Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

Hikmatullah Omari describes two tenant farming systems in the Province of Logar: "In one method, the tenant farmer splits the cost of fertilizer, seeds, and tools with the landowner. In the other method, the landowner provides all of the materials." The former arrangement is covered under a 50/50 split with the tenant farmer, while the latter is covered under a 75/25 landowner-to-farmer split. "This makes sense," he says, "because the landowner is bearing much more cost and risk."

When their supporting irrigation system failed, the villagers of Muhammad Agha District in Logar Province faced the expensive prospect of drilling test wells into the water table. This is a risky prospect in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan because water pools unevenly below rocky mountain surfaces and probing through layers of granite and limestone can be far more expensive than probing through soil. Often, test wells miss the water table entirely. The process typically costs $32 per meter, turning the exploration into an expensive gamble for poverty-stricken villages.

 Afghanistan is an overwhelmingly rural country. More than 80 percent of Afghans live in farming villages, and 75 percent of all residents depend on arable land for their livelihoods. When asked about this land, subsistence farmers are quick to talk about crop yields. Farmers who have moved past subsistence agriculture often see land as an asset in its own right. At the same time, agricultural gains are narrow and can be easily lost. Seasonal volatility in crop yields can push a farming community from profitability to subsistence in a single season

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.

USAID is teaching Kuchi nomads how to treat common livestock diseases when veterinary care is out of reach. Obaidullah is a Kuchi nomad who tends a herd of more than one hundred sheep and goats. Each year, he follows the migratory routes established centuries ago by his tribe—a foot journey of more than 750 km through the mountains of central Afghanistan. Like most members of his tribe, he has no formal education and only limited access to veterinary care. The survival of his herd therefore depends on his ability to quickly recognize and treat infectious diseases.

The residents of Khulm and Deh Dahdi districts are working on projects that will protect them from floods by building terraces and check dams and planting pistachio trees to prevent soil erosion and generate income. 

Panjwai District, located west of Kandahar City, is a rural area that relies heavily on agriculture to sustain its economy. During the preceding three decades, its irrigation system had fallen into disrepair. The municipality lacked the resources to address Panjwai’s infrastructural development, including its canals. Worse, intense insurgent activity coupled with feuding local tribes prevented significant infrastructural improvements in the district.

Among the Afghan tribes, the Kuchi people are famous as nomads, walking their livestock from lowland pastures along Afghanistan periphery, to highlands in the center of Afghanistan and back each year. However, the Kuchi people near Pul-i-Alam District in Logar Province are among the estimated 15 percent of tribe members who have broken this pattern by settling in a fixed place. Benefiting from a long-standing land grant, the Kuchi people in Pul-i-Alam diversified into farming. Over time, area farmland provided sufficient grain for livestock, enabling the Kuchi community to stabilize and expand.

The USAID project to rebuild the school included a wastewater treatment facility. This wastewater system uses chlorine to disinfect drinking water and the wastewater is treated with a biological treatment system on the school property. USAID has included wastewater treatment installations in seven Kabul high schools, not only to modernize the campus, but to promote health and safety issues.

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Last updated: January 12, 2015