Harvest of Peace

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When one village in an insurgency-affected area of eastern Afghanistan decided to work with the government, it changed lives and prospects

For years, Nadir Shah Kot district in eastern Afghanistan was so badly affected by insurgent violence it was off-limits to Afghan government agencies, and crucial irrigation infrastructure and flood barriers fell into disrepair. The district depends on agriculture but the crops withered without adequate irrigation even as years of flooding laid waste to fields.

In 2012, Hujurim village sought to change the dismal situation by holding a path-breaking peace shura to convince the rebels it was in everyone’s interest to cooperate with the government on repairing the irrigation infrastructure.

The Afghan government responded with a USAID-supported project that Hujurim village elder Ali Gul explains as initially small but with the potential to grow. “If we were able to maintain the peace and make sure the project was not attacked, then, the government promised, more help would come to Nadir Shah Kot.”

Nearly 300 local laborers repaired the flood barriers over a four-month period starting July. The peace held and as promised, the project was expanded to include another 720 local workers and the district’s largest irrigation network of traditional underground tunnels called karez, which efficiently transport water underground into canals. Now, more than 27,000 residents of Nadir Shah Kot say their lives are better as a result of the two projects. What became known locally as ‘the harvest of peace’ has boosted the local economy, and encouraged the community to continue their new sense of unity and implement further projects that benefit the entire district.