KANDAHAR -- Last year, Abdul Raziq, a 47-year-old farmer in Panjwai district of Kandahar, was able to cultivate wheat on only 0.4 hectare of his 2-hectare land because of water shortages.
However, this year, he plans to cultivate all of his land thanks to a new irrigation system made possible by two large-scale projects funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to build retaining walls in Kandahar and Zabul provinces.
Raziq said he is grateful for the construction of retaining walls in his area.
"I haven't cultivated my land properly in a few years because of water shortages," he said. "We used to suffer from floods in the winter after rainfalls, damaging our homes and farmland."
"From now on when there is water in the river, it will directly reach our lands," Raziq said.
These development projects are very valuable to the locals and will improve their life and economic situation, he added.
The projects, which were implemented by the Afghan Development Association (ADA), a local non-governmental organisation, aim to help farmers bring irrigation water to their farms.
The construction of retaining walls, which began in December and was completed June 1, will help to prevent erosion and water loss. This will improve the efficiency of irrigation systems and allow farmers to grow more crops and increase their yields.
The projects included 24 sub-projects in Panjwai and Zherai districts of Kandahar, as well as in Shah Joy district and Qalat, the provincial capital of Zabul province, said Emal Safi, director of the ADA in Kandahar.
"Twelve retaining walls with a length of 3,000 metres were constructed in Panjwai and Zherai districts of Kandahar with a total cost of more than $235,000," he said. "Constructed on the riverbeds and canals, these retaining walls will help irrigate 5,600 hectares of agricultural land."
"These retaining walls have protected 2,600 hectares of land from floods, while 300 locals are employed by these projects," he added.
In Zabul province, 12 other retaining walls were constructed at a total cost of $233,000 and with an irrigation capacity of 6,500 hectares of land.
These six-month-long projects created 400 local jobs, according to Safi.
Almost all of Panjwai district's residents are farmers who have found themselves jobless these past few years as they could not cultivate their lands because of water shortages.
"The new projects are very useful for us, and from now on we will be busy working on our land [again]," said Mohammad Wali, 31, a farmer in Panjwai district.
The construction of retaining walls will be beneficial on two fronts, he said. "On the one hand, we are protected from floods ... and on the other hand, we can use the river water for irrigation."
Building for the future
Shams Ur Rahman, 38, a resident of Shah Joy district, was working on the retaining walls project for a monthly salary of about 10,000 AFN ($117).
As the breadwinner of a family of eight, he was suffering from economic problems and unemployment until he got this job.
"I am happy to be working close to my home towards building my village," he said. "This project is very valuable because the infrastructure that it builds makes life easier while also providing income."
"Our request from the aid agencies is to have long-term projects. There are no other work opportunities, and our only hope is the projects supported by the international organisations," Shams Ur Rahman said.
Hundreds of young men who had been suffering from unemployment and poverty worked on these projects, Mohammad Yaqoob, 75, a tribal elder in Panjwai district, said.
"These projects are highly critical," he said. "On the one hand, they have saved residents from floods, and on the other hand, they have created employment for jobless young men."
"They are also building our villages," he added.
Projects by international organisations have helped keep the economy afloat, Yaqoob said.
"Many young men have found work at a time when residents were suffering from economic problems due to unemployment. These projects have helped alleviate poverty," he said.