FAO in Afghanistan

Cash-for-work puts food on Ayub's table while rehabilitating vital agriculture infrastructure

Mohammad Ayoub from Sar-e-Pul Province received cash assistance in return for his labour. ©FAO/SOU

The successive drought in Afghanistan has resulted in constrained access to food and income for most rural families with agricultural livelihoods. An increase in the frequency and intensity of drought in the recent years has forced many farmers and herders in the north-eastern Sar-e-Pul Province to deal with constant and unpredictable environmental shocks such as flash floods.  

Mohammad Ayoub, 37, lives with his family of four at Sang Toda village in the provincial centre of Sar-e-Pul. He used to work as a casual labourer in his village, where he earned a small income while also collecting animal feed and firewood for use at home from the nearby farms. He could barely provide for his family due to the scarce employment opportunities in his village.

FAO provided him with an excellent opportunity to make some money and contribute to the improvement of his community’s agriculture infrastructure. FAO prioritizes landless, food-insecure families for cash-for-work assistance to boost their short-term income and improve infrastructure through rehabilitation of local irrigation and soil-water conservation structures, which typically enhances irrigation availability and improves agricultural production.

Ayoub worked for 20 days along with seven other community members to rehabilitate at least six infrastructures including a flood protection wall, irrigation canal, water well and an access road in the village. He earned 8 870 Afghanis (USD 100) for that period.

The flood protection wall safeguarded the agricultural lands, houses and roads from being destroyed by floods, while the irrigation canal cleaning prevented wastage of water and eased the flow of water to the agricultural fields. The levelling, cleaning and surface smoothing of the access road provided safe and comfortable roadway for transportation to the nearby villages.

“I was in a very difficult spot. Words cannot fully express how elated I was to get paid for my work. I can buy food for my children now. We have rice, wheat, oil, sugar and other essential items for a month,” Ayoub said with a sense of pride and satisfaction about receiving his first payment from this intervention.

The focus of cash-for-work assistance is to enable families to engage in pre-identified activities as a precondition to avoid blanket unconditional provision of cash and hence avoid dependency on humanitarian aid. Through community level activities, it provides employment to unskilled and semi-skilled workers on labor-intensive projects such as rehabilitation of basic infrastructures, irrigation systems, soil conservation, and road maintenance.

With funding from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, FAO reached 1,400 households between November 2021 and October 2022 in the northern Sar-e-Pul Province, providing each household with USD 100 for 20 days of labour in rehabilitation of local infrastructures. The households were selected through a beneficiary profile survey through house-to-house visits and by filling the relevant profile survey questionnaire in KoBo Toolbox data collection and management tool.