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.