Japan's Ambassador to Afghanistan visits UNDP's initiatives in Guldara district

October 26, 2023

Takashi Okada, Japan's Ambassador to Afghanistan and Stephen Rodriques, UNDP Afghanistan Resident Representative, in the Guldara district of Kabul province.

Photo: UNDP Afghanistan

In a display of the strong partnership between Japan and UNDP, His Excellency Takashi Okada, Japan's Ambassador to Afghanistan, recently embarked on a field journey alongside Stephen Rodriques, UNDP Resident Representative to Afghanistan, to see firsthand some of the initiatives being implemented by UNDP in the Guldara district of Kabul province with funding from the Government of Japan. Japan is a major donor to Afghanistan. 

The delegation received a warm welcome from community members, who expressed their gratitude with flowers and welcome notes in both English and Japanese. This gesture highlighted the deep appreciation that the people of Afghanistan hold for Japan's enduring commitment during challenging times. Throughout this visit, Ambassador Okada and Mr. Rodriques engaged with local leaders, entrepreneurs, farmers, and community members, learning more about how they are coping and rebuilding their communities. 

A notable highlight of the visit was the inauguration of a community kitchen initiative. The Guldara community kitchen is one of 47 community kitchens UNDP has launched across five provinces to date. These communal hubs are often run by small groups of women, and they help to empower both men and women to participate in food distribution and sales activities, promoting gender equality and well-being. Ambassador Okada witnessed the dedication and culinary skills of the women who are helping to feed hundreds of people within their community.  

These community kitchens, including the one in Guldara, have provided temporary job opportunities for 330 women and 144 men. These kitchens have served a total of 86,870 individuals with both discounted and free hot meals in the 5 provinces since their start of operations. 

The visit also shed light on some of the entrepreneurial endeavors taking place within local communities. One example was a small business run by Kamela, an aspiring entrepreneur. Ambassador Okada was impressed by Kamela's pickle jam business which was born out of passion and creativity. Kamela's pickle business has grown, adding six more jobs for women. Better equipment has made work easier, and she has expanded her market and is now selling products (pickles, yoghurts, etc.) in Kabul. 

The discussions underscored the importance of supporting local small businesses, which contribute significantly to job creation and Afghanistan's economic and social progress. 

Ambassador Okada also recognized the significant water resource management challenge in Guldara district, highlighted by the local communities as well as the UNDP technical team. Afghanistan is among the top countries most affected by climate change and droughts have become a major problem affecting millions of farmers. Discussions revolved around potential water management interventions in Guldara, anticipated outcomes, and possible collaboration between UNDP and the Government of Japan to effectively address this issue. Ambassador Okada also engaged in conversations with local farmers and authorities, acknowledging the pressing need for sustainable solutions. 

The field mission led to Quti Sazan village where UNDP, with support from the Japanese government, improved the water management system by building a 110-meter canal. This canal improves irrigation for over 270 hectares of land, benefiting 234 households and generating 446 labour days through cash-for-work initiatives. 

This positive change enabled local farmers to yield a more abundant harvest, including fruits, vegetables, and wheat, proudly showcased during the visit. 

As the day concluded, Ambassador Okada's visit demonstrated the importance of working together. His presence inspired hope and showed how positive change can happen when communities and partners team up.  

"I am delighted to have visited the sites of UNDP’s projects in Guldara district, which were funded by Japan. I was impressed by the commitment of the communities and local authorities, as well as the well-planned and executed projects. These projects are making a positive impact on the lives of many local people. I am pleased to witness the fruitful cooperation between UNDP and Japan," expressed Ambassador Okada. 

"I am incredibly pleased to be here in Guldara. Our visit showcased the essence of Afghanistan's spirit – its people are remarkably resilient. The three projects we witnessed – the community kitchen, the pickle and jam factory, and the irrigation canal – are all community-operated. We saw the spirit of the Afghan people - their resilience, and dedication to rebuild and grow with support from their partners. This is truly impressive. I am highly satisfied with what I have witnessed during this field visit," said Mr. Rodriques.  

Sherabudin, a community elder, shared, "The canal has significantly reduced water wastage, enabling faster water supply to our lands and resulting in increased crop yields. We extend our gratitude to the people and Government of Japan." 

These shared feelings of thanks, learning, and determination show how working together makes a lasting difference. It proves that progress happens when we all work together with dedication and cooperation. 

From April 2021 to June 2023, with generous support from Japan, UNDP has assisted over 1.1 million individuals in gaining access to health, education, and alternative energy. This includes the provision of equipment and supplies to 429 schools and health facilities, benefiting countless lives. Additionally, more than 830,000 individuals (women: 210,000+) have been supported with jobs, livelihoods, and cash for work schemes. More than 8,900 micro, small and medium businesses (7,000+ women-led) have received grants, training, equipment, and access to new markets. 

Additionally, there has been significant investments in sustainable energy, with over 5,000 facilities now powered by renewable energy sources. In the realm of social cohesion, 261 civil society organizations have been supported to conduct peacebuilding and advocacy activities to help ensure that as the country develops it maintains its social fabric and unity. Together, these efforts are not only saving lives, improving wellbeing and promoting prosperity but also instilling a sense of hope for a better future for all Afghanis. 

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