Independent Impact Evaluation: National Solidarity Program Enhances Local Governance and Increases Involvement of Women

May 8, 2010

Program provides access to drinking water, electricity and improves local governance

Kabul, 08 May 2010 –The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) and the World Bank today held a half day seminar to disseminate the interim findings of an impact evaluation of Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Program (NSP). Findings from the independent evaluation indicate that NSP is having a positive impact on the lives of villagers – both improving access to critical services and creating opportunities for women to participate in local governance.  Participants included some 150 representatives of government ministries, donor agencies and civil society.

NSP is one of the flagship development programs of the Government of Afghanistan. Since its inception in 2003, NSP has established approximately 22,300 Community Development Councils (CDCs) across 361 districts in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.  It has financed over 51,000 projects involving water and sanitation, rural roads, electrification, irrigation, and human capital development. NSP is implemented by 28 NGOs, known as Facilitating Partners (FPs), under the direction of MRRD. It is funded by the World Bank ($358 million grant) and 31 donor nations through the World Bank administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF - $618 million) or through bilateral contributions directly to MRRD.

The evaluation was conducted by a team of independent researchers from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and the New Economic School in Moscow.  They looked at how NSP affects local governance structures, access to services and infrastructure, economic activity, female participation in community activities, political opinion and social cohesion.  The evaluation relates to the second phase of NSP (NSP II) started in 2007 and aims to give policy makers and NSP donors evidence, based on scientific evaluation methods, of the program’s interim impact as it enters its third phase.

“Evaluations such as this do not just seek to provide an accounting of program outputs, such as the number of wells or schools built,” said Nicholas Krafft, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.  “Rather, the aim is to understand whether NSP is bringing positive changes to people’s lives. Answering this question objectively and conclusively is not always easy, but is important in order to build up a body of evidence of how aid money can be best spent and thereby enhance the effectiveness of development assistance in improving the lives of Afghans.”

The evaluation finds that, at the mid-point of implementation, NSP II is increasing villagers access to services.  But beyond this, it is resulting in positive changes in village-level governance and political attitudes and increases the involvement of women in economic activity and community life.

Specifically the evaluation finds that:

  • NSP alters the structure of village governance by increasing the number of villages with functioning councils and providing greater participation of villagers in local governance through these elected councils.
  • NSP has a clear effect on perceptions of government and non-government officials, resulting in a higher proportion of villagers who believe that Government officials at the national and local levels are working in the interests of all villagers.  The program does not seem to affect, however, the level of trust within a village or the incidence of disputes, feuds, or attacks.
  • NSP stimulates the provision of dispute mediation and greater engagement of women in community activities. The program also appears to make men more accepting of female participation in the selection of the village headman and increases the prominence of, and respect for, senior women in the village.
  • There is early evidence that NSP has a positive impact on some services, infrastructure, and utilities. The study finds that completed water projects are successful in improving the availability of safe drinking water, and that electricity projects have strong impacts on connectivity and usage.  The evaluation found fewer impacts from road or irrigation projects which is as expected given that most of these projects are only just becoming operational.  The final impact of such projects is not expected to be apparent until the final stage of data collection in 2011.

“Results from the evaluation indicate that this program has played a crucial role in bridging the link between villagers and the authorities at different layers of the government, including district, provincial and central level,” said HE Jarullah Mansoori, Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD). “We are happy to see that activities undertaken by the community development councils further enhance the service delivery function of the government in response to the immense needs of villagers for improving rural livelihoods.”

The NSP program is structured around two major interventions at the village level. With a view to building representative institutions for village governance, NSP mandates the creation of a Community Development Council (CDC) in each village. CDCs are set up through a secret-ballot, universal suffrage election and composed of an equal number of men and women. The second principal intervention of NSP is to disburse ‘block grants’, valued at $200 per household, to support the implementation of projects designed and selected by the village community.