A village economy flourishes when an ancient water source comes back to life.
23 SEPTEMBER 2010 | AKHANDZADA VILLAGE, KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
Life in Akhandzada Village, located in Kandahar, has never been easy. But when its ancient water source dried up, so did the local economy.
For centuries, an underground tunnel system known as a karez conveyed groundwater from distant mountains to streams that fed farmers’ fields. But during decades of fighting, the karez was neglected, becoming choked with silt. The villagers tried pumping water from an underground well, but it did no good.
“The well we used would run dry after 30 minutes of pumping,” said Mullah Mahboob, Akhandzada’s religious leader and elder. “We needed water.”
USAID’s Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture (AVIPA) Plus program and the local government approached Mullah Mahboob to create a program that would hire local laborers to clean out the karez. To Mahboob, this was the answer to two problems in Akhandzada.
“We had many men in the village, but no work. And we had a dry karez, which meant poor crops. The work program provided short-term jobs and a long-term solution to our water shortage,” Mullah Mahboob said.
AVIPA Plus provided work for local laborers bringing new life to dry, barren fields. Workers cleaned the canals and capped the entrance shafts to keep more sand from blowing in. With water now flowing to the village, AVIPA Plus provided vegetable seed and fertilizer to farmers to restart Akhandzada’s agricultural economy. In addition, farmers received training in agricultural practices such as irrigation, fertilization and cultivation.
Today, the once brown fields are green again. Walking down a row of vegetables, Mullah Mahboob proudly points out beds of onion, okra, tomato and corn and yellow melon grown from high quality AVIPA Plus seeds. He says the results are already exceeding farmers’ expectations.
“With a clean, functional karez and good vegetable seed, vegetable production has doubled, and in some cases tripled,” he said.
Last updated: January 12, 2015