Using KANAVA Tool, Afghan Firm Qualifies for Direct USAID Funding

By Carol J. Yee

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The year before I first met with the management of the Nasir Azizi Agricultural Services Company (NAASC), a small business operating in Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, they had received some humbling news. Having approached the USAID Regional Agricultural Development Program-North (RADP-N) for a grant to extend their services to six Afghan provinces, the team was awarded only enough funds to work in one.

“As part of our application, RADP-N staff came to our office to do a site visit,” explains CEO Naseer Ahmad Azizi. “They could see that, although we were a dedicated team, our systems were still not strong enough and decided to only award a portion of the amount we requested.”

That didn’t dissuade Azizi and his team, though. Determined to improve their systems, when they were approached by RADP-N, they immediately agreed to participate in a KANAVA-led Impact Strengthening Development (ISD) assessment in July of last year. The ISD assessment documented just how much work NAASC had to do. In fact, of the eight Afghan companies I assessed that summer, the company ranked last, lagging in key metrics like administration, human resources, and organizational management.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that I just returned from re-assessing Azizi’s team and was thrilled to share with them and my colleagues at RADP-N, to which KANAVA is a subcontractor, the results of the follow-up assessment: NAASC now tied for second place among the agricultural firms doing business with USAID in Afghanistan’s north. And of the eight organizations, NAASC showed the greatest improvement.

The ISD assessment, covering nine core areas, is a management tool, not an audit of the organization’s systems. There are no right or wrong answers, nor any penalties for scoring a certain way. In fact, organizations should apply ISD as a tool for self-examination that frankly reflects what management systems they have in place.

The progress was truly impressive: in administration, NAASC improved its ISD score by 128 percent; in human resources, the score surged by 88 percent; and in organizational management, the team registered a 122 percent improvement over its 2017 score.

That’s not all. By mapping its ISD scoring methodology—which ranks organizations based on yes-or-no answers to a detailed questionnaire—to USAID’s Non-U.S. Pre-Award Survey (NUPAS), KANAVA showed that NAASC is now in the top tier of USAID grant applicants. That opens up a range of new funding opportunities, setting the company up for sustainable operations beyond the life of RADP-N.

As Azizi recalled in this KANAVA feature from January, KANAVA did more than rate NAASC. Once the first set of disappointing results were in, we worked with the NAASC team to identify gaps in each of the areas where they lagged as well as design a roadmap for improvement. “We fully participated in the ISD training, which helped us to become more effective and take on bigger and more significant challenges,” Azizi said at the time.

True to his word, he worked with his team to conduct an ISD pre-assessment before I arrived in Mazar this time, and by the time we sat down to get started, the NAASC staff had prepared copies of all the policies and procedures they had drafted over the past year.

That kind of enthusiasm is exactly what we at KANAVA aim to inspire and foster through our work with local organizations. As more organizations apply the tool, they are not only seeing benefit obtaining grants, it is also empowering the organizations to strengthen their own systems to support diversification of funding sources and self-reliance.

Stay tuned for more news on KANAVA's ISD tool and how it’s benefitting USAID programs in Afghanistan, Cambodia, West Africa, and beyond.  

Carol Yee