United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Integrated Dairy Scheme (IDS) for Livelihood Improvement and Women Empowerment in Rural Afghanistan

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Afghanistan) (
United Nations / Multilateral body

    The Integrated Dairy Scheme (IDS) is a holistic approach that encompasses all activities required to boost income generation for rural households in Afghanistan. This ranges from increasing milk production to channeling it through sustainable milk market networks. The IDS model has evolved throughout the implementation of various dairy industry development projects across Afghanistan since 2005. It has been recognized by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) as an effective model for increasing milk production while empowering rural Afghan women. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its various resource partners have collaborated with the GoIRA for implementing IDS projects.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    IDS has organized the rural households under three different types of cooperative networks to facilitate the flow of milk from rural to urban areas, and the flow of services and cash from urban to rural areas. The first type is village cooperatives, which support the farmers. They serve as local resource centers for animal feed, fodder, veterinary and breeding assistance, and milk collection management. Village cooperatives have intensively implemented artificial cow insemination geared towards breed improvement and aimed at increasing productivity. The second type is district cooperatives, which gather milk from the villages, cool it and send to the milk processing/marketing units. The third type is provincial cooperatives. This last type of cooperative processes the milk collected into dairy products and supplies urban markets. These cooperatives also manufacture concentrated animal feed and supply farmers through the lower-level cooperatives. IDS projects have extensively trained and supported cooperatives across all levels to strengthen their capacities to perform their roles. Women were given special priority in those trainings related to effective animal feeding, hygienic production practices, and hygienic milk handling. Women have been strongly encouraged to participate in the cooperative activities. Women have also been organized in ‘self-help groups’ and trained in household income diversification through processing (and marketing) any fruit and vegetable surplus into preserved products such as pickle, jam, candies, etc.


    Five provincial cooperatives have been established since 2005. Currently, they collect 27 metric tonnes of milk, and manufacture 30 metric tonnes of animal feed daily. The daily cash flow from urban to rural areas has reached to USD 12 520. Average milk productivity per cow has increased from 3.5 to 10.9 litres per day since 2005. Milk production per household has increased from 4.5 to 15 litres per day. Over 1000 jobs related to the IDS system have been created. A total of 9 850 women have been trained in the fields mentioned above. Twenty-five percent of the cooperative members are women. Some of them have also moved up to leadership positions in the cooperatives. Those women organized under ‘self-help groups’ have earned a total of USD 16 600 of additional non-dairy income over the last three years. According to surveys, women in 84 percent of the households from IDS covered areas earn an income from milk sales, which proves their economic and social empowerment. The IDS model is currently being scaled up in Kabul, Logar and Parwan provinces, reaching 3 300 households and aiming to create production and marketing networks capable of absorbing additional 100 metric tonnes per day within a few years. This new version of the project is close to completion, but additional IDS projects are expected to continue expanding country wide.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    Dairy development in Afghanistan is vital to fulfill the local demand and reduce dependency on the import of dairy products. The continued success of the IDS projects in five provinces has encouraged the government and other stakeholders to recognize the IDS approach as a means to improve livelihoods as well as to empower woman. Additionally, IDS has increased income opportunities in rural areas, thereby encouraging people to abandon armed fight and to return to peaceful lives. However, cultural barriers to rural women and security issues have added notable challenges in the implementation of the activities in many areas.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The IDS activities pose little or no harm to the environment. Scarce natural resources such as water are optimally used. The IDS system is owned by the farmers, who also contribute by providing land for establishing facilities for milk collection and cooling in rural areas. Local people have been employed and trained to run the IDS systems. The established networks in the provinces, operating with gradually increasing capacities, prove the self-sustainability of the IDS approach. For example, the Nangarghar dairy system has managed, within a period of five years, to grow from collecting 250 litres of milk per day to more than 5 000. Organizing farmers through IDS networks has increased social harmony and triggered local collaboration. Afghanistan heavily depends on import for milk and dairy products. However, the local dairy products are preferred over the imported products due to freshness and authenticity. Hence, both demand for local dairy products and replicability of the IDS in other areas is very high.

    Other sources of information

    1.Afghanistan, Nangrahar Dairy Documentary video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dWZAHFhlZE 2. FAO: 15 Years in Afghanistan, A Special Report: 2003-2018 http://www.fao.org/3/CA1433EN/ca1433en.pdf 3. Empowering women in Afghanistan Reducing gender gaps through Integrated Dairy Schemes. http://www.fao.org/reduce-rural-poverty/resources/resources-detail/es/c… and http://www.fao.org/3/i4585e/i4585e.pdf 4. Building up self-reliance and livelihoods of Afghani women http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1206750/

    COVID-19 Impact

    COVID-19 has significantly impacted the dairy networks. The demand for milk and dairy products dramatically decreased during the first months of the pandemic, mainly due to market closures. Due to this decreased demand, farmers also saw their income reduced. Dairy market and farmer’s income was reduced by 50 percent at its peak. Fortunately, such severe impact has only lasted for few months. Gradually, the dairy markets and farmer’s income have recovered to pre-COVID levels. Farmers have been provided with training and information, education and communication materials to support the effective uptake of basic COVID safety measures along the daily networks.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 January 2005 (start date)
    30 June 2023 (date of completion)
    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
    Other beneficiaries

    The beneficiaries of IDS are the rural Afghan women and households. The IDS projects are owned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) of the GoIRA. The projects have been implemented by FAO thanks to the generous funding of the Government of Germany, the Italian Cooperation Agency and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).

    Contact Information

    Som, Senior Dairy Industry Development Specialist