Turning former Afghanistan warlord fighters into farmers

Christian Children's Fund (CCF), working in Afghanistan as ChildFund Afghanistan (CFA) has received a $4.7 million grant to turn former Afghanistan warlord fighters into farmers and entrepreneurs by providing vocational training and job generation to more than 4,500 ex-combatant soldiers. This grant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is designed to reintegrate former soldiers --loyal to warlords in the north--back to productive non-fighting lives in their communities. This grant is part of the UNDP Afghanistan New Beginnings Program and CCF/CFA has been a key player in this national program as well as the special Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration programs for children and youth supported by UNICEF in the four provinces in the northeast.

For the most part, these former soldiers, many of them youth at the time they were fighting, want to raise cattle and sheep or have orchards. CCF/CFA Afghanistan National Director Richard Thwaites explained, "CCF/CFA's particular task with this program is to reintegrate former soldiers into civilian life. When they come out of the armed services, the ex-combatants register with CCF/CFA. We have already registered more than of 3,900 ex-combatants and provided services to more than 2,000 through the help of this grant.

Since most of the ex-combatants come from a farming background, the majority of them choose from agricultural career options. "We talk to them as individuals about what sort of agricultural options they are interested in and their income possibilities when they are in a community. When we find out that what they really want to do is to get into sheep farming or the cattle business, we go to their homes to see if the individual can realistically work with sheep, cattle, fish, orchard growing or whatever," said Thwaites.

CCF/CFA provides wheat seed and fertilizers. Ex-combatants learn skills that are marketable. "When CCF/CFA provides these animals, instead of buying 100 head of cattle from Pakistan because it's cheaper, we buy from the local market," said Thwaites. This is beneficial for a number of reasons: CCF/CFA is contributing to the local economy and the ex-combatant is choosing the specific animals he wants. CCF/CFA also provides veterinary services for ex-combatant's livestock; particularly for preventive measures. "For example, if a person has chosen chickens, we make sure the livestock is injected against diseases," said Thwaites.

CCF/CFA will also teach these ex-combatants how to run a business. CCF/CFA provides an introduction in savings and lending. Thwaites explained, "For most of the ex-combatants, the idea of borrowing money and paying it back is a novelty. We view this part of the program as purely an introduction into the whole system of borrowing money and repayment of loans.

The loans made to the ex-combatants in this program are small, averaging $50. "For instance, a hairdresser could use the money to buy appropriate tools. This is all part of the learning process for them," said Thwaites. If the ex-combatants pay back a loan within the agreed time-frame, they can become eligible to join a CCF/CFA micro-enterprise program.

CCF/CFA also teaches the ex-combatants how to read and write. Basic life skills such as health and gender issues are covered as well. "We are essentially teaching them how to be good citizens within their communities," said Thwaites.

Media Contact:

Kelly Wimmer
Communications Associate
Christian Children's Fund
(804) 756-2716