FEATURE STORY November 14, 2017

Afghanistan: Improved Roads Unlocks Access to Services and Opportunities

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The Afghanistan Rural Access Project improves access to basic services and facilities through constructing and rehabilitating all-weather roads. In the Daman district of southern Kandahar Province, the project improved access to basic services such as healthcare, as well as connected over 20,000 people to markets.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/World Bank


STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The freshly paved Spin-Boldak road has improved access to essential facilities and services for thousands of villagers in Kandahar Province, helping residents save on transport costs and promoting commerce.
  • The road connects over 20,000 people to markets in Kandahar city and stimulates investments in agriculture, which is helping raise incomes and productivity.
  • Supported by the Afghanistan Rural Access Project, the road is one of hundreds of all weather roads being paved across the country to increase prosperity.

DAMAN DISTRICT, Kandahar Province – Like every other weekend, Mawlawi Abdul Rahman kick-starts his motorcycle for the two-hour journey back home. A cleric in Hakim Jan village in Daman district, 70 kilometers away from Kandahar’s provincial center, Abdul Rahman is riding home to Kandahar city.

In 2013, when Abdul Rahman, 35, first started working in Hakim Jan village, the road connecting the village to Kandahar, the Spin-Boldak main road, was not paved. Rocky terrain and the long commute time meant that he could visit his family only once a month. “At that time, the road was too muddy and there was water-logging in many parts of the road,” he says. “It was normal to see a car stranded and muddied along the road.”

The challenging road conditions delayed access to basic essential services, such as health centers, especially in cases of emergency like childbirth. “Cars used to break down often and commuting made life hard for people here,” says Abdul Rahman.

However, the situation has changed significantly now that the Afghanistan Rural Access Project (ARAP) has asphalted the road between the village and the city. “When the road was paved, I bought a motorcycle to get home easily,” Abdul Rahman says.


"I am sure this year I will earn more because there are no more road-related worries as in the past."
Haji Turjan
farmer, Daman district, Kandahar Province

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As a result of the rehabilitation of major roads like Spin Boldak, investment in agriculture has increased in Kandahar Province. It has encouraged villagers to expand their pomegranate orchards and melon cultivation due to the ease of transport to market resulting in fewer accidents, produce damage, and increasing prosperity. 

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


No Wastage of Farm Produce

Spin-Boldak road benefits and connects over 20,000 people to markets and other essential facilities in Kandahar city. The main sources of income for villagers in Daman district are agriculture and horticulture. Most of the villagers own and manage pomegranate orchards and cultivate melons, two products that need smooth transportation to ensure the best prices in the market.

Being able to transport their produce using a properly paved road has meant that farmers arrive at markets quickly with produce in good condition. “In the past, we had a lot of wastage when we were transporting pomegranates and melons. Luckily, we do not have that wastage now,” says farmer Haji Barekzai.

The asphalted road is 4 kilometers (km) long and 7 meters wide, with Kandahar-Spin Boldak main road on one end and the Afghanistan National Agriculture University, near Hakim Jan village, on the other. The project took a year and was completed by August 2016.

“When the road was not paved, I used to come from Kandahar-Spin Boldak main road to the Agriculture University in 20 minutes, with challenges like mud and bumps,” says Khan Mohammad Ahmadzai, chancellor of the university. “The same commute takes me five minutes now.”

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 the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). ARAP aims to benefit rural communities across Afghanistan by improving access to basic services and facilities through all-weather roads.


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Now that Spin Boldak road has been paved, local villager Abdul Rahman bought a motorcycle travel between his home in Hakim Jan Village and Kandahar city. It's now easier for him to access goods and services and the smooth pavement helps Abdul Rahman save on travel time and maintenance costs for his motorcycle. Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

More Investment in Agriculture

ARAP started its work in southern Afghanistan in five provinces, namely Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Zabul, and Urozgan under the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) in 2013. To date, the project has graveled more than 145 km of roads, concreted more than 7.5 km, and asphalted 4 km of roads as well as initiated maintenance for over 205 km of roads.

Having a paved road has eased not just commuting woes but also commuting costs for seven villages, including Hakim Jan village. Haji Barekzai Watandost, head of the Community Development Council (CDC) in Daei village, says that his transport costs have more than halved. “I used to spend 8,000 afghanis (about $118) on renting a vehicle to transport my harvest to Kandahar city, but now I pay only 3,500 afghanis, less than half of what I used to pay earlier.”

While Spin-Boldak main road was being asphalted, 25 culverts were built to enable smooth passage of agricultural activities and irrigation. The new infrastructure has encouraged farmers to cultivate much more than in the past. Haji Turjan, 40, is one of the farmers who feel encouraged to invest more in agriculture. Since the road was paved, he has rented more land to expand his agricultural activities near Hakim Jan village. “I am sure this year I will earn more because there are no more road-related worries as in the past,” he says.

He recalls the time when the road was bumpy and full of standing water. “Last year one of our trucks, which was full of melons, overturned on this road and I lost 200,000 afghanis (about $3,000) worth of produce in a day,” he says, as he looks towards the asphalted road.

ARAP’s activities in the southern region have also generated thousands of working days for people and increased economic activity, ensuring short and long-term job opportunities. “It is going to be a good day,” Abdul Rahman smiles, as he rides off under the sun.



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