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DACAAR History

Following the invasion of Afghanistan by the Former Soviet Union in 1979 and the ensuing uprising of the Afghan people, millions of Afghans poured across the border into Pakistan and Iran in what came to be known as one of the world’s biggest and most protracted refugee crisis in the second half of the 20th century.

On the other side of the border, in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (Now called Khayber Pakhtoonkhwa), tens of camps were established to deal with the influx of refugees who often left their homes with very little or no possessions. The amount of refugees had overwhelmed the capacity of the UN institutions and NGOs who struggled to deliver life-saving humanitarian and livelihoods assistance.

A group of Danish Volunteers at the height of the Afghan refugee crisis in January 1984 laid the foundation for DACAAR with the commencement of a Sewing Project in a Gandaf Camp in Sawabi District of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa in Pakistan.

The project provided women with an income-generating activity that could be accomplished within the constraints of the Afghan cultural environment and at the same time supported the continuation of traditional Afghan embroidery.

In July 1986, DACAAR took over water supply to refugee camps from UNICEF and by 1987 saw a major expansion of activities under the Water Supply Project. Two new projects – the DACAAR Hand Pump Factory and the Access Road Project – were started, and the Water Supply Project increased coverage and maintenance activities. By 1988, DACAAR worked for Afghan refugees in camps throughout the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province.

The most significant change for DACAAR came in 1989 when we expanded with a Rehabilitation Programme in addition to the Refugee Programme. The purpose of the Rehabilitation Programme was solely cross-border reconstruction work inside Afghanistan which marked our operations in Afghanistan to this day.

With the overthrow of Taliban at the end of 2001 and subsequent establishment of the Transitional Islamic Government of Afghanistan, it was finally possible for us to move our Main Office from Peshawar, Pakistan, to Kabul. We remained operational in Pakistan until end of 2005 and over the years delivering water supply in the Afghan refugee camps.

Over the last one and a half decade, DACAAR has made a name for itself as a leading NGO involved in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan for the benefit of its people.

We are supporting the efforts of the Afghan Government and the international community with the implementation of hundreds of humanitarian and development projects across most of Afghanistan’s provinces.

All Timeline

DACAAR History

  • While the country remained reasonably safe for humanitarian agencies to operate, bureaucratic processes around project authorizations and MOUs with line ministries proved a key challenge slowing down the delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance. A donor shift to fund only humanitarian lifesaving projects meant that the longer term developmental needs of the Afghan population remain unaddressed.

  • While the overthrow of the Afghan Republic in the hands of Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan in August ended active conflicts in the country and opened up space for humanitarian assistance, the ensuing collapse of the Afghan economy and the banking crisis remained important hurdles in our ability to reach Afghan communities.

  • With the dramatic increase in displacement and suffering due to a myriad of conflicts and natural disasters, DACAAR extended its programs to all 34 provinces of Afghanistan to help eliminate suffering and save lives. More than 780 thousand people benefited from DACAAR’s activities during the year.

  • The year started with the end of the devastating drought but was wrapped with deep discussions on the continued intensification of conflict in the country and doubts about donors commitments for long-term humanitarian assistance in the country.

  • 2018 has marked a fruitful year of organization in terms of meeting the program milestones and new initiatives. Danida and the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs projects have extended their multi-year collaboration with DACAAR.

  • DACAAR’s Governing Board was expanded from two to three members representing DPA, DAC and LO/FTF Council.In response to the large scale displacements in the country, DACAAR expanded its geographical coverage for emergency WASH programme from 19 to 23 provinces.

  • DACAAR successfully completed the implementation of it Strategic Program Framework 2013-2016. DACAAR managed to strengthen its position within the NGO community outside the direct implementation of programs, working hard to support many fora and working groups, helping coordination, giving input to reintegration strategies, advocating support for land allocation, access to beneficiaries in insecure areas and supporting CDCs and local community representations.

  • 2015 was a challenging year as insecurity in the country increased significantly resulting in more restricted access for DACAAR and other NGOs.  Despite this, DACAAR continued to expand its emergency WASH response activities to cater for the ever growing number of IDPs across the country.  As the stay of Pakistani tribal refugees in Khost become more protracted, DACAAR was one of the first organizations to deliver a vocational training course  as a longer-term intervention to improving the situation of these refugees as opposed to early programs that were only of emergeny response nature.

  • 2014 was a year of celebrations for DACAAR  as it proudly  celebrated its 30th Anniverary.  Events were held in Kabul and Copenhagen in August and November respectively and Jubilee book was published on the occassion. Afghanistan for the first time in its recent history received 10s of thousands of refugees who have fled the military operation across the border in Pakistan tribal region.  To alliviate the suffering of these refugees, DACAAR responded with a WASH emergency response in Khost province.

  • On 1st January 2013, DACAAR hit yet another important milestone by launching its Strategic Programme Framework (SPF) 2013-2016.  The plan sets out the stage for DACAAR's programming over the next four years. In June, a group of DACAAR Senior Managers traveled to Europe to present the SPF to key donors. DACAAR was elected by ACBAR members to be on the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT).  Additionally, DACAAR was elected as Co-lead for the WASH Cluster.

  • New organisational structure was put in place and fine-tuned during the year. By year end, all four departments were headed by Afghans. The merging of the two former progrmmes (RDP and WASH) was consolidated during the year with thematic focus on four areas namely: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Natural Resources Management (NRM), Women’s Empowerment (WE) and Small Scale Enterprise Development (SSED). In addition, DACAAR continued as a facilitating partner under the NSP.

  • Parameters for the development of the Programme Framework (2013-2016) were identified. A process for restucturing of the organisation was started and former RDP and former Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programmes were merged into one programme. DACAAR was able to reach around 735,000 rural Afghans through its programme.

  • DACAAR strengthened capacities among communities for natural resources management in semi-arid and irrigated areas and introduced a number of new techniques and approaches to increase agricultural production. In strengthening its capacity for knowledge management and communication, DACAAR established a Water Expertise and Training Centre (WETC).

  • DACAAR’s RDP reached nearly 300,000  Afghans through its activities on  vocational training, establishment of producer associations, agricultural and farming improvement, and  establishment of Women’s Resource Centres with focus on female economic empowerment. WSP reached nearly 400,000 Afghans through its activities, and piloted solar powered pipe schemes and biosandfilteration systems.

  • DACAAR’s WSP reached approximately 148,000 new beneficiaries through establishment of wells, pipe schemes, shelters, and water tankering to returnee and IDP camps. The Rural Development Programme continued its long term projects to support capacities within agriculture sector. Activities in relation to irrigation, literacy, skills training and establishment of Producer Associations and Women’s Resource Centres also continued.

  • DACAAR continued to implement both water supply projects and long-term rural development activities; including agricultural programmes, irrigation, vocational training, Women’s Resource Centres and the government-led NSP. At the same time, DACAAR responded with humanitarian aid schemes and water and sanitation for communities absorbing returnees from neighbouring countries. MADRAC became independent in July 2007.

  • DACAAR continued to empower rural communities to take responsibility for development projects; in the government-led NSP as well as in other projects. Pakistan: Upon completion of the assistance programme in earthquake affected areas DACAAR closed its office in Pakistan which also marked the end of activities in the country.

  • DACAAR’s original Sewing Centre project was transferred into a new NGO named “Zardozi”  based in Kabul, Afghanistan. DACAAR started the new microfinance programme MADRAC funded by MISFA through MRRD. WSP activities were expanded into northern Afghanistan. Pakistan: In the aftermath of the earthquake  on 8 October 2005 in the North, DACAAR sent two mobile water supply team to the affected areas.

  • New activities aimed at developing alternative livelihoods were initiated in eastern Afghanistan. In total, around 33,000 wells made by DACAAR supplied safe drinking water to more than four million people in Afghanistan. Pakistan: The Hand Pump Factory was handed over to WestNet, a Pakistani organisation.

  • IAD was renamed the Rural Development Programme (RDP) and the Water Supply Programme was renamed the Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP). The Building project became as an independent NGO called DAARTT (Danish Assistance for Afghanistan Rehabilitation and Technical Training). Pakistan: In response to the continued need for safe water, DACAAR`s WSP activities were continued in refugee camps.

  • DACAAR activities related to community development were maintained in five provinces, while water supply teams expanded their activities to a total of 22 provinces. Pakistan: Despite a mass repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, DACAAR’s Water Supply Programme in Pakistan continued activities in old as well as newly established refugee camps. The Sewing Centre kept its base in Peshawar, but shifted some activities to Afghanistan.

  • DACAAR increased its efforts to assist Afghans affected by the drought and the continued fighting. Both normal activities and emergency programmes were focused on ensuring stability in project areas and preventing further migration. Pakistan: DACAAR’s Water Supply Programme continued efforts to provide water to the stream of refugees arriving from Afghanistan. The Sewing Centre employed more women.

  • The IAD organised FOODAC (Food for Asset Creation) activities in drought-affected areas to help communities remain in their villages. Water supply began drought response well-deepening in July. Pakistan: DACAAR’s water supply programme began water and sanitation projects in camps for new refugees who had fled Afghanistan due to on- going conflict.

  • DACAAR IAD Progaramme expanded activities in its seven project areas in the provinces of Laghman, Ghazni, Paktia, Herat, and Badghis and intensified efforts to train staff in the use of a participatory approach to rural agriculture development. Another 84 village organisations were established. Water supply began a concentrated effort towards the goal of providing safe water for 85 % of all villages in the 14 provinces where it was now active.

  • DACAAR combined two sections into an Integrated Agriculture Development (IDA) programme opening field management units in four areas as a basis for its long term, Community-based approach to development. School construction was restarted in areas where girl’s education was supported. UNICEF and DACAAR began work on a standardisation of Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES). Pakistan: The Sewing Centre established sales centres in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

  • DACAAR began a shift in strategic direction from relief to development. In programme East DACAAR’s building section suspended school building in response to the Taliban policy on girl’s education and female employment. A joint DANIDA/EC external review was conducted. Maintenance of GPS data on water wells was computerised. Pakistan: The Sewing Project was renamed the Sewing Centre and became independent.

  • New activities were implemented under the three-year programme, i.e. an integrated agricultural strategy was developed, an Impact Monitoring Unit was established, a Health Education Programme was initiated, Farmer based wheat seed production was initiated, and local contractors were used for project implementation.

    and became independent.

  • Based on a DANIDA external review, DACAAR formulated a three-year programme and started a  gradual transition towards development activities. Pakistan: DACAAR handed over minor maintenance of water supply activities to water management committees or the Municipal Corporation of Refugee Camps however DACAAR remained in charge of large-scale installations and maintenance activities.

  • DACAAR provided drinking water in four IDP camps around Jalalabad, and continued to expand it’s activities within all sectors. Pakistan: The sewing project appointed an Afghan Project Manager.

  • Water supply programme improved shallow wells, installed hand pumps, set up bath and latrine projects to improve hygiene and sanitation practices. It also formed mobile hand pump monitoring teams. Programme West was established in Herat to carry out the same range of activities as programme East. Pakistan: An afghan took over as Hand Pump Factory Manager and Kabul Pumps were put on the market.

  • With the prospect of 5.5 million Afghan refugees repatriating, DACAAR explored possibilities for expanding activities into western Afghanistan. The Water Supply section focused on developing a community-based maintenance system and on improving public health. Pakistan: The water supply bath project in the camps was closed. DACAAR’s sewing project was evaluated for potential self-sufficiency.

  • Water supply development activities were initiated, bringing safe water to areas where previously there was none. Pilot sewing projects were started in Afghanistan. Pakistan: Access Roads project was closed. Two Afghan counterparts to the expatriate production manager were chosen.

  • DACAAR Rehabilitation Strategy for Afghanistan was formulated, and agriculture activities were expanded to include fruit trees and seedling production. Pakistan: The Sewing Project set up a women’s discussion group, a staff care project (eye tests, kindergarden) and organised exhibitions in Peshawar.

  • Activities began in Afghanistan in areas such as construction and rehabilitation of schools, dams, irrigation structures and Karezes as well as distribution of wheat seed and fertilizers, and surveying of roads for rehabilitation. Pakistan: Water supply activities were expanded to cater for 70-90 thousand new refugees.

  • Pakistan: DACAAR Hand Pump Factory began production of Afridev pumps to be installed in the refugee camps. Water supply activities were expanded to include installation of water supply schemes, baths and hand pumps. DACAAR was approved for cross-border activities and initial survey training. At some risk to staff DACAAR began a rehabilitation programme in Afghanistan.

  • Pakistan: DACAAR Water Supply programme increased coverage and maintenance activities in refugee camps in NWFP. Access Road Project for the refugee camps was started. The Hand Pump Factory was set up in Swabi.

  • Pakistan: DACAAR Sewing Project began as a skills training and income generating programme for Afghan women in the refugee camps in NWFP. In July 1986, DACAAR took over implementation of water supply projects in Afghan refugee camps from UNICEF.