GARDI KAS VILLAGE, Nangarhar Province - Before a road was pounded into the stark landscape of this rubble-strewn valley in eastern Afghanistan, even the donkeys stumbled trying to reach city markets. Farmer Malik Qais says he would often adjust his donkeys’ load of corn, melon, wheat, or vegetables, as they made their trek to Jalalabad, about 25 kilometers away, because even these nimble animals struggled over the jagged outcrops and steep terrain surrounding his village of Gardi Kas in Nangarhar province.
“Now this new road is very important to us because we can take cars to the city in just 20 minutes, when it would take many hours before,” says Qais, 52. “Also, if people get sick, they can get to hospital on time, and we can easily do our shopping.”
Construction of the 10.5-kilometer gravel road was completed in June 2012 by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Works with funding from the Afghanistan Rural Access Program (ARAP). The program’s objective is to enable rural communities to benefit from all-season road access to basic services and facilities. The program is funded by the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which have been supporting the country’s development since 2003.
The program, which has three parts, aims to improve and maintain secondary roads (with $182 million funding), and tertiary roads ($130 million), as well as to assist with monitoring and evaluation ($13 million). Roads like the one to Gardi Kas village are a particular challenge as it’s estimated that Afghanistan has a tertiary road network of 80,000 kilometers, of which only about 7,000 kilometers is accessible to motor vehicles in all seasons.