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Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories

Founder(s): ESRC
Status: Completed

“The struggles that many rural Afghans face to feed their families and prepare their children for the future cannot be ignored. Policies focused primarily on growth and markets, which do not consider who will benefit and how, are unlikely to reach the most poor or fulfil their needs.”
The Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories project builds on the results of a prior AREU study conducted in 2003-04. Through case studies in Faryab, Badakhshan, Sar-i-Pul and Kandahar Provinces, it examines patterns of change in rural household livelihoods over the course of the past decade, informed by changes in contexts within which people lead their lives and the practices they implement to cope with these changes.
Findings from the studies suggest that many rural households in drought-hit northern provinces are poorer now than they were at the start of the decade. Despite development aid that has brought tangible improvements in the provision of education, healthcare and clean drinking water, the daily struggle to put food on the table remains the overwhelming concern for many village households. Policymakers in recent years have generally overlooked this reality, restricting their focus to simple GDP growth. Yet people in rural Afghanistan are increasingly caught in a poverty trap with few escape routes.
Poverty reduction must remain a major focus of policymakers if Afghanistan is to achieve lasting economic security. Future efforts to this end must ensure that the concerns of rural Afghans such as failed harvests, ill-health and crippling marriage costs are addressed, and that programming takes the systemic causes of poverty into account as well as provides technical assistance.

Publications from this research project:

Rethinking Rural Poverty Reduction in Afghanistan

This policy note draws on the findings of AREU’s Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories project. It calls for a re-examination of poverty reduction strategy in Afghanistan as donor and government priorities shift in anticipation of the 2014 transition process. Outlining some of

Beyond the Market: Can the AREDP transform Afghanistan’s rural nonfarm economy?

The recently-launched Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program (AREDP) was set up as a mechanism to promote rural employment and reduce poverty through market-led growth. However, the limitations of both agriculture and opportunities away from the farm as a path to

Running out of Options: Tracing Rural Afghan Livelihoods

In 2002-03, AREU documented the livelihoods of dozens of households across rural Afghanistan. When research teams revisited a selection of these families in 2008-09, they found the majority worse off than before, with many struggling to meet even the most

Understanding and Addressing Context in Afghanistan: How Villages Differ and Why

This paper explores how geography, politics, and history conspire to shape the individual character of Afghan villages. Broader regional identities—central or peripheral, mountain or plain—are overlaid onto local factors such as wealth distribution and ethnic diversity to produce individual “village

Securing Life and Livelihoods in Rural Afghanistan: The Role of Social Relationships

This paper examines how rural households’ position in the web of social relationships that underpins Afghan village life can have a defining effect on their livelihoods. These can vary from charitable relations and informal exchanges of credit—in some cases stretched

Decline and Stagnation: Why Rural Afghans are Staying Poor

Paula Kantor outlines some of the findings of AREU’s Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories project, highlighting how rural livelihoods for many rural Afghans are getting worse because of cost shocks related to failed harvests, healthcare spending and marriage practices.

Poverty in Afghan Policy: Enhancing Solutions through Better Defining the Problem

Over the past few years, Afghan policymakers have put aside strategies encouraging pro-poor growth in favour of solutions that focus on expanding GDP. In addition, existing solutions to poverty are becoming increasingly technically-oriented and fail to take local social realities

Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories: Evidence from Faryab

This is the Faryab case study from the Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories project, which explored rural livelihood change in four provinces of Afghanistan. The paper finds notable deterioration in the livelihood security of the three study villages, each with a dominant

Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories: Evidence from Sar-i-Pul

The Sar-i-Pul case study from the Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories (ALT) project, which explored rural livelihood change in four provinces of Afghanistan. The study built on a baseline research study conducted by AREU in 2002-3, providing a unique opportunity to follow

Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories: Evidence from Kandahar

This Kandahar case study is part of the Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories (ALT) project, which explored rural livelihood change in four provinces of Afghanistan: Badakhshan, Kandahar, Faryab and Sar-i-Pul. The study built on a baseline research project conducted by the AREU

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