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Afghan Government Officials Participating in a Study Tour on Promoting Alternative...
Written by Helena Raijas-Walch, IMA International   
Afghan Government Officials Participating in a Study Tour on Promoting Alternative and Sustainable Livelihood Strategies in Chiang Mai, Thailand

IMA International, a training organisation based in Hurstpierpoint, coordinated a recent study tour on Promoting Alternative and Sustainable Livelihood Strategies in Chiang Mai, Thailand for senior Afghan government officials. The study tour was related to the UK Department for International Development (DFID) Funded Project ‘Support to Strategic Planning for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods in Afghanistan’.

The participants were from three different ministries in Afghanistan namely the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation & Rural Development (MRRD), the Ministry of Agriculture & Animal Husbandry & Food (MAAHF) and the recently established Ministry of Anti-Narcotics (MAN). MRRD and MAAHF are in the process of considerable organisational change in order to respond to the broader development process occurring throughout the country.  Long term strategic planning processes in both ministries are underway in order to ensure that the two organisations can effectively promote and support nation wide sustainable livelihood strategies.

An emerging threat to these livelihoods is the burgeoning growth in illicit poppy production, with the opium business now accounting for one third of all economic activity ¹. As an illegal activity the trade in poppy undermines good governance and promotes corruption within the country. A new Ministry of Anti-Narcotics leads the campaign against the poppy trade but it is clear that it is the responsibility of all development organisations, both public and private sector, to engage actively in the search for alternative livelihood strategies.

The objective of the 11 days study tour was to expose the Afghan officials to approaches and practices in community development, programme/policy development and public sector reform aimed at promoting alternative and sustainable livelihood strategies in Thailand and in turn reflect and consider this knowledge in the Afghan context.

The group with their national and international course director visited some twelve Thai organisations and institutions in the districts of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand. The tour included visiting the Royal Projects initiated by Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother such as the Hilltribe Crop Replacement Centre in Chiang Doa and the Royal Post Harvest Centre and Royal Food Processing Project in Chiang Mai. The group also visited projects in the ‘Golden Triangle’ Chiang Rai district in the Laos-Myanmar-Thailand border area notorious for its poppy cultivation and illicit opium trade history.

During the study tour the participants could examine the role and functions of public sector development agencies in supporting alternative livelihood strategies They got new insight in rural business development covering marketing, transport and cooperatives and could see public-private partnership in action. After individual visits, discussion sessions were held with participants to identify key learning points and to decide appropriate actions/follow-up activities on their return to Afghanistan.

The exposure of Afghan government officials to the approaches developed in Thailand, will greatly assist Afghanistan as it develops new strategies, programmes and activities to promote alternative and sustainable livelihoods aiming to reduce and ultimately finish the poppy cultivation. The visit has also been a good ground for discussions on future co-operation between Thai and Afghan institutions.

For comments or further information contact IMA International
Tel. +44 (0) 1273 833 030

¹  DFID “A Changing Nation. DFID Support To Afghanistan”
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