AFGHANISTAN:

Roads and Culverts Building Blocks to Stability

February 23, 2011

3  Late last summer, the local town districts in two Afghan villages found answers to longstanding problems facing their communities. USAID’s Community Building Stabilization Grants (CBSG) provided technical and financial support to build culverts and roads.

The wood culverts of Orya Khil village west of Sorobi district in Kabul Province were minimally effective. Rain often led to flooding and heavy traffic, making the road nearly impassable. Muddy roads in winter restricted villagers’ access to markets to sell and buy food items, and to obtain government services and meet basic health needs. Since the district lies on a major route to other less stable provinces, the village found itself turning into a central point for insurgent activities. Orya Khil’s strategic location made securing villagers’ capacity to travel and transport goods a high priority for the CBSG project.

Consultations between CBSG and the Orya Khil community identified the culvert project as a key village priority. Plans to construct four culverts were launched on August 29, 2010. A village resident and supervisor for the project said, “Water flooded the existing culverts and roads and was not directed to agricultural lands. Both our roads and farming activities were destroyed and we encountered difficulty with our vehicles while transporting the necessary items to market. With the implementation of the project, we are no longer facing the above problems and we hope that more stabilization efforts are undertaken in our village, so that we may build a prosperous life.”

Around 5,000 people will benefit from the Orya Khil culvert project connecting residents to basic services in the district center. Solid passable roads will also facilitate the timely response of the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to the needs of the population. Previously, the local community believed their local government was largely unresponsive to their needs. The success of the project has helped ameliorate anti-government sentiments that can fuel insurgency.

The Orya Khil culverts have added to the improvement of daily life in the village bolstering public trust in the government’s capacity to deliver services. “Thanks to the donation from CBSG because now the culverts have made our daily life easier and I believe that we will be much more comfortable during the coming winter with vehicles easily passing and people able to transport their necessary items with no difficulty,” a community elder commented.

Similarly, residents of Omakai village in Balkh Province have also long suffered from a lack of social and economic development opportunities and access to basic services because of an absence of proper roads and transportation to the district center. With livelihoods compromised and the village isolated, the community also became host to a high level of insurgent activity, with the local government unable to regain control of the area.

To bring stability to the area and provide better access to transportation for Omakai’s residents, USAID’s CBSG launched an effort to rebuild and gravel a five-kilometer road and construct four culverts. Some 2,600 people stand to benefit from these improvements. The road will also allow the local government to access the village and counter the insurgents’ influence, demonstrating that the Afghan Government is able to provide stability and security to its citizens.

Unfortunately, just a few weeks into the Omakai road construction, tragedy struck. A landmine exploded at the project site, killing one and injuring two. Abdul Jabar, who was working on the road project, was killed. A tractor driver was seriously injured. The nine-year old son of a laborer was injured as he fetched water for his father. However, residents were committed to the project and soon resumed work, reiterating their dedication to the successful completion of the road.

A community elder, said, “This is a great opportunity for our community to have a road that facilitates our day-to-day life. The road has minimized the journey duration to the district center, lowered the car fare considerably, and encouraged more drivers to take this road, thus bringing more goods and services to residents.”

Even before it is completed, the road project is bringing pride and stability to the area.

A brother of the man who died in the landmine incident said, “I strongly support the implementation of the project, it will bring stability and prosperity to our village. I am enthusiastic about participating in the rehabilitation of this road and I would deem it an honor to be killed while building my country.”

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