Control the water and improve life

Originally published

Rustaq, the most rural district in the province of Takhar (Afghanistan), is today still suffering from the consequences of the 1998 earthquake. An agricultural region (cereals, fruit, cattle) with very poor water resources, the earth is nourished only during the rainy season. The food requirements of the inhabitants are therefore not covered, and the ill-kept roads literally block the economic development of the area. The standard of living, education and health is thus well below the national average.

Terre des hommes has been present in Rustaq since the earthquake. It rebuilds the schools, the water supply systems, and brings aid in the fields of heath and education. Since 2007, Tdh has also been watching over the health of mothers and children. As well, it has helped to construct “income generating activities”: pistachio tree cultivation, ovens for drying fruit, a system of irrigation… which make it possible for the inhabitants to get paid work.

At the beginning of 2011, Terre des hommes took up a new challenge: that of getting (back) access to water, sanitation and hygiene for all the people in this region.

Of the 180 villages targeted in Rustaq, 35 to 40 have no access to a source of water and depend solely on collecting snow and rainwater, in winter and during the rainy season. In the dry season – five months long – both the inhabitants and their soil suffer from a serious water shortage. And paradoxically, the heavy rains in Spring cause great flooding and an enormous loss of arable land, infrastructures and even houses, due to the steep slopes (run-offs) and significant erosion. The techniques of irrigation are no longer adapted to these restrictions: they have not changed for centuries, although the water resources available have diminished considerably.

Terre des hommes will now train and help the people and existing organisations in the Rustaq area so that they can acquire all the means to provide and maintain the scarce resources that they do have. The construction of new systems of access to water, sanitation and hygiene will make it possible to improve the general well-being of the inhabitants of the region, avoiding numerous diseases, opening employment and ensuring food safety.

In the mountainous regions of Rustaq, where water resources are non-existent, improved systems of collecting and storing water from the rain and snow will guarantee access to water throughout the year. Efficient systems of irrigation will allow flood control (reduction of run-off, water storage in reservoirs, soil conservation), to protect the area against natural disasters and to supply land and beasts correctly.

More than 66 wells (or water holes) will be made in regions with underground water. Latrines for families and in schools will also be built, according to identified requirements. The people of the region are directly involved in these changes: some of them are being trained in the building of these new infrastructures, others are given training on their use and maintenance as well as on improved hygiene practices.

Further information on the Terre des hommes intervention in Afghanistan (