TALOQAN -- Thousands of Takhar residents have started working on projects implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) aimed at improving infrastructure in parts of the province.
The AKF and UNOPS -- a UN organisation that provides infrastructure, procurement and project management services -- have launched a three-month initiative in two districts of Takhar to build rural roads and improve irrigation infrastructure, including canals.
More than 13,000 local residents have been hired to work on the initiative, which is funded by the World Bank.
The initiative, which was launched on March 14, includes 82 projects -- 43 in Kalfgan district and 39 in Namak Aab district, according to Azmatullah Noor Mohammad, the provincial director of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in Takhar.
"These projects include the rehabilitation and gravelling of local roads in villages, the strengthening of retaining walls, and the rehabilitation and cleaning of agricultural canals, all of which costs more than 181 million AFN ($2 million)," he told Salaam Times.
"Every day, 13,551 local residents work on implementing these projects, each of whom receives 450 AFN ($5.15) per day," he said.
"Some 16,939 families in 82 villages will benefit from infrastructure services such as transportation, improved access to irrigation sources and measures to help prevent the destruction of agricultural lands caused by floods," he added.
The goal of the projects is to create short-term employment and improve basic services in Takhar villages, said Mohammad.
Multiple cash-for-work projects funded by the UN have been implemented in six other Takhar districts -- Bangi, Hazar Samowch, Baharak, Khawaja Ghar, Dasht-e-Qala and Khawaja Bahauddin, he added.
Earning a living
Many local residents working on the projects said they had been suffering from unemployment and poverty for months before the work started.
Hazartuddin, 55, a mason and a resident of Naw Abad village in Namak Aab district, Takhar province, said his income helps him cover the expenses of his household.
"Poverty and unemployment have seriously impacted my mental health. Now, I am very happy that I have a job and no longer suffer from unemployment. I can put food on the table for my family of nine," he told Salaam Times on March 14.
"Almost all residents of the district now have work, and they can earn a living to save their families from poverty and hunger," he added.
Ali Mohammad, 45, a farmer in Kalfgan district, Takhar province, and the sole breadwinner of his six-member family, told Salaam Times that he works on a canal cleaning project in his neighbourhood.
"My two-season agricultural land has been dry from the lack of proper irrigation systems. I am happy that I am now working and cleaning the irrigation canal to irrigate not only my land but also other farmers' lands," he said on March 14.
Ali Mohammad, who owns two acres of land, said his harvests would double with sufficient irrigation water.
"Irrigation water did not reach our farmlands for many years because most canals in our district were partially destroyed or filled with debris and the farmers could not cultivate their lands," he added.
"Cleaning canals and streams that have not been utilised for years will provide a gateway for water to ... reach agricultural lands that will lead to the growth and expansion of the agriculture sector in the district," he added.
Takhar residents have welcomed the funding and implementation of local development projects by humanitarian organisations.
"Implementing the development projects will help improve infrastructure in villages and districts. These interventions are crucial to the public because they can help it earn a living and support its families," said Sayed Halim Ferotan, 62, a tribal elder in Takhar province.
"The projects are economically effective and important for our people because through the projects, they can earn enough money to cover their families' expenses," he told Salaam Times.
"I urge international organisations to consider supporting more projects in the villages and districts of Takhar province. Few projects have been implemented in the province because of the war and recent insecurities," he added.
"Some of the projects that were built earlier ... in the centre and districts of Takhar have been damaged by the conflict. Therefore, we call on relief organisations to support the rehabilitation of projects similar to the ones they are now implementing," he said.