In a landlocked country where only 12 percent of the land is arable, irrigating land is limited to three options: canals fed by river and rain, a natural spring, or the ancient underground aquifer known as karez. For the farmer fortunate enough to cultivate a sliver of the available 78,240 hectares of Afghan land, only an estimated 20 to 40 percent of canal-irrigated land was available for harvest in 2002 due to insufficient seed and water for irrigation. “For only two months each year, the canal is full of water from the Pulealam River,” says 45-year-old Mohammed Shah. “That’s ten months without water, including the entire summer.
USAID’s income-generating program provided Aliachmad with the necessary tools—yarn and a refurbished loom—to reestablish his reputation in the village as the patu expert. Aliachmad have a lifetime’s worth of skill, but lack materials and start-up cash.
The collapsed and broken skeletons of washed-out dams were clearly visible under the rushing waters of the Ghorband River in Parwan’s Charikar district. Heaps of stone and sandbags were no match for the powerful spring floods that carry boulders the size of small cars. For years, the task of building and maintaining the dams, as well as clearing the canals of debris, was the responsibility of area farmers. They performed this work on an irregular, ad hoc basis under extreme conditions with local conflict concerning water rights. Farmers would often leave their land for weeks at a time to band together to build the new dams or clean the canals.
For those families without access to any other means of irrigation and struggling through food shortages, USAID has introduced drip irrigation to Afghanistan. Four local NGO partners selected 56 families, including Omid’s, in the provinces of Kabul and Parwan to participate in the program.
Afghan parents face a harsh reality in child-rearing — an under-five mortality rate of 257 dead children per 1,000 living. Unclean drinking water contributes significantly to those harsh numbers. Severe cases of diarrheal disease were on the rise in Kabul in 2003, with an estimated 7,800 reported each week. Many rural villages turned to chlorination when available — but the chlorination campaign did not reach Kulanghar in the Logar district.
Last updated: December 30, 2014