Afghanistan is divided into 34 separate provinces, each governed locally by provincial government departments that answer to the national government. WCS is able to conduct much of its work in the field and with the men and women of rural communities in Badakhshan and Bamyan through working alongside these provincial counterparts. However, the country’s ability to manage its natural resources effectively in the long term and improve local livelihoods across Afghanistan is largely dependent upon the human and institutional capacity at the central level.
As the center of Afghan politics and home to the country’s largest university, Kabul is the main focus of WCS's national capacity-building program and is also where WCS has its country headquarters. WCS has been based in Kabul since 2006, funded primarily by USAID. Through various cross-cutting technical objectives, WCS aims to continually build capacity for natural resource management at all levels, and to create and strengthen laws, policies and governance institutions. WCS staff in Kabul is themselves constantly engaged in baseline data collection and protected area planning activities – a key theme in WCS’ work across the world – and are also helping to provide the residents of Kabul with a possible protected area of their own, Kole Hashmat Khan Waterfowl Sanctuary.
The largest challenge that underlines the very basis for WCS’s activities in Kabul is the lack of capacity the country has to sustainably manage its own natural resources. With over 80% of the country’s population economically dependent on the land, the resources are being exploited at an increasing rate through over hunting, deforestation, land encroachment and intensive agricultural activities, leaving the landscape severely depleted and unproductive. The situation will become irreversible unless urgent management measures are put in place that are sustainable and beneficial to local communities and the land itself. With the Central and Provincial Government being largely responsible for developing and implementing these critical measures, the lack of equipment and science-based technical skills within these institutions is a significant challenge to the country’s future in terms of its rural livelihoods, economy and natural resources.
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