One component of the Afghanistan PEACE Project is to focus capacity efforts on the nomadic
herders in an effort to increase livestock production for the country. One way to do this is to
develop what we would call "herder
alliances". Herder alliances are
groups of producers with an aim to
resolve problems covering a variety
of issues. One way that we have
tried to assist livestock production is
through the facilitating regular
organized meetings for the Kuchi
herders. This project was initiated
from a request by the former
Director of the Independent
Department of Kuchi (IDK), Mr.
Daud Shah Niazi, who asked the
PEACE Project to assist in facilitating
monthly Kuchi shura meetings at
the provincial level. Moreover, the
PEACE Project had previous
discussions with provincial Kuchi
leaders who insisted that their
meager monthly budget was not
enough to organize regular monthly
shura meetings. Shuras are
traditional conflict resolution
mechanisms in Afghanistan, where
clan and tribal leaders gather, discuss, and make decisions on various issues and conflicts in their
communities. Therefore, the objective of this project is to support these traditional conflict
resolution mechanisms that can serve as a valuable tool for resolving conflicts at the local level.
The previous Kuchi Director Mr. Daud Shah Niazi and the PEACE Project agreed that the project would support shuras in 12 provinces: Nangarhar, Balkh, Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Laghman, Ghazni, Kabul, Herat, Badghis, and Helmand. These provinces were suggested by Mr. Niazi. Therefore, the PEACE Project transfers a monthly sum of up to $180 to each Kuchi provincial leader, with the understanding that the money would be spent to cover transportation cost and lunch for shura representatives - for one shura per month. After the meeting the provincial directors are obligated to provide a written report of the shura, along with an attendance list and signatures of the participants. The project started in June 2008, for a three-month trial period. After three months the PEACE Project would evaluate the received reports and make a decision on which shuras to continue supporting. In order to evaluate the potential impact of the project, the PEACE Project was invited to attend the July shura meeting in Balkh province.
Dawood Sherzad and Igor Naumovski, from the PEACE Project, were invited by the Kuchi Provincial leader, Mr. Said Mohammed. He was a very gracious host and impressed them with his thoughtfulness, openness, and desire to help the Kuchi in his province. Mr. Said Mohammed showed them the previous month's shura agenda, and explained the topics that they covered during that meeting. He also provided them with a copy of the report and attendance sheet of the June shura. Mr. Said Mohammad explained the agenda for the upcoming shura, before the meeting took place. He was very well organized and had printed copies of the agenda for all the participants.
The shura was attended by 27 Kuchi leaders (not including Said Mohammed and his assistant who took minutes during the meeting), a local mobile health clinic doctor, and two representatives of a tribe which came to convince the shura members that their tribe was indeed Kuchi. Mr. Said Mohammed facilitated the meeting, and while it was very professionally run, he also allowed for plenty of sometimes heated discussion between shura members. The agenda topics discussed were the following: 1) during the previous meeting the shura decided the four districts in which a UN‐funded schools were to be build, and in this meeting they were to decide what to name the schools; 2) discussion of the mobile clinic doctor's complaint that he didn't have enough resources to visit as many communities as the shura members wanted; and 3) whether a particular tribe was Kuchi (it was finally concluded that it wasn't).
Mr. Said Mohammed introduced Igor Naumovski during the review of the agenda, and the shura members decided to postpone the Questions and Answer session with him until all other official business was conducted, or until the end of the shura. The Q&A session lasted about 45 minutes, and was followed by a wonderful lunch (provided by the PEACE Project shura funds). After reflecting on this shura, the impression was that this was a genuine shura, where common Kuchi problems were discussed and decisions were made. The most impressive aspect of this shura was that it was highly organized (printed agendas, minutes, careful attendance sheets were kept, and monthly shuras were scheduled for the same date every month). Many of the participants expressed their gratitude to the PEACE Project for supporting their shura, and stated that without that support they would have difficulty meeting regularly to discuss issues. This was only one of the twelve shuras that the PEACE Project attended, and therefore at this time the PEACE Project cannot vouch that every single shura is this organized and successful. However, after visiting the Balkh shura, it was evident that the PEACE Project is supporting a valuable forum where important issues and conflicts are discussed.