JALALABAD - Two birds sitting on an electricity wire would be an utterly unremarkable sight in many places around the world. But in the village of Dar-e-Nur in north-eastern Afghanistan, it represents a major achievement: the small, crooked power line means that some 300 families now have electricity in their homes for the first time.
The World Food Programme, together with a local NGO, supported the village in the construction of a micro-hydro power plant, capitalizing on a stream that runs through the area to harness the flow of water to produce electricity. The project has had a two-fold impact on tackling hunger in the local community: first, immediate relief by providing workers with food rations while they were building the dam, and secondly, the long-term improvements that electricity will bring in the quality of life and food security for villagers.
Malek Mumtaz is hopeful about the progress that the dam will bring to his village.
Photo: WFP/Silke Buhr
“Most people in this village are farmers, or they are casual labourers who look for work one day at a time, for example on construction sites,” explains Malek Mumtaz, the leader of the District Development Authority, a local authority that helps coordinate and direct aid work at village level. “In the winter that kind of work stops – but this project kept 85 people employed for four months.”
“I was completely without work through the winter months,” confirms Sher Alam, a father of ten who worked on the project. “This food was really important for me and my family.”
The villagers plan to run several machines with the electricity, including equipment to process locally-grown cotton, wheat and rice. They plan to use the revenue from these activities to cover the cost of providing electricity for domestic use by the villagers. A local boy was trained as an electrician in Jalalabad to look after the technical aspects. He wasn’t the only one to learn a new skill. Sixty-five year old Abdul Baqi shares, “I usually try to make some money sharpening knives for people in the village, but there’s not much work. I learned how to mix concrete on this project. Hopefully this will help me find work in future.”
Malek Mumtaz is excited about one particular prospect that electricity brings to his village. “Children used to have to study in the evenings by the light of an oil lamp. Now they’ll be able to work much better with electric light. The darkness is gone!”