Nasir Azizi Agriculture Services Company: Doing More with Less in Afghanistan
By Carol J. Yee, COO
Straddling Afghanistan’s northern border with Uzbekistan, Mazar-i-Sharif is a picturesque city of just over half-a-million residents, most of them dependent on agriculture or trade for their livelihoods. Like the farming that lies at the heart of its economy, much of what drives work in Afghanistan’s fifth-largest city is the ability to hedge against the unknown—weather patterns, cycles of violence, and, for a growing number of grassroots development organizations, the on-again, off-again flows of funding from international donors.
“Our organization is dependent on short-term project funding,” says Naseer Ahmad Azizi, Chief Executive Officer of an agriculture services company that bears his name. With demand for its services high, Azizi’s firm needs to maintain responsive systems that can keep help it deliver on current projects and attract new ones, propelling growth in its portfolio.
Yet for the Nasir Azizi Agriculture Services Company (NAASC) and other Afghan firms working in the country’s volatile rural areas, political instability and donor caution have made it difficult to plan and, as important, to retain staff -- a cycle that, Azizi says, has kept his dream of building a sustainable agricultural development organization consistently out of reach.
All that began to change when Azizi and his team turned to the USAID Regional Agricultural Development Program North (RADP-N), which is managed in Afghanistan’s north by DAI, a Bethesda, Maryland-based development contractor. With assistance from RADP-North, as the program is known, NAASC became one of a growing list of organizations, including in conflict zones like Afghanistan, to undergo a KANAVA Impact Strengthening Development (ISD) assessment.
“The ISD training helped us to be become more effective and take on bigger and more significant challenges,” Azizi recalls. He cites new skills his staff obtained “in procurement and finance and accounting principles,” which in turn allowed them “to step into new roles as our organization needs them and to be better equipped to effectively implement USAID-funded programs.”
As a subcontractor to DAI on RADP-North, KANAVA was tasked with leading the ISD assessment, working with NAASC staff to measure the organization’s policies and procedures against the requirements of USAID’s Federal Acquisition Regulations, or FARs. The net result was a better understanding of those regulations; by the end of the assessment and subsequent training, NAASC had updated their accounting, procurement, and human resources systems, an important step as NAASC prepares itself to pass the FAR-based Non-US Pre-Award Survey (NUPAS), which will allow it to receive direct funding from USAID and other donors. To ensure NAASC meets all NUPAS requirements, KANAVA will be following up with further trainings in January and March of 2018.
Common and Consistent Approach
“In the past, we received several management capacity building trainings carried out by national and international organizations,” said Azizi. KANAVA’s ISD tool, however, was the first to offer him and his team “a common and consistent approach to developing improved strategies and mechanisms.”
From Afghanistan, to Cambodia, West Africa, and even the United States, KANAVA has piloted ISD on three continents, demonstrating that effective management can be fostered anywhere. We’re proud to partner with DAI on this important effort in Afghanistan and will be featuring stories of other ISD implementers in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, to learn more about RADP-North, please see here.
Learn more about KANAVA, our partners, and how they have used our ISD tool at kanavainternational.com.