Study of the Socio-economic Impact of Mine Action in Afghanistan (SIMAA)

Originally published


Revised Draft Report - June 2001
Table of Contents


Executive Summary

1. Objectives of Analysis

2. Afghanistan - Society and Economy

3. The History of Mines in Afghanistan

4. The Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan

5. Human loss
5.1 Mine victims in Afghanistan
5.2 Valuation of lost quality of human life, welfare and production capacity
5.3 Medical costs
5.4 Total human loss in economic terms
5.5 Alternative assumptions

6. Agricultural land blocked by mines
6.1 The agricultural sector's role in the Afghan economy
6.2 Mines in agricultural areas
6.3 The Case Studies
6.4 Economic benefits from de-mining agricultural land

7. Irrigation systems blocked by mines
7.1 The role of irrigation in Afghanistan
7.2 Economic benefits from de-mining irrigation systems

8. Mine infested grazing areas and damage to livestock
8.1 The livestock sector and its contribution to the Afghan economy
8.2 Economic benefits from de-mining grazing areas
8.3 Livestock killed by mines

9. Roads and transportation systems blocked by mines
9.1 The transportation system in Afghanistan
9.2 Economic benefits from clearing roads of mines

10. Mines in Residential Areas
10.1 The housing sector in Afghanistan
10.2 Economic benefits from clearing residential areas of mines

11 Clearance Operations and Costs
11.1 Programme Financing and Cost Information
11.2 Productivity of operations
11.3 Clearance costs

12. Evaluation of Mine Clearance in Cost-Benefit Terms
12.1 Methodology
12.2 Costs-benefit analysis of Case Studies
12.3 Cost-benefit evaluation of the MAPA programme
12.4 Sensitivity analysis

13. Economic evaluation of other mine action programme activities
13.1 Introduction
13.2 Clearance of former battlefields
13.3 The role of mine awareness

14. Economic Analysis with Local Community Involvement
14.1 The role of cost-benefit analysis in the mine action planning process
14.2 The scope for mobilisation of local communities
14.3 Priorities on which areas to be cleared
14.4 Priorities on mine clearance versus assistance for other purposes

15. Conclusions and Recommendations

Annex 1: Population of Afghanistan Age Groups

Annex 2: Clearance costs - Detailed Explanation

Annex 3: Cost-Benefit Case Studies

Annex 4: References


Executive Summary

The Study of the Socio-economic Impact of Mine Action in Afghanistan (SIMAA) forms part of the World Bank/ UNDP Afghanistan Watching Brief Project. The study objective is to analyse the problem of mines, the costs and benefits of mine operations and how to deal with the mine problem from an integrated socio-economic perspective. The main focus of the study is on tangible economic impacts of mine action, benefits and costs of clearing units of land of different types and the choice of de-mining techniques.

Afghanistan is among the most mine-affected countries in the world. By the year 2000, the area remaining contaminated by landmines was estimated at over 700 km2, spread throughout the entire country. Of this over 330 km2 are assessed to be vitally important areas. National statistics on mine victims are seriously deficient. Different sources give figures for the number of mine victims in Afghanistan varying from 150 to 500 casualties a month.

The Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) started operations in 1989. Hence it is a mature program which has gained a great deal of experience during more than a decade of implementation. MAPA is financed from two main sources, the main one being UNOCHA, but funds are also passed from donors directly to individual NGOs. The amount of funds passed on directly is still only partially known to MAPA. Substantial resources have been devoted to the mine action program over the years, and the total funding of MAPA in 1999 through the UNOCHA Afghanistan Emergency Trust Fund was USD 22 million. Although data on direct funding of mine action NGOs are incomplete, as much as USD 6 million is estimated to have been contributed to mine action in this manner in 1999.

The study estimates benefit-cost ratios for clearance of mines from different types of land using different de-mining techniques, through the use of case studies. The quantified economic benefits from de-mining are related to reductions in the numbers of mine accidents (affecting both people and livestock) and reclamation of mined land for productive use. The cost side includes the costs of MAPA plus the economic loss attributable to accidents suffered by de-miners. Benefits and costs are converted to net present value using a discount rate of 10%.

The economic loss related to a fatal casualty from a mine accident in Afghanistan is estimated at USD 12,000. The loss from a typical mine victim is estimated at USD 9,000. One casualty every year over 15 years will then represent a total economic loss of 69,000 USD in net present value terms.

Three quarters of Afghanistan's land area supports only sparse grazing in mountains and deserts, while the 5% comprising irrigated valley floors produces 85% of all agricultural output. Before the war about 85% of the people lived in rural villages. During the war over one third of the population fled the country.

Afghanistan is an agricultural country, and traditionally around 70% of the labour force has been engaged in agriculture related activities. The net value of production on cleared agricultural land shows wide variations, ranging from USD 13,500 per km2 annually in the Northern Region to USD 520,000 in the provinces of Kandahar, Zabul and Oruzgan. The benefits from clearing irrigation areas are even more substantial, amounting to as much as USD 1.5 million per km2 annually in the provinces with the best conditions for agriculture.

Over 80% of Afghanistan can be classified as pasture. The livestock sector's contribution to the gross domestic product has been estimated at USD 508 million in 1998-99. The net output to the farmer per animal per year is found to vary from USD 9 for sheep and goats to USD 31 for horses and USD 51 for cattle. Net annual output value from livestock rearing on one km2 of grazing area varies regionally between USD 1,200 and USD 2,000. Loss of animals to mine accidents is estimated at about USD 2,500 per km2 annually.

The road network in Afghanistan has deteriorated seriously as a result of war activities, and large stretches were contaminated with mines. In certain periods this has contributed to sharply higher food prices. The benefits from clearing mined roads are calculated as cost and time savings for passengers now travelling with vehicles on the safe road link as compared to the longer alternative route. The benefits from clearance of mined roads are considerable, over USD 250,000 annually per 50 km.

Turning to the cost side, MAPA clearance costs of mined areas are estimated to USD 0.77 per m2 for the year 1999, while clearance of former battlefields costs USD 0.03 per m2. Agricultural land comes close to the average in area cleared per team hour, while grazing areas are normally much less and residential are far more time consuming.

Dog teams, the most efficient technique overall, on average clear 3.5 times the amount of mined land cleared by manual teams per team hour. This technique cannot be used on all types of land, however. The area of minefields cleared per team hour of work under the MAPA programme has decreased over time. One explanation for this could be the increasing difficulty of tasks, as the easier-to-clear fields may have been taken care of first. However, additional analysis of trends in costs over time may be useful.

Relatively large cost variations have been found to exist between some of the mine clearance agencies. There is a need to look further into the strengths, limitations and cost structures of the different clearance techniques and also the approach and operational routines of the individual agencies engaged. More direct competition among clearance agencies would be a means of increasing cost-efficiency in the mine action programme.

Economic returns from de-mining are estimated to be high in general, especially when it is kept in mind that there are additional, non-quantifiable benefits from mine clearance, for individuals, communities, and societies. The greatest returns are found in the case of clearance of irrigation systems in provinces with good conditions for agriculture, where use of all techniques can be convincingly defended. Returns are also high for agricultural land and roads.

Clearance of grazing areas in general is more difficult to justify in narrow economic terms than de-mining of other types of land, because of the lower productivity of the land concerned. An economic loss will regularly be experienced when techniques other than dogs or community-based methods are applied. The Northern Region of Afghanistan provides the weakest justification for clearance tasks of all types.

Mine dog clearance is overall the most superior technique with the highest benefit-cost ratio; no other technique gives higher return for any specific clearance task. Dogs should consequently be used wherever this technique is applicable.

Currently about half of the area de-mined is cleared by dogs, which substantially reduces the overall average costs of MAPA. Although some types of mined lands are not suitable for clearance by dogs, this is not the constraint on this technique at present. With more dogs available, including larger training capacity for dogs, this technique could be further expanded.

Mechanical clearance is costly to MAPA. This technique should evidently be applied only when no other options are feasible, and economic justification will have to be demonstrated on a case-by-case basis.

A first item on the agenda for socio-economic assessment of a particular clearance task should always be to ascertain that the area will be reclaimed for use immediately. Delays in putting cleared areas to productive use sharply reduce the economic benefits of de-mining.

The net benefits of the MAPA mine clearance programme for 1999 are estimated at 40 million USD, with a solid Benefit-Cost Ratio of 1.5. The largest portion of the net economic benefits originates from clearance of agricultural land with dogs. Clearance of agricultural land and irrigation systems with manual methods as well as roads with dogs also make strong contributions.

It is strongly recommended that MAPA start conducting cost benefit analysis of clearance activities on a regular basis and in particular related to the annual presentation of the programme work-plan to the donor community. In this context, community participation in the planning and prioritisation of mine clearance activities be increased.

1. Objectives of Analysis

The World Bank is currently funding an Afghanistan Watching Brief Project. This project aims at improving the World Bank's and the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) understanding of the present economic situation in and the prospects for Afghanistan. The World Bank and UNDP with partners have recognised the need for strengthening by means of analyses of key issues related to the country's economic and social recovery, reconstruction and development.

The World Bank and UNDP likewise want to enhance their ability to contribute meaningfully in areas of their comparative advantage, to initiatives by the international assistance community to better co-ordinate, prioritise and implement aid to Afghanistan. Underlying their objectives is the need for these agencies to become better prepared at an early stage to actively participate when a post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation scenario emerges in Afghanistan, including help to prepare a transitional support strategy if/when required.

The Afghanistan Watching Brief Project has three components:

  • Economic and sector studies.
  • Workshops and conferences.
  • Small pilot programs for learning, training and networking for Afghan women and NGOs based in Pakistan.
This Study, analysing the socio-economic cost-benefit impacts of mine action in Afghanistan is one of six projects under the component "Economic and sector studies."

According to its Terms of Reference (ToR ) the Study will "analyse the problem of mines, the cost-benefits of mine operations and how to deal with the mine problem from an integrated socio-economic perspective."

In particular the following study areas are mentioned:

  • The number and causes of mine victims.
  • Socio-economic costs of mine problems.
  • Techniques for mine clearance
  • Mine awareness and other interventions to reduce mine accidents.
The ToR encompass a wide scope with a number of issues. It has nonetheless been agreed that the main focus of the technical part of the Study will be on tangible economic impacts of mine action, benefits and costs of clearing units of land of different types with the actual choice of de-mining techniques.

These are important aspects, since not many efforts have been launched internationally on the economic evaluation of mine action although its high costs are beginning to be questioned by some donors. Local community involvement too has also often been lacking in mine action programmes. What happens to the land after clearance has not usually been an important concern for the clearing agencies.

Most assessments of mine action programmes still refer to the size of areas contaminated and to the numbers of mines and Un-exploded Ordnance (UXO). In fact this can be a fairly poor indicator of the severity of the threat. It cannot reveal the extent of impact on people's lives and well-being, nor does it consider the impact in the context of the many other post-conflict development priorities. Renewed access to social infrastructure and use of land, food security and reduced transportation costs could provide much better indicators of the success of mine action programmes.

The Socio-economic Impact Study (SEIS) undertaken by the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) in 1999 was actually one of the first attempts anywhere in the world to examine benefits and costs of mine action in a wider context. Another study has been launched recently by UNDP to be carried out by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining.

2. Afghanistan - Society and Economy

Afghanistan's topography ranges from snow-covered high altitude peaks of up to 7,500 m, to deeply incised fertile valleys and large desert plains. Climate varies from arid in the South and Southwest to semi-arid in most other parts of the country. Irrigation dates back to more than 4500 years.

Three quarters of the land supports only sparse grazing in mountains and deserts, while the 5% comprising irrigated valley floors accounts for 85% of all agricultural output. In 1978 the last year of peace, the country was largely self-sufficient in food and a significant exporter of agricultural products.

There is evidence suggesting that the natural vegetation of large parts of Afghanistan was originally woodland and forest. The present steppes have resulted from cutting of wood by man and grazing and browsing by domestic animals over millennia. Trends towards resource depletion thus started long ago. Still, the forest cover reduction over the last 20 years has been severe. In 8 provinces the forest cover seems to have disappeared completely. 1

In Afghanistan a severe drought appears to be a consequence of low winter rainfall in two consecutive years. Rainfall records suggest that low winter rainfall in two successive years occurs at least every 28 to 30 years.

In 1979 the total population of Afghanistan was estimated at 14 million, while 18-20 million has been indicated for today. Before the war about 85% of the people lived in rural villages, including 1.5 million nomads. Most of the other 15% were also connected indirectly with rural enterprises.

About 70% of the total labour force were engaged in agriculture, livestock and livestock based handicrafts, making woollen carpets and rugs. There was some industrial development, mostly linked to the processing of agricultural products or the production of farm inputs such as fertiliser from newly found gas fields.

Even before the war Afghanistan was one of the world's least developed countries. The past 20 years of continuing conflict have further exacerbated poverty, deprivation and suffering. Local and national institutions of governance have collapsed, the economy has been devastated, and basic productive and social service infrastructures have been shattered. For the past several years Afghanistan has remained at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index.

During the war over one third of the population fled the country with Pakistan and Iran sheltering about 3 million refugees each. Probably another million of internally displaced persons moved into and around urban areas within Afghanistan. By 1995 about 1.4 million Afghans still remained in Pakistan and 2 million in Iran.

Since 1980 output in all sectors has fallen substantially because of the war and the resulting disruption and destruction of production infrastructure, as well as transport and trade opportunities. Afghanistan is now highly dependent on farming, wheat in particular and livestock, raising of sheep and goats etc. Large parts of the population suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing and medical care.

Still the agricultural production system of Afghanistan can be described as robust and resilient, continuing to supply the remaining rural population under conditions of extreme difficulty during the war. 2

The situation of the Afghan economy in 1991 has been described as follows: 3

  • Exports amount to USD 188 million, consisting of fruit and nuts, hand-woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems.
  • Imports of USD 616 million consist of food and petroleum products together with other consumer goods.
  • The country has an external debt of USD 2300 million.
For the year 1995-96 the contribution of the livestock sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) has been calculated at USD 469 million, rising to USD 507 million in 1998-99. 4

Many activities with considerable economic impacts tend to by-pass official statistics. There is a large-scale influx to Afghanistan of remittances from Afghans abroad. Although the actual amounts mostly remain unknown as yet, this source of revenue is considered indispensable for the survival of many local households.

The illegal and internationally condemned trade in drugs, mainly opium from poppy plantations inside the country, is the basis of wealth and power for groups of Afghans and foreigners and constitutes a boost to the economy in general. Farmers that have their land cleared of mines under the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan are obliged to sign a document stating that this area will not be used for poppy growing.

The forest regions of the country currently experience large-scale cutting of wood on a non-sustainable basis, for domestic consumption and for exports. A trade in antiques persists, in precious objects some of them looted from museums, depriving the country of its national heritage.

Inflation remains a serious problem throughout the country. In May 1996 the local currency the Afghani (Afs) had an exchange rate of 12,000 to the dollar. By November the same year the rate was 15,000 Afs. In September 2000 the rate of exchange was about 60,000 Afs to the dollar.

Table 2.1: Development of the Afghan currency (Afs) over the years, exchange rate towards one USD.

Afs exchange rate To one USD
Dec 2000
Sept 2000
Nov 1996
May 1996


1 Source: FAO 1997, Afghanistan Agricultural Strategy.
2 UNDP 1993: Afghanistan Rehabilitation Strategy
3 Source: ABC Country Book of Afghanistan.
4 Source: Role and size of livestock sector in Afghanistan, World Bank 2000, page 22.

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