In Afghanistan, natural resources underpin the livelihoods of an estimated 70-80 percent of the population. Many of these rural communities depend on agriculture, animal husbandry and artisanal mining for their daily survival. However, while natural resources are often managed at the community level, the onset of conflict has served to erode many local decision-making systems.
UNEP, since 2005, has been pioneering the development of community-based natural resources management (CBRNM) projects in Afghanistan. Such an approach empowers communities to more equitably and sustainably manage their natural resources through information sharing, the development of mutually agreed upon local area management plans, and technical guidance. To date, UNEP has operationalized 30 different community environmental projects focusing on issues such as water resource rehabilitation, disaster mitigation, irrigation canal reparations, renewable energy, water conservation and fruit and nut-tree development.
UNEP is also working with the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) to integrate ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (eco-DRR) approaches into community environmental projects. With the harsh conditions many rural communities face in regions such as the Koh-e Baba Mountains of the Central Highlands, Eco-DRR approaches can help to minimize the risk and impact of natural hazards such as flooding or avalanches. These strategies utilize landscape-scale management approaches to identify larger patterns of environmental change and help promote a balanced use of natural resources.
To ensure community based natural resource management projects are fully owned by local communities and districts and are scalable to regional and national levels, UNEP is working to formalize institutional arrangements and build local capacity. Additionally, UNEP along with other UN and government partners is advocating for the integration of the community-based approach to natural resource management in the government’s National Priority Programme on Environmental Conservation and Natural Resource Management, a $780 million programme. Lessons learned and best practices will also be consolidated into a “How to” tailor made for the Afghanistan context.