Following 40 years of protracted conflict and frequent natural disasters, including drought and flooding, Afghanistan remains one of the world's most complex and difficult humanitarian crises. Persistent conflict and environmental disruptions to life and livelihoods has significantly undermined the population's resilience, and has left approximately 6.3 million people in acute need of assistance by the end of 2018. With conflict affecting nearly half of the population, the capacity of the government to provide its population with basic services and economic opportunities is limited and hinders the country’s development, leaving 54% of the population below the poverty line.
ACTED was founded in Afghanistan in 1993 and has been active in the country ever since. Since 25 years, ACTED has been delivering multi-sector emergency assistance, as well as supporting inclusive, community-driven early recovery initiatives throughout the provinces. This allowed ACTED to develop extensive community knowledge and expertise, as well as making ACTED highly accepted in communities across Afghanistan. As one of the largest aid actors in Afghanistan, ACTED currently supports 3,586,792 individuals, over 10% of the Afghan population in 2018.
Following decades of protracted crisis from conflict and natural disaster, Afghanistan continues to struggle with access to basic services and livelihoods for most of the population. Following the 2003 Constitutional Loya Jirga meeting that determined the new administrative governance of Afghanistan, the country was divided into provinces, districts, and villages. However, most Afghans often identify themselves as being part of a larger historical, social, and territorial unit known as a manteqa. Very few humanitarian and development actors, including the government and international organizations, have used manteqas as a gateway for interaction with rural communities, thereby potentially limiting the impact that actors can have improving the lives of people living in rural communities in Afghanistan.
The manteqa is an informal but relatively precise geographic delineation that lies between the village and district level. Manteqas are usually based around shared resources, particularly irrigation canals, forests and communal water resources, but also other services, including riadsm nisqyesm and other infrastructure. Each manteqa encompasses all of the villages that rely on these shared resources. Over time, these manteqas have taken on additional historical, social, governance, and cultural meanings, forming a broader community and sense of belonging to which everyone living in each manteqa can relate, a sentiment which is often referred to as, "mushtarakat-e-manteqa.
The Sustained Rural Development Programme - Phase IV (SRDP IV), is the fourth phase (2018-2021) of a decade-long series of development programmes funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and implemented by ACTED in Northern Afghanistan, which focuses on improving the effectiveness of local governance, rural livelihoods, and provision of basic services in Northern Afghanistan. The project started in 2008 in southern Faryab Province, and has since expanded to most of the districts in four provinces of Afghanistan's northern regions, which all register high levels of humanitarian need and challenges to economic development, as well as having a longterm established ACTED presence.
As part of the SRDP IV programme, AGORA conducted a study of 64 manteqas, examining reported levels of inclusivity in community structures, market access and available livelihoods, as well as basic service access to health, education, and water services between October 2018 and September 2019.6 These profiles give a general overview of the situation in each manteqa as of 2 September 2019, and allow for development actors to both identify stakeholders, agricultural resources, livelihoods opportunities, and access to basic services in order to inform the SRDP IV project of the communities’ needs at the manteqa level, as well as identify the ways in which the manteqa can be used as an entry point for the provision of development and early recovery support in rural Afghanistan.