Villagers Repair Key Irrigation System

Hard at work repairing the karez in Arab Kheil village
Hard at work repairing the karez in Arab Kheil village
Four villages have joined together to rebuild a traditional network that provided water to the area for centuries
Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, may seem an unlikely time of year to undertake major public works in Afghanistan. Many Afghans go from dawn to dusk without any food or drink, or so much as a sip of water. But in Arab Kheil village in Maydan Wardak province, 30 men from four villages gather day after day for a crucial repair job.
They are working on the ancient karez or network of traditional tunnels that are meant to transport underground water into canals. From ancient times, the karez efficiently irrigated fields and provided drinking water. But those in and around Arab Kheil have fallen into disrepair, resulting in a water shortage and many bitter fights among the villages.
Crops withered in the fields and young men started to leave because farming was no longer viable. Many joined the insurgents because they offered money to new recruits.
That was when the elders from four villages formed a shura to formulate the way forward. Rebuilding the karez was identified as a priority. With support from the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and USAID’s Stabilization In Key Areas (SIKA-East) program, the villagers stared to repair the karez.
First, the elders chose the community workers, carefully picking one from each of the poorest families and an equal number from each participating village. The karez is expected to be repaired before the autumn rains.
Times were hard but now, says an elder, there is a chance that life will get better.
“Once the canals are clean, our women won’t have to go far from home each day to fetch water,” he said.
“It is about health and about our children,” added another.

Last updated: January 16, 2015

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