all of them, time was running out. Five weeks ago when the survey was conducted, only 14 percent had a rainy day fund that would last more than a month.
54% plan to take out a loan to restart their business
Forty-two percent of members had no outstanding loans. Among the 58 percent who did, Self-Help Group savings funds and Hand in Hand’s Enterprise Incubation Fund were the two most common sources of credit. Both groups said financing to restart their businesses was their most important requirement, citing an average loan size of KES 27,200 (US $260). Zero-collateral loans, grants and even food donations were requested with no prompting.
Other ways we can help
Financing was our members’ number one requirement – but it wasn’t their only one. Eighty-four percent said they need personal protective equipment including face masks, gloves and soap to reopen. Farm inputs such as new seeds, training to help businesses survive during lockdown, and help accessing markets were also requested.
And then there were members who needed no help at all. Nine percent of respondents said they’d made strategic adaptations to their businesses, ranging from sourcing inputs locally to circumvent transport restrictions to more directly marketing their products door-to-door. In one case, a woman in Nairobi said she was working to make her handmade goods available on an e-commerce platform.
To learn more about this report and how Hand in Hand is adapting our programmes to help our members recover, please contact Hand in Hand International Head of Programmes Amalia Johnsson.