Strengthened Approach for the Integration of Sustainable Environmental Management into the ANDS/PRSP

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Afghanistan’s environment and natural resource base is under great pressure. Decades of conflict, ongoing instability, lack of effective governance, socio-economic insecurity and overall poverty, susceptibility to droughts and other natural hazards, population increase and the influx of a displaced and returning population, have all exacted a heavy toll on the environment and the natural resources of the country.

Over 80% of the Afghan population lives in rural areas, practicing agricultural and related rural activities that rely heavily on the use of natural resources. Of Afghanistan’s 655,000 square kilometres of total land area, only 12% (7.9 million hectares) is arable and 4% irrigated. An additional 45% is rangeland under permanent pastures, less than 1.5% is under forest cover, with the remaining 39% being mountainous. Large areas are considered ‘barren land’ or ‘waste land’, and are used for grazing, particularly in the winter season.

As such, the Government of Afghanistan recognizes that the failure to address environmental degradation will negatively affect the long-term growth of the country and its ability to meet the MDGs. However, the Government’s institutional and policy framework for environment protection is still very much in the process of formulation and development. Since the Afghanistan Compact 2006 – a political commitment of both Afghanistan and the international community to work towards a five-year high-level benchmark – was adopted, the Afghan Government has embarked on a comprehensive programme of national planning and development through the implementation of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), which is fully aligned with Afghanistan’s MDGs.


The UN Joint Programme of the MDG-F is also aligned with the ANDS 2010-2014, which includes environmental management as a crosscutting issue. The Government’s strategic vision on the environment as articulated in the ANDS has three goals; 1) to secure a clean and healthy environment, 2) to attain sustainable economic and social development while protecting the natural resources and the environment, and 3) to ensure the effective management of the country’s environment through the participation of all stakeholders. The project also contributes to MDG-7 for a sustainable environment, as well as to Outcome 5 of the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2010-2013 for improved capacity to manage the natural resources to support poverty alleviation and reduce vulnerability to natural disasters.

MDG-F SAISEM is a UNDP, FAO and UNEP Joint Programme, aimed at strengthening the integration of sustainable environmental management in Afghanistan. The National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MoAIL) and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) are the government partners to this Programme.


  • National guidelines were developed for mainstreaming the environment into the various sectors;
  • Environmental mainstreaming is carried out at the sub-national planning level through established Provincial Environmental Advisory Councils.
  • Local communities are now empowered to make decisions regarding the management of the environment and natural resources;
  • Kitchen gardens were established in Herat and Ghor provinces that provide jobs for women through community mobilization.
  • Institutional knowledge management is improved in relation to community-based field initiatives;
  • Inputs were provided into the national environmental education and awareness strategy;
  • A manual for mainstreaming environmental management entered the curriculum of the Afghanistan Institute for Rural Development (AIRD). This is aimed at capacity building at the community level to promote sustainable rural development;


Coordination within the Government was a challenge. While the National Environmental Protection Agency is mandated to mainstream environment into other institutions and coordinate and properly monitor the compliance and results, the environment has been referred to as a cross cutting issue in ANDS. This cross-cutting nature has put the environment behind other sectors. As a result, it was a challenge to receive adequate attention in a timely manner from other governmental agencies.

Way Forward

Within Afghanistan, the environment is one of the six cross-cutting issues which are being mainstreamed into the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and it is now clear that the approach taken by the UN Joint Programme to the mainstreaming will be replicated throughout the country. The Programme will also develop the Status of the Environment Report to provide a clear baseline for future planning. An environmental educational strategy should also be developed to provide a mechanism for environmental lobbying among all shareholders.

Week in Focus

Lessons Learnt

JP Resources

  • SAISEM Brochure (en) - Brochure on the JP produced by the JP itself (Teamworks)
  • Afghanistan Country Sheet (en) - Preliminary analysis of the JP. Includes Strenghts, Challenges, Resources, Experts, Lessons Learnt, Communication/Media Products. Produced by KM team. (Teamworks)
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