By launching small businesses that support municipal development projects, USAID ensures that its investments maximize their local impact
26 MARCH 2012 | WARDAK, AFGHANISTAN
CHALLENGE While construction resources are easily available in major cities such as Kabul and Kandahar, smaller cities and towns may struggle to provide all of the resources needed for major development projects. Contracting agencies are often forced to source materials, such as concrete slabs, from larger regional cities. This not only drives up project costs, but also dissipates money that would otherwise be directed toward intended project beneficiaries.
INITIATIVE In November 2010, USAID began funding the reconstruction of Wardak’s provincial capital, in the heart of Maiden Shahr. Implemented by Central Asia Development Group, the project improved drainage in the city, leveled dirt roads previously riddled with potholes, and rebuilt sidewalks. From the beginning, project managers saw a need for concrete barrier slabs for the reconstruction of sidewalks and protective walls. Instead of outsourcing these slabs from Kabul, project staff brought in a standing mixer and 30 slab moulds. Skilled masons then worked with laborers to train Maiden Shahr residents in concrete barrier production.
RESULTS The benefits of this do-it-yourself approach quickly became apparent. While it cost $35 to purchase a finished slab from Kabul, it cost only $22.50 – including labor, cement mixer rental, and transport to the worksite – to manufacture a slab onsite. This particular project used 1,900 slabs, which drove savings of $23,750 over the course of the project. More importantly, labor wages and the costs of purchasing many inputs, such as sand and aggregate, were disbursed in Maiden Shahr, promoting positive economic impact in the community.
USAID has followed similar approaches in other activities, such as a sidewalk-slab replacement project in Kandahar Province. Over time, the scale of these projects can drive hundreds of thousands of dollars on the local market, while sparking an entrepreneurial spirit among project participants.
Several of the unskilled workers participating in the Maiden Shahr slab production look forward to pursuing future projects as skilled laborers. One laborer hopes to run a similar business in a larger city at some point. “I have learned this business now. It can provide good income for my family if I do this in the future,” he said.
Last updated: February 20, 2015