Innovative Project Helps Feed and Strengthen Flood-Affected Afghan Communities

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Medair helps families bridge the food gap and rebuild their communities after devastating flash floods destroyed their harvest.

In the summer of 2010, the worst flash floods in 50 years struck some of the most remote communities in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province. “The flood was taller than the trees,” said Sayed Rahin, 30, in the village of Kadalac. “The power of the water was incredible.”

When the floodwaters in the remote districts of Waras and Panjob subsided, shocked residents found their crops washed away and their once-rich agricultural land buried under mud, stone, and sediment.

Families lost as much as three month’s worth of food, leaving them face-to-face with an extended food gap that threatened their lives and livelihoods. Making matters worse, they would not be able to grow food again unless their damaged crop-growing land and irrigation systems could be restored.

“The floods of 2010 destroyed the harvest and washed away a lot of agricultural land, radically changing the landscape,” said Sieger Burger, Medair Project Manager. “Losing their land and harvest caused many people to lose their hope for life.”

In response, Medair launched an emergency food assistance project for the flood-affected people of Waras and Panjob, with support from the Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection of the European Commission, and from individuals who made generous donations to Medair.

We ran an innovative cash-for-work programme that enabled more than 700 households—approximately 6,300 people—to earn enough money to feed their families during the food gap while also helping restore damaged cropland, build roads, and mitigate the risk of future disasters. Meanwhile, the most vulnerable people—widows responsible for families, the elderly, and the infirm—received financial support to bridge the food gap without requiring their participation in the cash-for-work projects.

While food aid alone would also have met the immediate need, cash-for-work programmes offer flood-affected communities a more dignified and effective route to recovery. “If we just gave them food, then we limit their options, and we would create a problem for the local market owners who are trying to sell food ,” said Sieger. “By giving people money, they can decide for themselves what they want to do with it. Usually they buy food, fuel for their fires, and repay debts.”

The work projects led to the construction of dams that will divert potential floodwaters, the clearing of mud and stones from flood-damaged agricultural land, and the repair of roads. “I feel proud that not only have I made money for my family, but that, in the future, I have protected the country from flooding,” said Taki, a 35-year-old participant from Kadalac.

Women also participated in the programme. They wove gabion cages to secure river banks and they took classes about how to keep themselves and their children healthy through improved hygiene and sanitation. “This was the first time I have been paid to work, said Zahra, a young mother in Panjob. “It is a little strange for women in Afghanistan to work but it was good to show men that we can work too. All of us benefit from this project. The women who have worked, and the women whose husbands have worked… We are very grateful for this.”

“The work we have done, we hope this means we will not have floods here again,” said Sayed. “Also, we can use the watershed we have built to irrigate our land and grow grain, fruit, and vegetables.”

“I think if we had the same rain again as in 2010, we would now be safe,” added Taki. “Medair gave us the ideas of what we needed to do to protect our village. Then Medair helped us do it. Honestly, this project has been really useful for us and is a great benefit. We are tremendously grateful.”