Environment and Natural Resources:

Afghanistan is a landlocked mountainous country, it has arid and semi-arid continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. The last 4 decades of war and ongoing conflicts has led to higher poverty, low literacy rate, significant environment degradation and is placed among the least developed countries. Given the current situation, Afghanistan is among the most fragile state in the world in terms of environmental sustainability because 85% of the population is directly or indirectly depending on agriculture and natural resources. The local communities have some traditional knowledge of farming and agriculture. In fact, some use only rain-fed agriculture as a means of crop production. A lot of land has been overexploited due to the excessive livestock grazing as well as collecting wild flora and fauna from their surrounding environment to fulfil their basic needs like food, fuel for heating and cooking.

Besides, decades of war and instability had a destructive impact on Afghanistan’s mineral and environment. In spite of owning 1400 mineral fields, still the conflict over management of natural resources such as minerals, land, timber and water exists which tremendously affects the economy and environment.

In Afghanistan mining has turned to be a security threat rather being a source of development. Lack of law enforcement which leads to corruption, illegal extraction and loss of revenues, lack of knowledge of legal frameworks, low capacity and knowledge of people on the context and less engaged civil societies are the major challenging issues in the mining area.

Environment is a side line issue in Afghanistan. After the fall of Taliban regime, the national and international focus is more on other issues like security and insurgency rather than environment.

Soil degradation, deforestation, desertification, air and water pollution, over grazing and excessive population growth are the key environmental issues in Afghanistan. Lack of infrastructure and law enforcement of course has intensified the environment related problems.

Key achievements include, but are not limited to:

The formation of the Environment and Natural Resource Monitoring Network (ENRMN) was an engagement milestone for the environment and natural resources sector in the country. The importance of environment and natural resource in the country was neither considered by the government nor by people. The network is acting as a hub between various individuals and institutions to exchange knowledge and information on environment and natural resources topics from all over Afghanistan. The network has also established linkages with government organizations for boosting the potential of advocacy and monitoring as well as with relevant regional and international organizations for knowledge and information sharing. The network has started to enhance performance and better implementation of the planned activities (including training, workshops, holding press conferences and exposure visit to provinces). The conducted workshops were designed to build the capacity of the network members to better monitor and advocate on certain relevant issues in the future.

The overall objective of the network is to strengthen the capacity and enhancing the coordination and cooperation among the members to influence relevant policies formation and enforcement.

Since transition of Environment and Natural Resource (ENR) department from Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS) to TLO in 2018, the ENR team has been working enthusiastically to achieve the set goal and objectives. Efforts are being made to meet high standards set by HBS and address critical environmental issues. The current ENRM programs are a 3 years’ mandate 2018 - 2020 funded by HBS.

The foundation of Environment and Natural Resource Monitoring Network (ENRMN) was built on four main interventions: 1) Strengthening the Network & Outreach, 2) Institutional & Human Capacity Building, 3) Conducting Thematic Research, Monitoring & Advocacy and 4) Fundraising, Sustainability & Development of the network.

In line with the approved action plan, ENRMN started its regular operations from May 2018. Despite some prevailing challenges, the achievement of ENRMN was reasonable and satisfactory for the members.

  • A team of 10 members (2 female and 8 male) traveled to Bamyan last year for a study tour to monitor the environmental, natural resources and mining issues. The team conducted a survey and met key government officials, besides visiting Shahi Fuladi Mountains to see the situation of water resources. A detailed comprehensive study report was prepared and published in Saday Zameen issue number 22 and 23. The second visit was to Herat province to study the situation and issues related to environment, natural resources and mining. This visit was done while the ENRMN planned to show a documentary film “Minor Miners”, which reflects the living condition and the forced hardworking of children in Dara-e-Soaf coal mines;
  • The network members had actively participated in the consultation process on the draft roadmap of the mining sector along with other civil society organizations and consultation session about the new mining law. As part of consultation on the draft roadmap of the mining sector and mineral law with the CSOs, ENRMN members participated in high-level meetings with officials from the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and shared their feedbacks and concerns over future implications of these 2 important documents;
  • A comprehensive action plan for publication and public outreach of the ENRMN was developed last year. The main focus is on enhancing quality, contents, design, messages and distribution mechanism of Saday Zameen publication. Conveying various messages of ENRMN through its website, Facebook page and other social media networks. Saday Zamin or voice of the earth is a bi-monthly magazine which mainly focuses on environment and natural resources; 
  • According to the set objectives, this year’s action plan suggested activities to promote public outreach of ENRMN to sensitize the general public about environmental issues and the challenges of natural resources and mining sector. To achieve such an objective the members of ENRMN appeared in different TV shows, debate and related discussions;
  • A coordination meeting was held among Civil Society representatives, ENRMN members and the high-rank officials from the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum to update each other on the pertinent activities and flag up mining related concerns;
  • During 2018 a 9-days specialized capacity building workshops were conducted for ENRMN members. The main topics and contents of the workshops included:
  1. A one-day workshop to analyze the mining sector of Afghanistan from different perspectives (Security, Technology, Government’s plans and performance, role of CSOs and private sectors, regional and international players and the lack of technical knowledge and expertise. The main objective of this workshop was to sensitize the ENRMN members about the real condition and challenges of the mining sector in Afghanistan.
  2. The second workshop was about Community Development Agreement (CDA). The main purpose of this workshop was to improve the awareness, knowledge and advocacy skills about the CDA. The CDA is an agreement, which shall be signed between the local people, and the mine’s extracting company. According to this agreement the contracting company is responsible to implement public beneficial projects in the area during the extraction of the mine and afterwards. The private sector is obliged to sign the CDA before starting the extraction in the mining area.
  3. A workshop on Afghanistan Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (AEITI) was conducted by Mr. Javed Noorani.  This workshop improved the knowledge of participants on AEITI concepts and the advocacy initiatives to be conducted by ENRMN members in the future.
  4. A one-day workshop on environmental studies with a focus on environmental challenges in Afghanistan was organized.
  5. A one-day workshop on Environment with a focus on Food Security was organized. The focus of this workshop was on Food Security and Cancers caused by the environment.
  6. A four-day Workshop on Proposal Writing and Reporting was conducted to get make the members acquainted with the techniques for developing both proposal and reports.
  7. Conduct a press conference on new mining law and the roadmap of the mining sector - In order to spread awareness, to advocate for improvement of mining sector in Afghanistan, to bring together the relevant stakeholders and to discuss the needs, concerns, problems and solutions. During 2018 some more joint press conferences were held in collaboration and partnership with Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) on the following issues:
  • Mining Contracts (Badakhshan’s Gold and Coper of Balkhab);
  • Privatization of war and its risks on the mining sector which will increase the illegal and unsustainable extraction and use of Afghanistan’s mines. For more details of these press conferences you can refer to this link: https://iwaweb.org/category/news/.
  • Celebration of Earth Day - End Plastic Pollution: On 22nd of April 2018, the International “Earth Day” was celebrated by civil society organizations, CANSA and ENRMN in collaboration with National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) and Kabul Municipality (KM) at Kol-e-Hashmat Khan in Kabul.
  • In 2019 the network continued as usual which was started with the election of secretariat and BoD members. Regular BoD and General Assembly meetings are held; and
  • The independent monitoring and evaluation committee which was selected in the last board of director (BoD) meeting after quite some long time is now functional.

Eco-Journalism - Training of Journalists to report on environment and climate change issues:

Media can play an important role in dissemination of information about the environment, which may undeniably impact people’s attitudes. Mediothek Afghanistan in close collaboration with TLO conducted a training course on, “ROLE OF MEDIA ON THE ENVIRONMENT” for 5 days to highlight climate change and related global policies.

This project was designed to enhance the capacity of the journalists on producing material of professional quality to efficiently advocate on environmental issues besides investigating related problems and report. To effectively communicate the environment and climate change, extensive knowledge and research is necessary. Series of training programs, workshops and exposure visits of the journalists will enable them to better reflect the issues and convince people about the importance of environment protection and climate change hazards. Writing and highlighting the environment and climate change issues as a core issue for public awareness are important to connect the readers and influence the audience. The project overall objective was to enhance the capacity of the journalists on producing materials of professional quality to efficiently advocate on environment and climate change issues. Eco-Journalist training for 15 journalists representing various Medias outlets was satisfactorily completed in 2018.

In the training, environmental challenges were discussed and practical field reporting was also done to train journalist on how they can report environmental issues in a professional manner. The training course also provided an excellent opportunity for the reporters to learn new skills and enhance their insights both practically and theoretically about environment and climate change. They must put greater efforts in producing reports, make relevant audio and video clips aiming to educate people on the essence of the environment and ways to protect them. One of the significant duties of the environmental reporters is not only to provide information, but to firmly educate and encourage people to take responsibility for protection of the environment.

The project resulted in establishing a well-functioning network of journalists in the country. Now the network is functional, the journalists are holding monthly regular meetings with fantastic discussions among various experts and CSOs’ members. The journalists have posted numerous reports on the designated page of Facebook. You can read the published articles at https://www.facebook.com/ecojournalistsnetwork/.

National Implementing Entity (NIE) – Establishment National Workshop:

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is an international climate fund designed to help developing countries respond to climate change by investing in low-carbon resilient development. Countries can access GCF finance through three funding windows: adaptation, mitigation and private sector facility. NIEs are accredited entities that are expected to mobilise and manage GCF finance in a country. Since there is very little allocation from the government side in the  national buget to fight environmental degradation, Afghanistan being one of the severly effected countries, getting access to the green cliamte fund will really built national capacity and Afghanistan will have access to 10 millions USD annally which can go a long way in mitigation and prevention of envrionmental disasters. The NIE national workshop after long delay was eventually organized in Kabul on 23 and 24 April 2019. The workshop was financed by TLO/HBS, FAO and NEPA. CANSA- Afghanistan along with NEPA had the responsibility for organization of the workshop. High rank government officials including 4 Ministers, deputy ministers and other top government dignitaries, bankers, civil society members attended the event. This workshop has provided useful insights and orientation on various aspect of how to become an NIE. As a result of 2 days’ presentations, group and plenary discussions among the participant’s hurdles were identified and agreed on the way forward in a form of road map. Now the decision is to hold a second workshop and engage more relevant organizations to further discuss the established road map and way forward in the future.

Green Culture Promotion (Youth for a cleaner and greener environment) - advocacy on conducted researches:

The main constraints Afghanistan faces are limited availability of relevant data on climate change, poor quality of the data and poor organization of the data which makes it difficult for any analysis, hence limits the possibility of meaningful discussions on how to address the complex interrelated issues of environment and climate change. The problem of data availability also combined with a lack of coordination, information sharing and a poor capacity in planning and carrying activities in a coordinated way.

To address the problem of climate change in Afghanistan, TLO as a think tank organization has been mandated to strengthen the role of Afghan Civil Society institutions through research and advocacy to tackle the issue of climate change from a very professional perspective and evidence based data aimed at inclusion of climate change into development policies and plans of the government.

To draw attention of youth to environment related issues, cultural engagement approaches were promoted. As culture is a strong part of people's lives. It influences their views, values, humor, hopes, loyalties, worries and fears.

Engaging youth in environment protection not only creates direct impact on changing youth behaviors and attitudes, but possibly influence their parents, relatives, families and finally the society. Young people can play an active role in protecting and improving the environment. They can make their homes, schools and youth organizations more environmental friendly by adopting proper practices, recycling of different materials as well as preserving resources such as water.

This project mainly focused on advocating based on three available researches conducted by HBS during 2016 – 2017. The researches included:

  • Climate change in Afghanistan: perspectives and opportunities
  • Assessment of the Economic Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture in the Central Highlands of Afghanistan
  • Environment Pollution and its Effects on Health

The project overall objective was to sensitize and mobilize the young people, policy makers and authorities for provision of an ecologically healthy environment.

Some of the major achievements are: 

1. Bicycle Riding Competition “Pedal for Environment”: cycle race was organized in Bamyan province by our partner Green Home to create awareness and divert attention to the environmental issues and instill sensitivity among the youth. The race was well covered by media and different people representing government and CSOs participated in the event. Similarly “Run for Environment” race was organized in Kabul where more than 50 youths and athletes participated to run 2.5 kilometer distance. The theme of the outreach program was environment and health. It was insisted that air, water pollution and disaster and diseases will make the poor population of Afghanistan more vulnerable. Prize and awards were distributed among the winners. Participants wore black masks to raise awareness on pollution in Kabul.

 2. Meeting with Related Environmental Sectors: The partner had open discussion with NEPA Directorate in Bamyan about the findings and its consequences of the three conducted researches.

3. Environment Dialogue “Impact of Climate Change on Central Afghanistan”: Environment Dialogue was held in Lincoln Learning Center (LLC) hall in Bamiyan, over 50 people from various walks of life participated in the dialogue. The participants included university students and professors, government officials and CSOs’ representatives. The final environment dialogue was organized in Gharjistan University in Kabul, where the findings of three researches of were presented to the participants. Various people from CSOs, government besides over 250 social activists, youths and university students participated.

 4. School Training “Basic Environment Education and Finding of Researches”: Students from ten schools located in various parts of Kabul got basic environment education. The findings of three researches was presented and brochures were given to students. As result of this training, over 1000 students were trained on basic environment topics and learned about findings of the 3 conducted researches.

5. Environment Reading Book Club Sessions: In the environment reading book club session, university students participated actively and enthusiastically in the discussions and gave their feedback and ideas about the findings of the conducted researches.

6. Environment cultural night was organized to promote green culture and environmental friendly behaviors among the participants particularly youths. More than 200 participants from different strata of life attended the social event including authors, poets, singers, painters and youths. Environment friendly culture can be advocated through art, ethic, and social behavior.

8. A press conference was held where various Medias outlets like Arzo TV, Rah-E-Farda TV, Tamadon, Negah TV, Salamwatandar radio news, Khabrgozari Radio News were present. The conference was on Air Pollution with particular focus on the research on psycho-physical effects of environmental pollution on the health of Kabul citizens. The main point in the press release included: Government should make clear and transparent policies and strategies for controlling air pollution, transportation, vehicles regulation and oil importing.

 

The green culture promotion project is going to be implemented again by Green Home Organization this year. The below indicated completed researches in 2018 will be used for advocacy campaign and awareness raising among different stakeholders. The project has already been launched and cultural events and advocacy campaigns are ongoing.
A brochure with key information about the researches and procedure has been developed.

In line with TLO’s past efforts 3 interesting researches were conducted in 2018. 1. Research on Social and Environmental Impacts of Mines Extraction in Central and Northern Regions of Afghanistan; 2. Research on Root Causes of Deforestation in Southeast Region of Afghanistan; and 3. Research to find communities’ expectation and devising a procedure for allocation of 5% of revenues from mines extraction to affected communities.

The conducted researches helped civil society organizations and ENRMN network members to raise their voices and organize advocacy campaigns based on the findings and recommendations of the research and protect the rights of Afghan citizens and increase pressure on policymakers, law enforcement institutions and government authorities at the national and subnational levels to take appropriate actions for reducing the environmental impacts of coal mines’ extraction in the mining sites and deforestation.

The 5% revenue allocation has already been integrated in the mining law of Afghanistan (Mineral Law/16th August, 2014/article 84). The Ministry of Finance shall, in addition to its annual national budget allocation, allocate 5 % of the overall revenue from mines, in a special code for economic, social and environmental development purpose of the province or provinces where the mines are located.

The revenues collected by the government from extractive sector should be transparently disclosed to the citizens. Besides, Afghanistan has announced its endorsement of the principles of Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). One of the EITI’s standard requirements is the “provisions to ensure that the distribution of revenues from the extractive industries is clearly addressed. The need was felt to inform and educate the people (notably communities living around mining sites) about their rights and contracting companies obligations. As well-informed communities can play an important role in the reduction of social violence and mitigation measures towards negative mining extraction and raise their voices.

The main purpose of the study was to develop a comprehensive procedure on utilization of 5% of revenues from mines on development projects for the affected communities residing in the extracted mining areas. Adequate attention has been paid to focus on proposing highly feasible procedures on how the allocated revenues can be spent for the prioritized development projects to benefit the affected communities as well as mechanism needed to be in place.

To complete the project and reach the set objective, a two prong approach was used. Frist to review related literature on similar procedures and practices in other regional or beyond regional countries with more or less similar contexts. Secondly, to consult the local communities living around the mining sites to explore about their needs and find out about their views and perception on proper utilization of the allocated revenues from mines.

The study explored the allocation and distribution mechanisms for spending the 5% of the mining revenues based on literature review and focus groups findings and a survey of local communities. As a result of this study, a comprehensive report and proposed procedure for distribution of the 5% of the mining revenue has been developed.