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Summer 2015

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Interview with Joel Carter, CEO of Afghanistan’s Agricultural Development Fund

For generations, Afghanistan’s commercial farmers and agribusinesses had no way to borrow money to invest in their businesses. In 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the Afghanistan Ministry for Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL), established the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF). USAID’s initial fund contribution of $100 million would be complemented by a technical assistance contract—the Agricultural Credit Enhancement Program—awarded to DAI.

The program ran into many obstacles, including Afghan banks’ unwillingness to participate, the Afghan government’s reluctance to register the ADF as an institution, and the requirement of many potential customers that their loans be Sharia compliant. But by the end of the project in February 2015, the fund had proven a resounding success with 202 loans to agribusinesses and intermediaries processed totaling $106 million, directly benefiting 35,000 end borrowers in all 34 provinces, and with a default rate of less than 5 percent.

In November 2012, the ADF was officially established as a development fund of the Afghan government. In June 2014, the ADF took another step toward becoming a standalone financial institution when Joel O. Carter, pictured below, was sworn in as the ADF’s first chief executive officer. Developments recently asked Carter about the ADF’s prospects for sustained, long-term success.

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Q: In the face of the obstacles this project encountered from the start, how did DAI address the market for agricultural lending?

Carter: In two main ways. First, since Afghan banks would not work with us, we had to find other distribution channels, and so we established credit management units throughout the country as a way to manage risk. These were small offices of trained local Afghans who reviewed applications and disbursed and managed the loans. Second, we...

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Uniting Tajikistan’s Farmers to Fix Broken Irrigation Systems

Tajikistan’s rugged alpine mountain ranges hold many glaciers; these feed hundreds of streams that flow down to the fertile river valleys, where many people work on farms. Despite this pretty picture, Tajikistan is severely food challenged. The poorest country in Central Asia, Tajikistan imports more than half its food. Many of its most vulnerable families go all day without eating.

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In Sierra Leone: Enhancing Traditional Law and Justice Services

Despite significant improvements in the delivery of statutory justice services, most rural people in Sierra Leone lack the time, money, or literacy needed to access formal justice structures such as police, courts, or legal services. Instead, they rely on traditional mechanisms such as the Chiefdom structure, which are perceived as quicker, less expensive (in time and money), and more accessible.

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The Birth of a New Credit Culture in Afghanistan

Fifty-four months. That’s how long it took to conceive, launch, and hand over the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) in Afghanistan. Through the Agricultural Credit Enhancement (ACE) Program, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) established a standalone financial institution to administer the ADF, with a clearly defined governance structure and guided by rigorous policies and procedures.

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Building Trust while Rebuilding Somalia

Somalia has one of the most insecure, complicated, and harsh operating environments in the world. Much of the country is in ruins, with conflict between rival clans, continued attacks by Al Shabaab, and violent power struggles amplifying humanitarian disasters such as refugee crises, famine, and poverty. In the past two decades, millions of dollars in international aid directed to Somalia has had mixed results, with many Somalis believing that well intentioned assistance has exacerbated conflict and increased corruption.

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Fiscal Reform and the Struggle for Stability in Jordan

Much ink has been spilt by academics, analysts, diplomats, and the military regarding the causes of instability. But a broad consensus holds that environments with scant economic opportunities are fertile grounds for recruiting alienated and aggrieved young people to the cause of violent extremism. Taking that as a premise, it makes sense to pursue programming that bolsters economic resilience as part of an integrated strategy to counter extremism. In Jordan, we have an example where macroeconomic assistance—in particular, fiscal reform—has played an important role in sustaining the stability of a country at the heart of one of the world’s most volatile regions.

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Working Together? We’re Working On It

For DAI, one of the great advantages of implementing an extensive and diverse group of projects is the opportunity it affords us to learn and collaborate across a multiclient portfolio—to bring insights from U.K Department for International Development (DFID) programming into our U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) work, for example, and vice versa; or to coordinate mutually beneficial activities that cross project and client lines.

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