Survey Shows What Works, What Doesn’t in Afghan War Zone

How is it that similar projects in Afghanistan—such as initiatives in construction, irrigation, and education—evoke hate in one town and hope in the next?

To find out why, DAI asked 5,411 Afghans, and the groundbreaking survey’s major finding is powerful. Afghans clearly indicate they feel a greater sense of stability from projects delivered by the Afghan government than those delivered by some other entity.

For example, a well dug under the auspices of Afghan officials gave locals a greater sense of resilience and security than one delivered by foreign militaries, aid organizations, contractors, or anyone else. Who paid for the well or dug it did not matter; who requested it and managed its successful delivery meant everything.

These perceptions are crucial because the tenuous Afghan government, with U.S. support, is fighting to win hearts and minds. This survey, conducted by the DAI-led Local Governance and Community Development (LGCD) Project, gives us and others a clearer picture of what stability projects work in the villages of Afghanistan and which do not, and why.

Putting Afghan Local Leaders in the Lead

The LGCD Stabilization Survey delivered overarching lessons, some far from new:

  • Measuring our activities through locals’ eyes is essential, especially in fluid enviroments;
  • The more locally focused the activity, the better;
  • There is always a gap between Western norms and local expectations; and
  • Actions to support state legitimacy are central to state-building programs.

Buoyed by our survey’s findings, DAI-led projects in Afghanistan—to help farmers grow more crops, small businesses thrive, and cities deliver better services, for example—are devoted to putting Afghan officials first in prioritizing, mediating, facilitating, consulting, monitoring, and maintaining such activities. We are shaping our messaging accordingly so these activities are not left to “speak for themselves,” but readily convey what they are: products of the Afghan state.

Pleased with the survey results, USAID said, “DAI made drastic steps forward in measuring impact through the stabilization survey, marking the new way forward in measuring project impact in stabilization effectiveness.”