Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Lack of access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities continue to be major problems in Afghanistan. Contaminated water and unsafe disposal of human excreta are main drivers of various diseases, compounded by poor hygiene practices affecting the health and life quality of rural communities.

The high rate of water-borne diseases is especially affecting those most vulnerable such as women and children. To effectively respond to these problems, we undertake WASH interventions aimed at providing safe drinking water through the establishment of wells and other water systems such as gravity pipe networks, solar powered pipe schemes, and bio-sand filters for household water treatment. We also undertake extensive water quality testing and ground water monitoring in support of the WASH sector in Afghanistan.

To ensure maximum health impact, our WASH interventions combine provision of safe drinking water with improved sanitation and hygiene education. This approach follows the WASH policy of the Government of Afghanistan and has proven highly effective in ameliorating health and quality of life among the beneficiaries.

We endeavor to ensure equal access to water by both women and men within the cultural context that we work in. Women are engaged in site selection in around40% of locations for water points in a given community, thus ensuring that their concerns and needs are considered in the process. Furthermore, women are central in the hygiene component as they are usually the ones collecting and handling water in the households, as well as they are in charge of cooking, cleaning, raising children, and handling waste.

Through our WASH component we have over the past two decades helped establish more than 45,000 water points across 29 of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan providing millions of Afghans with safe drinking water.

As one of the experienced actors in the WASH sector we have been engaged in building capacity in the WASH sector and in influencing policy formulation at a national level. We are currently the co-lead for WASH cluster together with UNICEF and WHO.

Water Expertise and Training Center (WET Centre)

The WET Centre was established in 2010 in close collaboration with Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). CAWST is a Canadian non-profit that provides training and consulting to organisations working directly with populations in developing countries who lack access to clean water and basic sanitation.

The WET Centre aims to increase access to and use of safe drinking water and improved hygiene and sanitation in Afghanistan through supporting the capacity of WASH actors to implement high-quality projects.

WET Centre activities include delivery of high quality formal training workshops on a variety of WASH subjects to practitioners and end-users at national and sub-national level. Other activities include undertaking action research, best practice studies and learning exchanges in support of the WASH sector in Afghanistan as well as hands on consulting and technical support to WASH implementers.

In addition to this, a well-equipped Water Quality Testing Laboratory embedded in the WET Centre provides clients with water quality testing services.

Ground Water Monitoring System

We operate a network of 261 Groundwater Monitoring Wells installed in 22 provinces of Afghanistan. When security permits, we measure water table and physical parameters for each of these wells on a monthly basis and undertake water quality tests for them every six months.The data from these measurements and tests are stored, analyzed, interpreted, mapped and reported with the help of a specialized Integrated Water Resources Data Management System.

As the only nation-wide data source on the subject in Afghanistan, the system provides crucial long-term scientific information regarding groundwater quality and quantity and the sustainability and functionality of water points in support of planning of water supply projects by DACAAR and other WASH actors.

Related reports include:


Through our programming, we address some of the most fundamental poverty problems such as lack of access to safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation, food insecurity, insufficient income, and social constraints on of women.

These problems are generally interlinked and mutually reinforcing, leading to poor livelihoods, health and life quality for most people in rural areas.

To target this complex of problems in the most effective way, we focus our activities on four interlinked thematic areas of intervention:
we focus our activities on four thematic areas of intervention:

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
  • Natural Resources Management (NRM)
  • Small-Scale Enterprise Development (SSED)
  • Women’s Empowerment (WE)
In addition to the above, weare an implementing partner to the National Solidarity Programme (NSP)of the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.


We employ a holistic yet flexible approach to all rural development interventions in order to ensure long-term viability of projects to foster a strong civil society and promote ownership among citizens and public authorities.

Integrated approach

We continually review and fine tune our approach with the ultimate goal of meaningfully helping improve the quality of life for as many vulnerable rural Afghan communities within the means available as possible.   We apply our activities under the four thematic areas, WASH, NRM, SSED, and WE as well as the National Solidarity Programme in an integrated manner according to the specific needs and priorities of the targeted communities. We do this while taking advantage of the potential for synergies among these areas of interventions.

For example, our interventions in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) meet some of the most basic needs of a large number of beneficiaries within a relatively short period of time, freeing up their time and energy through proximity of water points and reduced effects of water-borne diseases. This time can be meaningfully applied to others things e.g. income-generating activities offered under the Small-Scale Enterprise Development (SSED) component.Additionally, the community mobilisation under e.g. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Natural Resources Management (NRM) as well as National Solidarity Programme (NSP) could pave the way for encouraging local men’s consent as well as organising women for the establishment of Women’s Resource Centres under the Women’s Empowerment (WE) component.

Our interventions onNatural Resources Management (NRM), Small-Scale Enterprise Development (SSED) and Women’s Empowerment (WE) focus on activities aimed at training and skills building of beneficiaries in the essential areas of capacity required for high impact. Each beneficiary receives training and inputs only for one capacity.  Beneficiaries will then share knowledge and know-how with each other, paving the way for the horizontal spread and multiplication of capacities.

Community-based approach

In working with the communities, we employ a community-based approach that has been tried and tasted over our almost three decades of engagement in humanitarian and development activities.  With the consent of relevant local authorities, we engage with communities through existing community-based organisations such as Community Development Councils (CDCs), village shuras and/or district development assemblies.

Community mobilisation happens at several stages and ensures full representativeness to ensure ownership and participation at all levels of the community, thereby enabling communities to identify needs, set priorities and acquire capacity for implementation by being an integral part of it.

Cross-cutting issues and strategic priorities

In all our activities we ensure mainstreaming gender as much as possible within the varied cultural contexts that we work in.  Likewise, we consider protection and environment as important cross-cutting issues in our programming.

Additionally, our programmes are designed and implemented in such a way as to ensure conflict prevention and do-no-harm.

Where applicable we also engage in Disaster Risk Reduction activities as part of our programmes,organising community members in Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction Committees,linking them at district and provincial level and building their resilience and awareness in order to minimise the impact of disasters.

Our contribution to national plans

Our interventions follow the applicable and relevant National Priority Programmes (NPPs) and other national plans such as National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan (NAPWA) and Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Our Strategic Programme Framework (SPF) is linked to the objectives of these plans and is aligned with the broader aims reflected in the strategic vision for the Transformational Decade, subscribed to at the Tokyo Conference. In addition, DACAAR contributes to the provisions of the Mutual Accountability Framework accompanying the Tokyo Declaration.

At the operational level, DACAAR enters into specific MoUs with relevant line ministries such as Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyred and the Disabled (MoLSAMD), Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and Ministry of Education (MoE) and ensures direct dialogue, coordination, capacity building and reporting lines with relevant directorates at sub-national level.

In addition, our implementation methodologies and guidelines for different thematic areas are fully aligned with those of the relevant line ministries. For example, our WASH interventions follow the MRRD’s WASH Policy and Implementation Guidelines, ourvocational training programmes follow the established guidelines and policies of MoLSAMD while our literacy programme follows the policies, guidelines and curricula developed by the MoE.

Natural Resources Management

Proper Natural Resources Management (NRM) and particularly agriculture based Natural Resources Management continues to remain an important sector for the livelihoods of the Afghanistan’s populations and as such the overall Afghan economy. According to National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) 2011-2012, agriculture is the main source of income of close to one-third of households and 40 percent of the labour force is employed in the sector. Irrigated land in particular provides an important resource for 38 percent of households in the country, while 17 percent have their livelihoods attached to rain-fed agriculture.

Despite the above, productivity of farmland is often low, as indicated by the large shares of land left uncultivated. Uncultivated land makes up 20 percent of irrigated land and as much as 37 percent of rain-fed land – mainly due to lack of water but also because of soil infertility. This situation is further exacerbated by farmers frequent lack of knowledge and skills in good agricultural practises and livestock farming and their inability to access quality inputs. The above situation plays a key role in the high rates of food insecurity prevailing in the country. NRVA 2011-2012 analysis indicates that around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s population are food insecure.

In order to tackle the above problems, we concentrate our NRM activities on promoting proper management of natural resources, by engaging a large number of farmers and rural households and building their capacity in more efficient and sustainable agriculture and livestock farming practices and supporting them with appropriate and quality inputs.

Also, in order to ensure that sufficient water is available for the farms, we undertake rehabilitation of existing small-scale irrigation infrastructures as well as construction of new ones including water canals, intakes and dividers. We also promote water harvesting techniques and integrated water management among the communities.

In recent years, we have been a leading organisation in promoting saffron cultivation in Afghanistan. Over the past few years, we have also been increasingly supporting farmers in rehabilitating and establishing fruit and non-fruit orchards and nurseries, bio-engineering, and low-cost soil moisture conservation.

Small-Scale Enterprise Development

Lack of opportunities for employment and income generation is commonplace in the rural areas of Afghanistan. Insecurity, poverty, lack of skills and resources among the rural populations prevent development of rural businesses. This problem is compounded by a generally poor business climate and lack of institutional support that can enable establishment of viable and successful rural businesses.

Considered as a major driver for Afghanistan’s economic development, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) remain high on the agenda for the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The National SME Strategy aims at creating one million jobs across the country and adding three billion USD to the Afghan economy by 2018.

Our Small-Scale Enterprise Development (SSED) programme component is fully aligned withthe strategies and plans of the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and as such we work closely and complementarily with the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyred and the Disabled (MoLSAMD).

Our efforts in SSED include support to communities in the establishment of Producer Associations (PAs) and building their knowledge and capacity through hands-on technical and management training and providing them with start-up grants.

Other efforts include supporting the registration of these associations as SMEs with the Government of Afghanistan, supporting market linkages and providing on-going technical advice and assistance for an initial period of at least two years.

A Producer Association is a small business bringing together a group of like-minded farmers to join efforts and pool resources in order to produce, process, package and market specific rural products. The entity is jointly owned by the members and controlled by a democratically elected management committee.

In addition to this, our SSED interventions support employment and income opportunities among the most vulnerable (particularly the unemployed youth) through provision of centre-based vocational training. Graduates are provided with start-up grants and toolkits upon successful completion of the courses.

We undertake extensive socio-economic feasibility studies in order to ensure that the above interventions meet the needs for products and services in the rural areas and as such ensure creation of sustainable rural businesses, as well as employment and income opportunities.

Women’s Empowerment

Afghanistan has seen considerable progress over the past decade in regard to the situation of women and girls. Legal and institutional frameworks are in place at national level and progress has been made in relation to women’s rights, education and participation in political, social and economic spheres.

Despite this, huge challenges are still to be overcome in relation to improving women’s rights, status and participation, especially in the rural areas of Afghanistan.

Although common factors such as insecurity, poverty, lack of infrastructure and weak rule of law negatively affect both men and women, some challenges faced by women are amplified by women’s role in the society.

Challenges such as restrictions on mobility and inability to access resources are unique to the status of women in the Afghan society. Further, high illiteracy rates and a lack of awareness of basic rights among Afghan women will mean that they are often represented by the men of the household, and as such their voices and concerns are disregarded in the important household and community decisions.

OurWomen’s Empowerment (WE) interventions target some of the major challenges faced by rural women by improving their social and economic status in their communities through activities that engage both men and women. We often spend months working with the community to ensure their understanding of and support and buy-in before any activity is started.

Women’s Resource Centre

Our Women’s Empowerment (WE) interventions are integrated and carefully planned sets of social and economic activities engaging women in a targeted manner based on their specific needs and the context they are in. The women are most often brought together in self-organized collectives creating opportunities for them to participate in income generating activities and targeted educational and capacity building initiatives.

These collectives are called Women’s Resource Centres (WRCs) and serve as the main vehicle for the Women’s Empowerment (WE) activities, allowing rural women to come together in a safe women-only (culturally accepted) centre to train, learn, and develop leadership skills, engage in small businesses and income-generating activities,discuss, share insight and knowledge and generally support each other.

The WRCs are legally registered with the Ministry of Justice and Law of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) and linked strongly with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs so that they operate in a legal fashion and are able to access support and resources available nationally.

Each Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) provides opportunity for more than 500 women to come together from five villages (CDCs) while leadership for the Centre is democratically elected. Since 2004, we have facilitated the establishment of 49 Women’s Resource Centres (WRCs) and one Women’s Coordination and Social Collective, aWRC Cluster with 30,716 members.

It is not always possible to get the communities to agree to the idea of establishing a WRC. In such instances, our support is not discontinued but rather focused on individual vulnerable women such as women who are heads of households until such time when the community agrees to the idea of a WRC.

National Solidarity Programme

As a consequence of many years of war, Afghanistan suffers from a weak system of reconstruction, lack of service delivery and general lack of responsiveness to needs in the rural areas. As a response to some of these issues, the government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) in 2003 launched the National Solidarity Programme (NSP).

DACAAR has been involved in the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) from the onset of the programme. The NSP aims to strengthen communities to establish their own democratically elected women’s and men’s Community Development Councils (CDCs), and it works to build their capacity for local governance/community management. When CDCs have been established, they are also supported in linking up with government agencies, NGOs and donors in order to improve their access to services and resources.