From DCA to DCA-VET (1979 – 1994)
At the end of 1979, the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan and within a few days occupied most of the strategic places. The impact in terms of damage and human suffering was dramatic. Everywhere around the world, especially in Europe, NGOs came together to offer aid and support to the Afghan people. One of them was the Committee for a Free Afghanistan, later renamed the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan.
Initially, DCA provided general humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. But from the late 1980s onwards, the focus changed to veterinary activities as a way to help the Afghan population. In 1988, DCA established her first veterinary training centre in Peshawar, Pakistan. Afghanistan itself was still too dangerous for foreign aid organisations to intervene. In Peshawar, DCA trained Afghans that were recruited from target provinces in Afghanistan as paraveterinarians. After a veterinary training of 5 months, these paravets returned to Afghanistan and established small veterinary field units in their home villages.
In 1994, the change of focus of DCA towards veterinary relief activities was formalised by the official foundation of DCA-VET (Dutch Committee for Afghanistan – Veterinary Programmes), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that focuses explicitly on veterinary programs. The same year, the first DCA-VET veterinary training centre in Afghanistan was opened in Herat.
From East to North West (1995 – 2003)
Up to 1995, DCA worked mainly from Pakistan. For logistical reasons, all DCA-VET activities were focused on the Eastern part of Afghanistan. However, it was realised that there was an urgent need for veterinary programs in the Northern and North-Western provinces of the country too. To fill in this gap, in 1995, DCA-VET handed over the Eastern area to the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) and moved its working area to the Northern and North-Western part of Afghanistan. In this period, DCA-VET started the distribution of vaccines to the veterinary field units, funded by the EU. The organisation also built its second Afghan training centre in Charikar. As the frontline of the advancing Taliban was located nearby, the training activities then had to move to Kabul. Notwithstanding the Taliban rule over the country from 1995 to 2001, DCA-VET managed to operate two training centres, and to gradually expand its VFU program. Tragically, DCA-VET lost its Afghan Project Manager, Dr. Sayed Naqibullah, being abducted by the Taliban in 1999.
After the defeat of the Taliban in 2002, DCA-VET moved its main office from Peshawar to Kabul (becoming the National Headquarters).
Great changes (2004 – 2006)
2004 was a historical year for Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai was elected as the first president of Afghanistan, and the Afghan people and international community started to rebuild the country. 2004 was also a vital year for DCA-VET. The organisation was able to open a new regional office annex training centre in Mazar-i-Sharif. In addition, the former training centre in Charikar, which was destroyed during the war, was rebuilt for accommodation of the DCA-VET Paravet (paraprofessional) courses.
After years of support by the Dutch government and the European Union, USAID became the major donor. USAID financed the RAMP-project, which gave DCA-VET tremendous opportunities. From January 2004 to July 2006 DCA-VET, together with its Afghan partners the Afghan Veterinary Association (AVA) and Partners in Revitalisation and Building (PRB), expanded its working area to 30 provinces.
An important focus of the RAMP project was to provide the VFU staff with the tools they needed to generate their own income and thus become independent of international aid. During the RAMP project, the number of VFU locations rose from 100 to around 400, and the number of VFU staff doubled from about 300 to 600. Large quantities of vaccines and medicines were provided and a comprehensive cold chain system was put in place. From January 2004 through June 2006, the VFU staff performed 18.5 million vaccinations, in addition 9.5 million medications were administered.
When the RAMP-project came to an end, DCA-VET covered the period in between funding as much as possible from its own core funds. This enabled the 290 DCA-VET VFU staff to carry on their work at more or less the same level as during the RAMP period.
In 2006, a completely new element was added to the veterinary program of DCA-VET: a dairy factory was constructed. Funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DCA-VET rebuilt the Swiss cheese factory in Baghlan. The aim of this project was to improve local food security by offering the farmers an outlet for their surplus of milk. Some 300 farmers sell their milk to this Baghlan Dairy Factory, that was first meant to be a cheese factory, but is now producing mainly yoghurt.
Towards sustainability (2007 – 2013)
In January 2007, a new USAID funded project started as a follow-up of the RAMP-project. This project, called ASAP, concentrated in the Northern, Western and Central regions of Afghanistan from Farah to Badakhshan. From July 2010 to the end of the ASAP project in 2011, provinces in the South and South-East in Afghanistan were included as well. The focus of this project gradually moved from strengthening of the VFU system to enhancing the business sustainability of VFUs. From the end of 2009 onwards, the ASAP provinces were gradually taken over by other donors, like EU, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development).
From the end of 2009 onwards, the ASAP provinces were gradually taken over by other donors, like EU, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development).
In all DCA-VET projects, covering provinces from Farah to Badakhshan, the objective of reaching sustainability is now one of the major topics. To improve the sustainability of the VFUs the staff are trained in business skills and in additional services, like cashmere harvesting, artificial insemination and animal nutrition. At the same time, extension campaigns are launched in order to increase the farmers’ awareness of the benefits the VFU services can offer them, and to train them in best practices of animal husbandry. Male as well as female groups are formed for developing feed banks, and establishing value chains for animal products.
To consolidate sustainability of the veterinary program, DCA-VET has privatised the import and distribution of veterinary vaccines and medicines. To this aim, in 2011 VetServ was established. This being a commercial company selling quality veterinary drugs and equipment to the Veterinary Field Units, and other organisations.
Another important element in the process towards sustainability of the veterinary system is the growing role of the Afghan government. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock is now involved in the coordination of many of the veterinary projects. Public-private partnership is enhanced by the linking of VFUs with MAIL through the Sanitary Mandate Contracting Scheme.
Continuing after the critical year 2014 (2014 – 2016)
2014 was a turbulent year for Afghanistan: ISAF troops withdraw from the country and the second presidential elections brought about a lot of uncertainty and turmoil. DCA-VET, however, continued its work and commitment to the people of Afghanistan unabated. DCA even got the opportunity to enhance and expand its work thanks to a series of large new projects, funded by EU, IFAD and USAID.
DCA-VET is covering almost all provinces in Afghanistan now, including the Southern provinces. To serve the Southern area, in 2014 a new office and training centre was established in Kandahar.
In the new projects, a lot of emphasis is placed upon development of value chains. Through increased production, improved harvesting of animal products and linking farmers to traders and markets, value is added to animal products. Milk, cashmere, wool, pelts, eggs and meat are examples of value chain products that DCA-VET is working with to help farmers to improve their income.
New focus and name: DCA Livestock Programs (2017 – present)
Being founded as a veterinary organisation, during the years DCA became more and more engaged in livestock extension as well as in livestock value chains. In addition, the donor requirements changed. Now the focus is increasingly more on business development and job creation. These developments made DCA decide to change its focus and its scope from a veterinary organisation carrying out veterinary projects to a livestock organisation implementing a wider range of projects related to animal production. This new profile asked for a new name: since 2017 DCA-VET is called DCA Livestock Programs.
In the coming years the focus of DCA Livestock Programs will be on establishing farmer extension and business groups with special attention on the empowerment of women, linking farmers in the value chain to providers and traders, and supporting the public-private partnership in the delivery of veterinary services.