IsDB/AHTF and Aga Khan Foundation Announce Landmark Partnership for Development in Rural Afghanistan

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 12 May 2023 – Under the auspices of HE Dr. Muhammad Al Jasser, President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), an Implementation Partner (IP) Agreement was signed today between the IsDB, as the Trustee of the Afghanistan Humanitarian Trust Fund (AHTF) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) on supporting the Sustainable and Inclusive Transformation of Agrarian Economies in Rural Afghanistan (SITARA).

The agreement was signed by Mohammad J. Alsaati, Special Adviser to the IsDB President and AHTF Coordinator, and Dr. Matt T. Reed, Director of Institutional Partnerships of AKF and CEO of AKF UK, on the sidelines of the 2023 IsDB Group Annual Meetings in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The signing event was attended by senior representatives from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), member countries, implementing partners, and other stakeholders, as well as guests.

IsDB President HE Dr. Muhammad Al Jasser stated: “SITARA promotes self-reliance by creating income-generation opportunities, builds capacities of beneficiaries, and improves agricultural production. It will contribute to rebuilding the foundations of socioeconomic development in the country. The local communities will greatly benefit from such projects, lifting them out of poverty. I am glad IsDB has swiftly worked with Aga Khan Foundation to finalize the project’s formulation and start the implementation phase. On this occasion, I would like to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center for their USD 10 million contributions to the AHTF”.

As an implementing partner, the AHTF will extend a grant of USD 800,000 to AKF to carry out the project across two provinces in the northwest region of Afghanistan. The AHTF grant funding comes from a contribution from KSrelief.

SITARA will facilitate 803 households in the northwest Afghanistan provinces of Kunduz and Takhar. It will directly support households utilizing the platform established by the ongoing Food Security and Agriculture Sustainability for Livelihoods (FASL) Project, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC). The project is a good example of effective partnerships.

Recognizing the household as the fundamental unit in a community with unique challenges, opportunities, resources, and skills to deal with the broader social and economic difficulties in their own ways, SITARA will facilitate entrepreneurial and catalytic transformational activities to promote rural development. Appropriate customized solutions will be devised to address their individual situations and challenges to ensure that households graduate out of poverty by optimally utilizing tailored and targeted technical and financial support.

Through its innovative and customized approach, SITARA will improve agricultural production, create income-generation opportunities, build the capacity of rural households to resolve their problems collectively, and offer financial products to sustainably accelerate their self-development. The resultant improved household incomes, enhanced assets, and skills will create a snow-balling effect to enable households to not fall back into vicious cycles of poverty.

Commenting on the IP agreement, Eng. Mohammad J. Alsaati, Special Adviser to the IsDB President and AHTF Coordinator, said: “We are pleased to partner with AKF to provide sustainable livelihoods for the brothers and sisters of Afghanistan, especially those in the worst-affected regions. We are committed to ensuring the success of our efforts in the country under AHTF, working with our implementing partners to find innovative solutions to uplift the lives of those in most desperate need.”

The Director of Institutional Partnerships of AKF and CEO of AKF (UK), Dr. Matt T. Reed, said: “We are delighted to sign this agreement with the AHTF and Islamic Development Bank. The support could not come at a more important time, with 90 percent of Afghans in economic distress. This project will build on the long-standing presence and commitment of the Aga Khan Development Network in Northern Afghanistan, supported by AKF and many other development partners. Together, we are making a critical difference to people and communities confronting enormous challenges.”

The IP Agreement comes at a time when the country reels from the combined impact of the ongoing economic crisis, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the three-year drought that has created the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with more than 26 million people requiring assistance on multiple fronts in Afghanistan. The ongoing crises have deepened poverty-related issues, which SITARA intends to mitigate in the targeted communities.

AHTF seeks to address key areas of development in Afghanistan, such as enhancing food security, supporting small and medium enterprises to create local employment opportunities, improving access to quality education with a particular focus on females, empowering women and youth, and providing health facilities in remote rural communities.

The AHTF serves as a vehicle to channel humanitarian assistance, address basic needs, and promote self-reliance and development in the country, following the decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC at its 17th Extraordinary Session held on 19 December 2021 in Islamabad, Pakistan.