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FEATURE STORY

Blossoming Life Brings Hope for the Future

December 20, 2012


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Funded by the National Solidarity Program (NSP), the residents of Shintapa Syed Kamaludin village have a new school building. The NSP is the government of Afghanistan's flagship program to support small scale reconstruction and development activities identified by the Community Development Councils.

Graham Crouch/World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Villagers in Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan are rebuilding their lives after returning to their homes after years of exile.
  • Their lives are now thriving thanks to the National Solidarity Program, the government’s flagship program for rural reconstruction and development, supported by the World Bank, ARTF, and JSDF.
  • Locally elected Community Development Councils decide on projects most needed by each community.

 

 

SHINTAPA SYED KAMALUDIN, Afghanistan – A few charred trees in a flowering apple orchard are the only sign of Abdullah Mohammad’s dark days. But the blackened stumps are hard to find now between falling blossoms, ferns and budding potato plants.

Gazing around the small grove in Shintapa Syed Kamaludin village in Bamiyan province, Abdullah says the place is much like his people. “There are painful memories here,” says the 42-year-old. “But now we must think about the future, and how we can all come together to make good things happen. Already we have come such a long way.”

In the past eight years, Abdullah and his fellow villagers have worked hard to get on with their lives. And they say much of this wouldn’t be possible without assistance from the National Solidarity Program (NSP). The government of Afghanistan’s flagship program in the rural areas encourages small-scale reconstruction and development activities identified by each community.

The program, supported by the World Bank, Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), and Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF), aims at generating a strong sense of ownership and social stability through empowerment and development activities. Encouraging good local governance and equitable development, NSP helps villagers organize and elect their own community development councils (CDCs).

Abdullah heads a council of six men and six women, whose task is to jointly decide on projects most needed by their village.

About 80% of community projects involve infrastructure such as irrigation, rural roads, electrification, and drinking water supply, all critical for recovery of the rural economy and stability.

Potent symbol of hope

In Abdullah’s village, the council sought NSP funding in 2004 to build an irrigation dam, six water wells, and a girls’ school. Many people had recently returned from years of exile, having fled from Taliban forces in the 1990s as they stormed through Bamiyan, killing villagers and razing their homes, he says.

“We were attacked by the Taliban, and all the houses and orchards were burned. Those who escaped just ran into the mountains,” he recalls.

This united resolve is what has helped to galvanize the community recently to work with two other villages and NSP funding to construct an irrigation dam and reservoir on a nearby river, notes Mohammad.

“We used to have no water for our fields, sometimes for three or four months, but now we get crops year-round.” Fields filled with potatoes and wheat, market gardens brimming with vegetables, and orchards of apricots, almonds, and apples bring prosperity back to the valley. It’s a potent symbol of hope, says Abdullah.


" There are painful memories here. But now we must think about the future, and how we can all come together to make good things happen. Already we have come such a long way.  "

Abdullah Mohammad

42, villager

Time to educate girls

Recently, people also applied this positive outlook to build a girls’ school. In the past, only boys were allowed to walk the seven kilometers to classes in a neighboring village.

Nijabao Hussaini, who is on the CDC, says parents unanimously agreed it was time to educate their girls. “Many of us didn’t go to school and we regretted it, but now our girls will go somewhere. They can read and learn so many things, while we are just blind,” Hussaini says. “It’s really good for our daughters to study.”

With NSP funds, parents first constructed the colorfully painted building with classrooms for about 350 girls. As the community grew, the government provided more funds for a second school building, constructed last year. Now 1,500 students attend classes in two shifts each day.

“There is a lot of interest in sending kids to school here,” says Abdullah. “I don’t know any family that won’t send their children to classes.”

In a bustling room full of grade two students, 8-year-old Shgofa says her favorite lessons come from the Holy Quran studies. “We are learning the morals of life, how to live and act with our parents and other people,” says Shgofa, as her fellow students giggle in the background.

Asked how she would feel if she couldn’t attend school, the girl replied: “I would be really sad. My mother didn’t get to study and she’s really proud of me. She tells me to come every day and don’t miss any of it.”

New beginnings

The villagers also used NSP assistance to drill six new water wells. Shir Mohammad, a father of five, says his boyhood hours were often filled fetching water from neighboring villages or streams. “I remember the bad times. I would get really, really tired. I didn’t even have a donkey. I had to carry water from a long, long way when I was 7 or 8 years old.”

Frequently, the water was contaminated and made people sick. “Now this is healthy,” he says, sipping freshly pumped water, “and it’s much tastier.”

Taking turns at the pump, Safar Mohammad, 13, and his friend Khan Agha, 16, said their chores are much easier. “We are happy with this water. It is closer to our home and cleaner,” says Khan Agha.

Wrestling his large yellow container down the narrow orchard path, Safar says: “I am just strong enough because of my tae kwon do classes.” Asked the name of his club, he says: “It’s called ‘New Beginnings’.”



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