AFGHANISTAN:

Community Refuses to Be Intimidated

September 14, 2011

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Nawshar Alizahi Village School, prior to the construction of a surrounding wall.

Nawshar Alizahi Village is located in the district of Chemtal, one of the most insecure districts in the Balkh province. The local community of Nawshar Alizahi Village recently received a USAID grant to build a surrounding wall for the local school in order to create a safe learning environment.

On the afternoon of April 17, 2011, insurgents attacked the project, burning a supply truck, and kidnapping five project laborers and the driver of the truck that was transporting stones and bricks for the surrounding wall. The District Governor of Chemtal convened a meeting with the local Community Development Council and community elders to form a delegation that would approach insurgent leaders with the aim of securing the release of the hostages. Through the community leaders’ initiative, the hostages were released on April 19, 2011. Despite this act of intimidation against the community, both the community and the District Governor have reiterated their commitment to continuing the project.

As one of the many threats to USAID projects in the area, the timely leadership by community and local government leaders was essential in averting what could have been a deadly incident. Community ownership of USAID projects, through its bottom-up approach, has demonstrated that it allows for these communities to feel that they can not only ask for assistance when needed, but also pull together to respond assertively to such threats. The successful resolution of this incident by the community is proof that the USAID project’s community-based bottom-up approach is an effective mechanism for resolving local grievances. It also provides a basis for the emergence of effective solutions to security/stability situations at the ground level that are community owned.

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