When Magol’s husband deserted her and their four children, she was desperate and had nowhere to turn. She left their home in Ghazni and moved to Kabul to grow and sell vegetables. Gradually, she built up enough business to support her family. After three years of working in her own yard, she learned that she could lease land from ARAZI, the Harakat-funded land lease project. In 2015, she leased one jerib of land for an annual fee of 3,150 Afs. Her harvest was abundant, and she bought four sheep with the revenue. Through the land she leased from ARAZI, Magol’s life changed dramatically. She is now making enough money to put her children through school. "I will not let my children collect garbage and sell plastic," Magol said. “I will work hard to help them grow and continue their education.” Harakat funded the ARAZI project in September 2009 to improve land offer and lease procedures in Afghanistan, as well as access to government lands for commercial purposes. The result has been a streamlined land lease process, reducing the process from 6 months to 1 or 2 months and the number of steps in the procedure from 52 to 11. Since its inception, 111,543 hectares of land across the country have been leased to farmers and the private sector, far exceeding ARAZI’s initial target of 25,000 hectares leased. Three thousand lease contracts have been signed with investors, exceeding the initial target of 700. Government revenue collection has increased from 25 million AFS annually to 209 million AFS. Through the ARAZI project, the private sector has saved an estimated US$17,421,720, while private sector investment has created 19,384 jobs. Through projects like this, Harakat and its partners are making it easier to do business in Afghanistan.

Najibullah Khan is an entrepreneur who buys and sells commodities. In 2015, he entered into a two-year contract for supply of these commodities, but four months into the contract, the market price for sugar increased, and his supplier stopped selling sugar to him. Najibullah asked him to restore the price to the amount agreed upon in their contract, but his request was denied. Luckily, a friend had seen billboards and TV commercials advertising the newly formed, Harakat-funded Afghanistan Center for Dispute Resolution Center, so Najibullah got in contact. “I did not want to go through the formal court system,” he said. “I do not believe the courts are transparent. ACDR is friendly and trustworthy.” Najibullah and his supplier attended three mediation sessions together, and while they did not reach a resolution, Najibullah had high praise for the process. “I would come to ACDR again for their services. They treated me well and they were honest and open with me.” Since ACDR’s launch in 2015, 97 cases have been submitted for mediation. Of these, 65 were resolved, 10 are pending, and 22 were either rejected or ended in an impasse. Mediation saves time and money. Contract enforcement in Afghanistan’s formal justice sector requires an average of 46 procedures, taking more than 1,642 days with 25% of the claimed amount spent on dispute settlement. In contrast, mediation requires an average of 60 days. Through projects like this, Harakat and its partners are making it easier to do business in Afghanistan.

“The School of Accounting has changed my life from dust to gold,” says Elyas Roheen, citing an Afghan proverb. In tenth grade, Elyas enrolled in a vocational program in preparation of joing his father’s small business in his Kabul, where he would do computer maintenance and electrical repairs. However, this all changed when he learnerd about the American University of Afghanistan’s School of Accounting course. He began the course in 2015, studying auditing, corporate and business law, financial accounting and taxation. After graduating in 2017, he worked as a national auditor for the President’s Office and then as an auditor at the Ministry of Public Health. Elyas is the last person to comment on audits before they are sent to President Ghani. “Without my ACCA training, I would never have been considered for this position,” said Elyas. “This kind of work requires the knowledge and understanding of charter accountancy that I gained at the School of Accounting.” In the next five years, Elyas hopes to open his own accounting firm. He credits the School of Accounting for his growing success and is encouraging his sister to enroll. Harakat funded the establishment of the American University of Afghanistan’s School of Accounting in 2010, off the back of a 2007 World Bank Report indicating that Afghanistan only had three national chartered accountants. To date, 787 students are enrolled, demonstrating both the demand in the market for qualified accountants as well as the high standard under which the School of Accounting operates.

Mursal Amin was studying French Literature at Kabul University when she heard about the Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance (AIBF) from a friend. She had long dreamed of working in management and decided that AIBF could teach her the skills she needed. She sat for the entrance exam along with 600 other hopeful candidates, and was one of 100 who gained admission. In the course of her six months at the institute, Mursal studied human resources, banking, finance and accounting. She polished her computer skills and deepened her fluency in English. When she finished her studies at AIBF, Mursal was hired as an Executive Manager in the human resources department of the Ministry of Higher Education. Mursal shares with pride that she is the only staff member in her department who started the job fully skilled with no need for on-the-job training. She credits AIBF with helping her acquire these skills. Mursal is proud to have achieved her dream of a management position. Without a well-trained professional staff to meet the needs of an aspiring market economy, Afghanistan’s commercial banks and microfinance institutions have had to rely on international staff to fill professional positions in the industry. Harakat funding supported Da Afghanistan Bank to establish AIBF in 2009. The goal was to train employees of financial institutions in international banking practices, with the end goal of filling jobs in Afghanistan’s financial institutions with national staff. To date, AIBF has trained 5,028 bank and microfinance employees -- 3,782 male and 1,246 female. Seventy-five percent of AIBF graduates currently have jobs in financial institutions, filling positions previously occupied by international workers. AIBF believes that the skills acquired in these trainings and subsequently put to work in Afghanistan’s financial institutions are responsible for the reduction of non-performing loans from 48% to 5% between March 2011 and March 2012.

For 37 years, Abdul Karim has plied his trade as a gem cutter, marble worker, and trainer of future artisans. His shop in Kabul’s Shar e Naw district is a testimony to the skills his father taught him, as well as to the skills he is passing on to the next generation of artisans. Before returning to his homeland in 2002, he ran a thriving crafts business in Pakistan with 80 machines and 36 workers, including six women. His sales were good and he had a dependable market base. However, when he returned to Kabul, he could only afford space for 45 machines and 12 workers. Women were unable to work with him because his space did not offer female facilities. His productivity dropped and his sales suffered, limiting his ability to purchase the raw materials essential to his craft. This changed when he acquired a strong customer base in the expat community, however, in 2014, his shop was destroyed in a suicide attack and along with it, his stock and his many designs. Slowly and painstakingly, he began to rebuild, keeping a promise to himself that he would never abandon his craft. In 2015, Karim participated in the Harakat-funded Afghanistan Artisan Toolkit training in Kabul, conducted by the Turquoise Mountain Institute. After completing the training, a change occurred in his business. He came away from the training with new skills and a vision for his future. Karim says that the Afghanistan Artisan Toolkit training has enabled him to introduce standards in his output. Before the training, he could not produce multiple items to the same standard, whereas now he can produce hundreds of the same item with consistency and uniformity. Karim is not only an artisan, he is a teacher. He is passionate about passing along his skills and the knowledge he holds in his heart to young artisans. Inspired by the Toolkit, he developed and published a book about jewelry making and has distributed free copies to other jewelers and gem cutters. Karim’s experience is not unique. The Afghanistan Artisan Toolkit training allows artisans of all levels to reap the benefits. For established businesses like Karim’s, the toolkit has allowed him to professionalize his approach to business by instituting management procedures and budgeting systems. He has built a network with other Afghan artisans who are developing plans for trading internationally. His vision for the next five years is to build his business, expand his market base regionally and internationally, and keep his art alive among Afghanistan’s young artisans. Harakat invested in the development of the Afghanistan Artisan Toolkit to raise the standards and quality of Afghan artisanal outputs. The impact from this investment can be witnessed through the eyes of Afghan artisans whose products are reaching high-end boutique stores and trunk shows in major cities including London, Milan and Los Angeles. A collection of Afghan jewelry was recently sold to Nordstrom, one of the largest high-end department stores in the U.S. Learn more at ArtisanToolkit.af