FEATURE STORY September 25, 2017

Life Improves for Thousands in Rural Afghanistan with Upgraded Infrastructure in Villages

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Thanks to the Afghanistan Rural Access Project, for upgrading infrastructure such as graveling roads, building sidewalks and drainage system that have made it possible for local entrepreneurs to establish shops and start a business in Pul-e-Babo village of Dehdadi District in northern Balkh Province. 

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Infrastructural upgrades to a main road connecting seven villages in Balkh Province have improved the quality of life and boosted local businesses.
  • The improvements were carried out under Afghanistan Rural Access Project that aims to benefit rural communities by improving access to basic services and facilities through all-weather roads.
  • Residents have supported the project to upgrade infrastructure in their villages, contributing to the success in implementation and outcome.

DEHDADI DISTRICT, Balkh Province – The bus stops at the station allowing passengers to get off and on. The main road through the village is wide and smooth, and vehicles of all sizes drive by. Shops along the road display colorful wares and the whiff of fresh kebabs being barbecued in the roadside restaurants entices passers-by. The scene is buzzing with activity even though it is peak winter with heavy snowfalls dominating life in nearby villages.

Ghulam Rokay, a shopkeeper in Pul-e-Babo village in Dehdadi district in Balkh Province, recalls a time when road conditions were poor. “We used to have many challenges when the Pul-e-Babo road was not paved, especially in winter,” he says. “During winter, the waterlogging and lack of drainage led to water freezing on the road, the thick ice sheets made it difficult for cars to pass. We had to break the ice with axes and picks to be able to make our way through. Every week we had at least one car accident.”

But the situation has improved recently when a project to upgrade infrastructure in villages paved Pul-e-Babo road with asphalt, fitted a standardized drainage system, and reconstructed the Qol Urdo Bridge located along the road. Says Ghulam Rokay, “Now I think all the problems are solved. There is no standing water or mud anymore, and everyone can commute easily.”

Linking Mazar-e-Sharif–Sholgarah to Nasaji roads, both considered to be arterial roads in Balkh Province, the recently paved Pul-e-Babo road passes through seven villages. With the upgrading of the road, more than 17,000 people are connected to each other and markets in all seasons. Daily commuter pressure on existing roadways also has reduced significantly in Dehdadi district, for example, students in three schools along the way now use the new road to get to school.


"It is no longer about us versus them; rural Afghanistan is matching cities in its development story, step by step."
Sayed Mustafa
head, Markaz Community Development Council, Dehdadi district

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Operating under umbrella of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Afghanistan Rural Access Project aims to build all season roads which connects villages to each other and beyond.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


The infrastructure in Pul-e-Babo village was built under the Afghanistan Rural Access Project (ARAP), implemented by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD). The project started in June and ended by December 2015 at a total cost of 35 million afghanis (about $530,000).

ARAP is a follow-on project of the National Emergency Rural Access Program (NERAP). It is supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). It aims to benefit rural communities across Afghanistan by improving access to basic services and facilities through all-weather roads.

To date, ARAP has rehabilitated 16 km of gravel roads and maintained over 470 km of roads in Balkh Province. “Our main goal is to build infrastructure for villagers to connect them with cities. This will improve the economic condition of rural Afghanistan and also ensure greater access to all facilities,” says Zekrullah Nabi, an ARAP engineer in Balkh Province.

Better Quality of Life

The project in Pul-e-Babo has led to visible improvements in the quality of life for the villagers. The standardized drainage system along the road has improved hygiene and sanitation for thousands of inhabitants. Everyday challenges like waterlogging inside houses, standing water on the road, dust, and bad smells have been overcome.

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Life of many villagers in Pul-e-Babo village have changed by overcoming waterlogging inside houses, standing water on the road, dust, and bad smells after the Afghanistan Rural Access Project built a all season road and improved related infrastructure, including sidewalks and drainage systems. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank.


“In the past, people used to wear brogans [stout leather ankle boots] to be able to walk on the sidewalks. There was nowhere for water to run and all around was water and a bad smell,” says Sayed Mustafa, 46, head of the Community Development Council (CDC) for Markaz village, one of the villages along the road.

Aware of the benefits the project would bring, the villagers gave it wholehearted support, says Sayed Mustafa. “As people understand the importance of roadways, they pitched in to help the project with the road expansion, and ensure the project was implemented successfully.”

Traffic flow has increased since the road was asphalted, improving business for many shops and kiosks dotted along the sides of the road. “Our sales have increased by almost 40 percent,” says Mohammad Yasin, 30, a grocery store owner in Karmalik village. In fact, the good conditions of the road and surrounding areas have encouraged many to establish shops and start new businesses. “I have seen that traffic has increased. This encouraged me to establish my own mechanic shop for cars here,” says Baharuddin, 21. “I am very happy now and my income is good,”

Improving the connectivity between the villages and Mazar-e-Sharif city has led to symbiotic development, says Sayed Mustafa. “It is no longer about us versus them; rural Afghanistan is matching cities in its development story, step by step,” he says.



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