Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees

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Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR)
Dacaar logo.png
DACAAR has worked side by side with the Afghan people since 1984
Founded 1984
Type NGO
Focus Humanitarian
Area served
Key people
Mr. John Morse (Director)
More than 800 (2015)
Website http://www.dacaar.org/

Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) (Danish: Den danske komité for hjælp til afghanske flygtninge) is a non-political, non-governmental, non-profit humanitarian/development organization working to improve the lives of the Afghan people since 1984.

DACAAR work in rural areas and aim at improving rural livelihoods through sustainable activities that engage Afghan communities to be agents of their own development process.

DACAAR employ a holistic approach to all rural development activities in order to ensure long-term viability of projects. Approximately 10 million Afghans across 29 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have benefited from our humanitarian/developmental activities since DACAAR was established.[1]


The Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) was formed in 1984 to support the more than 5 million Afghans, who had fled to Pakistan and Iran and the 2 million, who were displaced within Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion.[2] DACAAR was founded by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Danish People's Aid (DPA), Danish Association for International Co-operation (MS) and Caritas Denmark. In 2010 DACAAR had over 700 employees working in 14 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

DACAAR started as a small sewing centre for Afghan women living as refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1984. Two years later DACAAR started its first water supply programme for Afghan refugees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan. Over the next three years the programme was expanded to most of the camps in NWFP and included maintenance of water supply and water distribution systems. In 1989 the Soviet withdrew its troops from Afghanistan and DACAAR returned to Afghanistan to start up programmes in the rural areas. The main office remained in Peshawar but over the coming years, field offices were gradually opened across Afghanistan.

In 1994 the Taliban took over control of most of Afghanistan and by 1996 all of DACAAR's activities were in Taliban controlled areas. DACAAR continued to work with the Afghan people, where it was possible. By the late 1990s DACAAR stopped its relief work to focus on development work in Afghan communities involving the local people in the projects.

In late 2001 the Taliban regime was overthrown by allied forces and a new government was formed in Kabul. In November 2002 DACAAR moved its main office from Peshawar to Kabul, and in 2006 DACAAR stopped working in Pakistan to focus on its work in Afghanistan.

In 2007, further deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan forced DACAAR to scale down and withdraw in some areas. Insecurity also created over 100,000 IDPs contributing to the large number of vulnerable people in need of support. Together with the recent waves of refugees returning to Afghanistan this had a substantial impact on DACAAR’s work with increased activities in returnee and IDP settlements, particularly in the provision of safe water and basic sanitation.

In 2008, DACAAR continued to provide emergency assistance such as water tankering to returnee and IDP camps in addition to its ongoing projects in water supply and rural development. The introduction of a gender unit constitutes a significant development in DACAAR’s efforts to promote gender mainstreaming both internally and externally. In addition, renewed emphasis was placed on project monitoring and evaluation to ensure the effectiveness, sustainability and long term impact of projects.

In 2009, solar-powered pipe schemes were introduced to enable water access in areas where hand pumps are unable to reach deep seated aquifers. In places where surface water is the only option, or where ground water is contaminated by arsenic and heavy metals, DACAAR introduced bio-sand filters as a new household water treatment technology.

Despite a continually worsening security situation, DACAAR reached more than 2 million beneficiaries in 2010 with emphasis on vulnerable populations in rural areas. Capacity in natural resources management was strengthened among communities in semi-arid areas with the introduction of new techniques and approaches to increase agricultural production. To enhance rural livelihoods for the vulnerable landless DACAAR also prioritised small scale enterprise development and vocational training. DACAAR established a Water Expertise and Training Centre (WETC), as a hub for knowledge management and research as well as for training and technical support to government agencies, NGOs and the private sector. Through the WETC, DACAAR effectively used its extensive experience to accelerate capacity building. The WETC also includes a modern Drinking Water Quality Testing Laboratory that serves both DACAAR and the Afghan WASH sector as a whole.

Ongoing conflict and instability in 2011 continued to narrow the humanitarian space and hamper DACAAR’s ability to deliver assistance to Afghanistan’s most vulnerable and remote communities. Additionally, as with all conflict and post conflict nations, Afghanistan was still in the process of building necessary capacity to embark on a sustainable development process.

DACAAR continued to support these efforts as a facilitating partner in the NSP. In ten out of the 12 provinces where DACAAR was working this year, activities included capacity building of Community Development Councils (CDCs). Rural Afghan communities with more than half a million community members were empowered to manage their own development process through training in project implementation, accounting, procurement, participatory monitoring, CDC by-laws and good governance.

A new Strategic Programme Framework for 2013-2016 was finalised in 2012 to set DACAAR’s strategic direction for the next four years. The merging of the two former programmeswas consolidated with a thematic focus in four areas: Water, Sanitation & Hygiene; Natural Resources Management; Women’s Empowerment; and Small Scale Enterprise Development. The aim was to improve learning and synergies across sectors in order to increase programme quality.

DACAAR also implemented a new organisational structure that was fine-tuned throughout the year to raise the overall efficiency of the organisation. The Director became the only expatriate in a line management position and all four departments (Fundraising & Communications; Programme; Finance & Administration; and Human Resources) were headed by Afghans.

On 1 January 2013, DACAAR embarked on yet another important journey by launching its Strategic Programme Framework 2013-2016. In June, a group of DACAAR Senior staff travelled to Europe to present the SPF to key donors; Danida, RNE, SIDA, and ECHO. Moreover, as a result of discussions in the WASH Cluster, DACAAR was elected as a Co-lead for the Cluster together with UNICEF and MRRD and was endorsed by the HCT. This will enable DACAAR to use its long -term experience and expertise in WASH to help enhance coordination and build capacity among relevant stakeholders.

2014 was the ultimate year of festivities as DACAARE celebrated 30 years of its existence as an organisation and its contributions to the rehabilitation and development of Afghanistan. Events were held in Kabul and Copenhagen in August and November respectively in which a large number of current and former staff of DACAAR , donors, partners, and journalists participated. A book entitled “30 years – Side by Side with the Afghan People” was published on the occasion.

Historical Geographical Coverage (1984-2014)[edit]

DACAAR's Historical Coverage Areas Map-1984-2014.gif

Areas of intervention[edit]

DACAAR focuses its activities on four thematic areas of intervention in addition to being an implementing partner to National Solidarity Programme (NSP). The activities are implemented in an integrated manner that takes advantage of the potential for synergies between them in order to meet DACAAR’s overall objective of contributing to equitable and sustainable livelihoods for rural Afghans with a particular focus on vulnerable groups.

Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)[edit]

DACAAR approach to WASH follows that of the Afghan Government’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), combining safe water, proper sanitation and hygiene education. This approach has proved to be highly effective in reducing mortality and morbidity from water-borne diseases, and in enhancing overall quality of life. Through the WASH component, DACAAR ensures availability of safe drinking water through establishment of wells and pipe networking systems and introducing household water treatment technologies. Additionally, it provides communities with support to improve overall sanitation conditions by constructing, maintaining and replicating environmentally friendly and sanitary latrines and by improving hygienic behavior and standards through culturally appropriate hygiene education. Furthermore, DACAAR builds capacity and influences policy at national level through its involvement in various national WASH fora and through capacity building and research undertaken by its Water Expertise and Training Centre and Groundwater monitoring teams.

Natural Resources Management (NRM)[edit]

DACAAR’s NRM interventions have proven highly effective in improving rural livelihoods by increasing agricultural productivity and production and as such food self-sufficiency and income through application of environmentally sustainable approaches. This is done through building capacity of farmers and providing them with necessary inputs and tools to increase, improve and diversify agriculture and horticulture production on both dry and irrigated land. Other NRM interventions include land stabilization and soil erosion control, and protection, rehabilitation and proper management of common pasture lands, improving livestock and poultry productivity and production, and integrated water management, including rehabilitation of small-scale irrigation structures.

Small-Scale Enterprise Development (SSED)[edit]

In order to increase income and as such improve rural livelihoods, DACAAR promotes creation of sustainable rural Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the form of Producer Associations (PAs) building their capacity in business management and technical skills and increasing their business competitiveness through supporting them in product quality, market linkages, and in general, promoting their involvement in the value chain. Additionally, DACAAR enhances opportunities for employment and income among the most vulnerable (often rural youth) through the development of their vocational skills and through supporting them in establishing small scale individual businesses.

Women’s Empowerment (WE)[edit]

DACAAR’s Women’s Empowerment interventions aim at increasing rural women’s right and access to opportunities and resources, their ability to make right choices, and their ability to influence decisions in the household, the community and the society as a whole. This includes organising them and building their capacity through their involvement in Women’s Resource Centres (WRCs); increasing their basic education through delivery of litracy courses and raising their awareness of rights and health; and supporting and building the capacity of rural women to develop sustainable and profitable women-led businesses in traditional and non-traditional trades.

National Solidarity Programme (NSP)[edit]

DACAAR is a long-time facilitating partner in the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) implemented by the Government of Afghanistan. Launched in 2003, the NSP aims at promoting inclusive local governance and rural rehabilitation and development. The NSP is recognized as an effective mechanism for community management and delivery of rural infrastructure through establishment of female and male democratic Community Development Councils (CDCs). The NSP aims to strengthen the capacity of the CDCs to identify and prioritise needs, and to plan and implement project to meet those needs with support and oversight from implementing partners.


We employ a holistic yet flexible approach to all rural development interventions in order to ensure long-term viability of projects to foster a strong civil society and promote ownership among citizens and public authorities.

We continually review and fine tune our approach with the ultimate goal of meaningfully helping improve the quality of life for as many vulnerable rural Afghan communities within the means available as possible. We apply our activities under the four thematic areas, WASH, NRM , SSED, and WE as well as the National Solidarity Programmein an integrated manner according to the specific needs and priorities of the targeted communities. We do this while taking advantage of the potential for synergies among these areas of interventions.

For example, our interventions in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) meet some of the most basic needs of a large number of beneficiaries within a relatively short period of time, freeing up their time and energy through proximity of water points and reduced effects of water-borne diseases. This time can be meaningfully applied to otherthings e.g. income-generating activities offered under the Small-Scale Enterprise Development (SSED) component.Additionally, the community mobilisation under e.g. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Natural Resources Management (NRM) as well as National Solidarity Programme (NSP) could pave the way for encouraging local men’s consent as well as organising women for the establishment of Women’s Resource Centres under the Women’s Empowerment (WE) component. Our interventions onNatural Resources Management (NRM), Small-Scale Enterprise Development (SSED) and Women’s Empowerment (WE)focus on activities aimed at training and skills building of beneficiaries in the essential areas of capacity required for high impact. Each beneficiary receives training and inputs only for one capacity. Beneficiaries will then share knowledge and know-how with each other, paving the way for the horizontal spread and multiplication of capacities.

In working with the communities, we employ a community-based approach that has been tried and testedover our almost three decades of engagement in humanitarian and development activities. With the consent of relevant local authorities, we engage with communities through existing community-based organisations such as Community Development Councils (CDCs), village shuras and/or district development assemblies. Community mobilisation happens at several stages and ensures full representativeness to ensure ownership and participation at all levels of the community, thereby enabling communities to identify needs, set priorities and acquire capacity for implementation by being an integral part of it.

Cross-cutting issues and strategic priorities[edit]

In all our activities we ensure mainstreaming gender as much as possible within the varied cultural contexts that we work in. Likewise, we consider protection and environment as important cross-cutting issues in our programming. Additionally, our programmes are designed and implemented in such a way as to ensure conflict prevention and do-no-harm. Where applicable we also engage in Disaster Risk Reduction activities as part of our programmes,organising community members in Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction Committees,linking them at district and provincial level and building their resilience and awareness in order to miminisethe impact of disasters.

Contribution to national plans[edit]

Our interventions follow the applicable and relevant National Priority Programmes (NPPs) and other national plans such as National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan (NAPWA) and Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Our Strategic Programme Framework (SPF) is linked to the objectives of these plans and is aligned with the broader aims reflected in the strategic vision for the Transformational Decade, subscribed to at the Tokyo Conference. In addition, DACAAR contributes to the provisions of the Mutual Accountability Framework accompanying the Tokyo Declaration. At the operational level, DACAAR enters into specific MoUs with relevant line ministries such as Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyred and the Disabled (MoLSAMD), Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and Ministry of Education (MoE) and ensures direct dialogue, coordination, capacity building and reporting lines with relevant directorates at sub-national level. In addition, our implementation methodologies and guidelines for different thematic areas are fully aligned with those of the relevant line ministries. For example, our WASH interventions follow the MRRD’s WASH Policy and Implementation Guidelines, ourvocational training programmes follow the established guidelines and policies of MoLSAMD while our literacy programme follows the policies, guidelines and curricula developed by the MoE.

Activities in Afghanistan (2014)[edit]

DACAAR’s Activities in Afghanistan Map-2014.jpg


DACAAR has worked closely with the Agency Co-ordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation & Livestock (MAIL), the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation & Development (MRRD) and the of Women Affairs (MoWA). DACAAR receives funding from a wide range of donors, including Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Sida and the European Commission among others.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.dacaar.org
  2. ^ Kaplan, Soldiers of God (2001) (p.11)

External links[edit]