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The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund: Background information when reading In the Light of What We Know

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In the Light of What We Know

by Zia Haider Rahman

In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman X
In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2014, 512 pages
    Feb 2015, 512 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund

This article relates to In the Light of What We Know

Print Review

"In the mess of Central Asia there are as many sides as there are opportunities to steal a march," Rahman writes in In The Light of What We Know. "There are no sides to tell us who is doing what, for whom, and why, only exigencies, strategies, short-term objectives, at the level of governments, regions, clans, families, and individuals: fractals of interests, overlapping here, mutually exclusive there, and sometimes coinciding." A 2013 New York Times article put the number of non-governmental organizations registered as working in Afghanistan at 2,320 employing around 90,000 people.

Students practicing musicThe central organization in the novel is called AfDARI, the Afghan Development, Aid, and Reconstruction Institute. This bears many similarities to The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which implements many reconstruction projects around the country. Started as a multi-donor trust fund in 2002, it is primarily overseen and administered by the World Bank, although subsidiary groups with local roots execute the details and directives. The fund pumps financial resources into governmental priorities for development, known as NPPs (National Priority Programs). The ARTF has become a vehicle for international governments to support Afghani growth and reconstruction. Funding military or security-related projects is not what the ARTF is for - especially since the World Bank is not allowed to be involved in or mold political affairs. Most funded projects are related to infrastructure and delivery of essential services. Money is funneled in the form of grants.

Girls at schoolProjects meet a wide variety of objectives including support for more efficient agricultural systems, improved access to education (especially for women) and keeping cultural traditions alive. For example, a Skills Development Project in Kabul takes in students from all walks of Afghan life to educate them in musical studies. Another example is the "Horticulture and Livestock Productivity Project" with a grant amount of $49.3 million which looks to "assist producer households in adopting improved practices so as to increase horticulture and livestock productivity and production in focus areas." Translated to practical terms this implies an increased output - more eggs, more meat - without increasing precious resources. Yet another example is a project on water management efficiencies (especially with respect to delivery of water), which are also expected to deliver better results for farms.

Students at school=One of ARTF's big successes has been in the field of education. Afghanistan has a population of about 30 million; over 40% of which are under the age of 14. The Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP) has brought six million children back to school since the Taliban days, a number that includes 2.7 million girls. These numbers, of course, don't convey the daily hazards that continue to plague the country's residents.

All ARTF operations are transparent; the public can find quarterly financial reports on its website.

Students practicing during a lesson at the National Institute of Music in Kabul, image by Graham Couch
Classes conducted at a girls high school in Herat, image by Graham Crouch
Children receiving classes at school in Bamiyan Province, image by Graham Crouch

Article by Poornima Apte

This "beyond the book article" relates to In the Light of What We Know. It originally ran in May 2014 and has been updated for the February 2015 paperback edition.

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