Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Grassroots recovery: UNIDO helps rebuild rural life in crisis-affected regions – with funding from Japan

Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia: three countries with different histories, culture and geographic locations. One thing they do have in common is the fact that all three of them have experienced conflicts that ruined their economies and forced millions to flee in search of security and a better life.

Improving the living standards and increasing the economic opportunities in these countries – especially in remote rural areas - is not an easy task. To lay the foundations for recovery, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is applying a custom-tailored approach in rural areas, reaching out to people and helping them to rebuild their lives.

The projects being implemented by UNIDO are funded by the Government of Japan. They were designed to ensure sustainable development through increased productivity, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

“Japan’s generous contributions have allowed for a holistic approach to addressing livelihood and economic recovery issues in some of the world’s most destitute post-conflict countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. The programmes provide inspiring models that have empowered thousands of beneficiaries. People are rebuilding their communities from the bottom up, using a range of technologies,” says Chakib Jenane, Chief of the Agro-industry Technology Unit and Deputy Director of UNIDO’s Agribusiness Development Branch, who is responsible for the implementation of the projects.

“UNIDO’s interventions target the most vulnerable population groups, including women, young people and refugees. We are giving them new skills so they can find employment and contribute to developing the local economies.”

Afghanistan: reviving the power of human resources

After decades of war and instability, rural communities in Afghanistan are eager to rebuild their lives. Among the daunting challenges they face is a widespread lack of both the tools and the skills needed to resume or initiate sustainable livelihoods.

Parts of Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan were critically affected not only by the on-going instability, but also by the heavy rainfalls and floods that hit the country in 2010. UNIDO is focusing on the 52 villages in the Kama District, close to the provincial capital, Jalalabad.

Thirty-year-old Gul Cheena was among the 200 women in the Kama District who have acquired new skills in food processing. At the training centre in her village of Meta Khail, she learned more efficient ways of making pickles, jam and tomato paste.

“Now that we have a solar dehydrator, we can avoid a lot of waste caused by spoilage, something we had when we were drying our fruit and vegetables the traditional way,” she says.

So far, some 1,800 villagers have participated in the project. It is estimated that some 3,700 relatives of the direct beneficiaries will also benefit.

DRC: a fresh supply of local food products

The violent internal conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo not only ruined the country’s economy and infrastructure, but also forced millions to flee their homes. Since 2009, the Government has been striving to improve socio-economic conditions by creating employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

At the CIVAK training complex at Kimpese, a town in the Cataractes district of Bas-Congo province, several hundred people, mostly women and young people, have learnt to process manioc and fruits to obtain such local staples as manioc flour and chikwangue, as well as fruit juices and jam.

At the same time, some 200 manioc and fruit producers have benefited from counseling on best cultivation practices, a project initiative which helps ensure the success of value-addition activities.
The CIVAK centre, expanded with the help of UNIDO, has become a nursery of micro-enterprises and many of the former trainees continue to receive support in their efforts to improve the performance of their businesses.

Samy Nsega, aged 27, has a small brewery business in Kimpese. His maize beer sells well locally, but he knew he could improve the cost efficiency of his enterprise.  “The raw material is easy to find,” he explains, “but there are problems with packaging supplies. The bottles, for example, come from Kinshasa.”

Somaliland: skills and tools against natural and conflict-related adversities

As violence in Somalia slowly subsides, more and more refugees and internally displaced people are returning to their homes. Stability in the country has improved slightly, and the government has charted an ambitious course aiming to revive a largely rural economy based on small-scale agro-pastoral and processing activities.

UNIDO is working in the Awdal and Woqooyi regions, providing semi-skilled unemployed workers, poor farmers, women and young people with vocational training, toolkits and technology packages, creating employment and micro-entrepreneurial opportunities for hundreds of direct beneficiaries.

Improved farming techniques have been introduced, as well as more efficient post-harvest practices and, most importantly, food processing technologies that can both add value to the products and avoid produce waste in rural households.

Livestock is a major component of Somalia’s economy. Livestock exports generate substantial income and are the main source of foreign currency, but good slaughter and meat storage practices are still missing. UNIDO’s project has managed to improve the production of hides and skins, which has significantly enhanced income generation possibilities.

Over the past year, approximately 700 villagers in the Awdal and Woqooyi regions have improved their performance in farming and vocational occupations. UNIDO is providing counseling on business management and encouraging its trainees to establish small-scale and micro-enterprises.

By Eva Manasieva

Posted May 2012