Poverty levels in Afghanistan have remained largely unchanged despite considerable international investment. This report examines the underlying reasons, drawing on a longitudinal study – ongoing since 2003 – of households in three villages in the Pashtun Zarghun district of Herat. In particular, the study assessed changes in livelihood activities, access to services, and engagement with local-level government.
Key findings include:
Most households are not better off than they were in 2003; survival depends on family and social ties and an economy of distribution rather than employment;
The provision of public goods – especially infrastructure – has increased, though improved access to these goods is often dependent on the behaviour of village elites;
Few households have permanently migrated out of the village in which they live due to tightly embedded social networks, which people are dependent on for access to credit, asset lending and marriage arrangements.