Our Mission: To empower Afghanistan’s rural economies through the development of agriculture, infrastructure, and sustainable small businesses.
Since its founding, Noshaq’s primary focus has been rural economic development (for more on why we chose this focus, see “Why Economic Development?” at the bottom of this page). The task of economic development requires one to look at the various factors that contribute to the making of a healthy, rural economy. Many factors could be stated, but based on our experience in the field, Noshaq has identified three primary factors to focus on: Agriculture, Infrastructure, and Small Businesses. These three are like puzzle pieces that, when combined, form a solid foundation for economic development in the rural setting.
Our projects are selected under these categories as seen from the graph below. The specific projects listed in this graph are mere examples, and are by no means all-inclusive.
At the bare foundation of economic development is agriculture. Figuratively speaking, it’s the first rung of the development ladder, for without the proper food and nutrition to sustain a healthy and vibrant life, little energy is left to pursue other activities, such as growing a business or pursuing an education.
When basic nutritional needs are met and excess produce is available, the door is opened for the trade and barter of these goods with surrounding villages and urban centers. In this sense, agriculture has been the most fundamental form of economy for millennia, and Noshaq would be blind if we failed to recognize its value in Afghanistan’s rural context, where economies operate at the most basic level.
To this end, agricultural needs are always considered when assessing new project areas.
Considering that Afghanistan is one of the world’s least-developed countries, infrastructure is a major road block to future economic development. Literally! Roads and transportation networks are the lifeblood of commerce for any country. By enabling producers, merchants, and buyers to exchange goods effectively, they are a significant factor for economic sustenance and growth.
Noshaq’s geographic focus is specifically on remote, hard-to-reach regions where access is a huge issue. Many of the villages in these areas have no road access, making foot and donkey the only means of travel to district centers, provincial capitals, and other centers of commerce. These daunting logistics make commerce and trade a difficult--if not impossible--prospect for these communities.
Through its projects, Noshaq is committed to helping roadless villages construct simple dirt access roads using community-sourced labor as a way of connecting them to trade opportunities with the rest of the country.
Sustainable business strategies lie at the heart of Noshaq’s mission. We consider ourselves entrepreneurs and our aim is to pass on that innovative spirit to the people we seek to serve. Our desire is to help villages and communities realize a better, well-rounded standard of living using sustainable economic growth as a catalyst.
In our project areas, the need couldn’t be greater. In fact, these villages are often so remote and so isolated from the rest of the district that small-scale industries and even basic trading activities become virtually impossible. Because of this, many such areas rely on family members to travel to Iran or Pakistan to find work in hopes that their earnings can be sent home. Others send their young men as soldiers in the army trusting that their military wages will sustain their family’s needs back home.
This complete reliance on external income sources and repatriated funds is shaky at best, and puts these communities at risk for economic collapse. Noshaq’s goal is to provide these villages with creative small business opportunities that can supplement this external income and eventually take the place of it altogether.
Why Economic Development?
Every year, multiple millions of dollars are spent on humanitarian assistance all around the globe. Even so, world hunger rates are still staggering, scores of third world villages are still eking out a primitive existence, and the globe is still awash in poverty. This has left many people scratching their heads and wondering: “Is aid really working?”
We’ve asked ourselves the very same thing. It disgusts us when we hear of federal aid and donated funds being absorbed in graft and deceit. And it’s sad to see thousands of dollars spent on a project, only to find the beneficiaries poorer, less motivated, and more dependent than before. What are we doing wrong?
The condition of today’s developing countries makes it clear that the need for humanitarian assistance is far from over. The question, then, is not “should we proceed?”, but “how should we proceed?”. As a nonprofit organization passionate about genuinely helping people, how can we do so in a way that’s effective, efficient, and enduring? How can we address development needs by building capacity instead of harmful dependencies? And how can our constituents be empowered to eventually fund their own development?
The answer to this dilemma seems to be in identifying the fundamental foundation of development, for once this foundation is laid, all other aspects of community development can be built on top. We believe this foundation is a thriving economy. When a community’s economy is healthy, the standard of living increases, poverty is reduced, and new infrastructure is built and maintained. As a result, many families are enabled to transition from a subsistence lifestyle to one where education, health, and community enrichment are tangible opportunities. When taken in the proper context, economic development can begin a chain reaction that will inherently work to solve many other needs in the community, thus fostering an environment where the community can fund their own development and take responsibility for their future long after Noshaq is gone.
With this realization, Noshaq has made economic development its primary mission. We don’t claim to have all the answers, and neither do we believe that all other aid groups should “think like us”. Rather, we’ve made a personal commitment to strive for development solutions that are effective, efficient, and enduring. To do otherwise would be a waste of our time and destructive to the communities we love and serve.