WOCCU-Afghanistan Project Expands
Cooperative group lending at Balkh IFC in Mazar-e-Shariff. Cooperative group lending helps farmers who do not yet qualify for individual loans to finance immediate agricultural needs.
Madison, WI—World Council of Credit
Unions, Inc. is set to expand its work in
Afghanistan by $11.1 million with $8.2 million
funding from the Microfinance Investment and
Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) and an
obligation of $2.9 million from from the Academy
for Educational Development (AED) under its
United States Agency for International
Development (USAID)-funded Agriculture, Rural
Investment and Enterprise Strengthening (ARIES)
In northern Afghanistan with MISFA funding,
World Council intends to start five additional
credit unions and points of service, designed as
investment and finance cooperatives (IFCs), in
order to be compliant with Islamic law. World
Council will also provide continued technical
support to two established IFCs in Sheberghan
World Council will establish and support up
to 20 IFCs and points of service in the
southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan with
funding from AED. As part of its ARIES Program,
USAID has granted AED $80 million.
Membership orientation at Balkh IFC.
Though Afghanistan once boasted a strong
agricultural export of livestock and
horticultural products, private capital
investment has dropped in recent years and many
farmers have turned to illicit opium production
to make ends meet. The three-year ARIES program
aims to support people who have shifted away
from this business by strengthening the
agricultural sector with innovative agricultural
lending and micro-entrepreneurial loans.
"The people of Afghanistan are proud and
hardworking. They need nothing more than a bit
of assistance from the rest of the world to help
sort out their lives," said Randall Spears,
World Council project director for
Afghanistan. "The farmer wants to farm, and the
trader wants to trade," he pointed out.
"Although there are multiple challenges to be
faced—language, tribal loyalties, even the
recent influx of anti-governmental
still gets the sense that these are a people
that are on the move toward a better future,"
Spears continued. "We hope that this project
will be one of those vehicles that will help
drive them to that better future. In a land that
is primarily cash and carry, World Council is
superbly placed to assist in the development of
a microfinance structure for this region of the
World Council's work in Afghanistan began in
financial support from MISFA. Credit unions were
concept in the war-torn country, so World
Council program staff worked with communities at
the grassroots level to educate staff and
potential members. At the end of 2005, almost
3,000 Afghans belonged to the two credit unions
in Sheberghan and Mazar-e-Shariff in northern
"We've been planting seed the past two years,
and it's bearing fruit," World Council deputy
project director Edgar Comeros said. "The idea
we've planted is still very new," he continued,
emphasizing Afghanistan's fragile state. "And
because it's new, we need to nurture it, be
there and be with them."
Spears has extensive experience directing
program implementation in conflict-affected
making him uniquely qualified to serve as World
Council's project director in the more difficult
and dangerous regions of Kandahar, Helmund and
Nangarhar Provinces. Comeros has more than 30
years of credit union development experience,
including two years as World Council's project
director during the first phase of the MISFA
in northern Afghanistan.
USAID administers the US foreign assistance
program providing economic and humanitarian
assistance in more than 80 countries
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.