Afghanistan

USAID Field Report Afghanistan Feb 2003

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United States Agency for International Development
Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance
Office of Transition Initiatives
Program Description

USAID/OTI's program goal is to support the process of recovery, rehabilitation and political development in post-conflict Afghanistan. Working with a number of local and international partners, USAID/OTI's program is building citizen confidence in the progress of political development, empowering citizens to address basic community needs, and building an alliance between legitimate government structures and citizens. In addition, USAID/OTI supports efforts to strengthen independent media. USAID/OTI's estimated budget for FY2002 was $30,369,476.

Country Situation

February saw a continuation of robberies, assaults, and attacks on international staff throughout the country. Parts of Helmand and Uruzgan Provinces are, at least temporarily, off limits for international organizations. The UN circulated an advisory to all international staff outlining the credible threat of kidnappings of international staff. In addition, organizations are preparing for evacuations in light of potential military action against Iraq.

Twenty of Afghanistan's ethnic Tajik army generals were replaced with Pashtuns, Hazaras and other ethnic groups to ensure that the military leaders are more representative of the different ethnic groups in the country.

Faryab Province

Jamiat and Junbish continue their power struggle as security incidents increase. It was reported that the Elder Council has designated a 20 member commission, comprised of Loya Jirga representatives and elders, to serve as mediators.

Kunduz Province

On February 18 there were two small explosions in the provincial capital, one inside and the other outside the IOM compound. There were no injuries and only minor damage to the IOM building and vehicles.

Civil-Military Coordination

The first of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) offices opened in Gardez province at the beginning of the month. The U.S. Military hopes the PRT offices will become a place where humanitarian and reconstruction projects supported by the U.S. Military and security concerns are reviewed by all parties, including local government (the mayor and the governor's offices are located in the same building). The PRT for Kunduz province is scheduled to be opened in early March.

The Civil Affairs teams (CAT-As), which are being absorbed into the PRT's, continue to create working relationships with the provincial and district governments and the international community. Several international organizations are urging the CAT-As to move away from rebuilding schools and digging wells to building government buildings and large infrastructure projects which many NGOs cannot implement.

OTI Highlights

A. Narrative Summary

USAID/OTI's goals are to promote political stability and economic recovery in Afghanistan. Projects strengthen economic recovery by providing essential goods and services that individuals and the market cannot provide on their own. These include improving essential commercial and public infrastructure, reestablishing the relationships and routines that give communities cohesiveness, contributing to sustainable stability and recovery by establishing links between the community and governmental authorities, and establishing links between the provinces and Kabul.

USAID/OTI's overall program strategy is to build government capacity by planning and implementing projects guided by community priorities, and by creating and/or strengthening linkages among the national, provincial, and district governments. USAID/OTI is also improving the communication infrastructure and implementing a comprehensive media strategy.

USAID/OTI's main implementing partners in Afghanistan are the International Organization for Migration - Afghanistan Transition Initiative (IOM-ATI), Ronco (a U.S. contractor), and Internews. USAID/OTI funds projects in all 31 provinces of the country.

Highlights of USAID/OTI's Afghanistan program during the month of February 2003:

Bamyan Province - Djar-E-Qaramak Bridge Links Both Sides of the Saighan Valley.

This 5 meter, stone-masonry bridge is a critical link between the two sides of the Saighan Valley in Bamyan province. The construction is especially important as the two sides of the valley often become separated during winter conditions. Reconstruction of the bridge benefits the 21,800 inhabitants of the valley. Reconstruction of the bridge also employed 88 workers for 15 days each, injecting cash into an extremely poor community. UNHCR is funding work on the road leading up to the bridge.

Bamyan Province - Irrigation Canal Brings Life Back to the Fatmatsi Valley. This 2,500 meter canal is now providing irrigation water to 132 acres of land which will result in improved food-security and livelihoods for 600 families. Approximately 356 workers labored on the canal for 15 days each.

National - Five More Provinces Connected to the Codan Radio System. USAID/OTI provided $290,000 to assist the Ministry of Communications in establishing an HF radio system to enable communications with all provinces of the Afghanistan for the first time. In February, following training by OTI technical staff in Kabul, the Ministry of Communications was able to install and provide training for use of the system in the provinces of Parwan, Logar, Jalalabad, Laghman and Kapissa. To date, 11 provinces have been provided with equipment and training, with the remaining 20 provinces expected to be completed by the end of March.

National - Information Collection and Dissemination Unit Begins Its Work. OTI supported this new Afghanistan Public Information Center through the funding of a consultant. Originally under the AACA (Afghanistan Assistance Coordination Authority), the Center now reports to the office of the president. The staff were hired during February with funding from the EC (European Community), and practical training took place during most of the month. Numerous press conferences, newspaper articles, and TV/radio spots are planned for March, including programs on the BBC Dari and Pashtu service on each of the Afghan government's six national priority sectors. Programs include education, national transportation, public administration, livelihoods and social protection, urban management, and natural resource management. Cross cutting issues such as women, human rights, and the environment will be included in all reports.

National - IWPR is Transforming the Bakhtar News Agency. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting has been working with Bakhtar journalists for two months. Bakhtar is the Afghanistan government's news agency and provides copy for state-run TV and radio. IWPR is training Bakhtar staff to write stories rather than rehash the official meetings. While there is an institutional reluctance to change from a model of writing that is known and safe, the project is showing signs of success. Many of the journalists' stories are becoming more clear and interesting, and the journalists are excited about what they call "the new way" of writing.

Kunduz Province - Rehabilitation of Teacher Training College Complete. The college currently trains 120 students. With the rehabilitation of 18 badly-damaged classrooms and 5 new offices, the college will expand to its previous capacity of 600 students per year, thus providing teachers to the northeastern part of the country.

Kabul Province - Kamary Girls' School Completed in Bagrami Province. This school for girls was constructed in the late 1960s, and subsequently destroyed in the late 1980s during fighting in the Shamali Valley. The reconstructed school consists of 12 classrooms and will serve 800 girls from the catchment area of approximately 17,500 inhabitants. The boys are studying in a nearby school constructed by UNDP.

Kabul - Telephone Connection for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. Prior to this project, the ministry had no telephone connections outside the main building. It now has 120 outside lines.

Kabul - Guest House for the Ministry of Higher Education Now Ready to Accept Guests. This completed guest house will lodge visiting professors and other guests who come from outside the country. The project was listed as a priority by the Minister who wanted to attract and be able to house more talent from around the country and world.

Kabul - Heating Systems Repaired at the Ministries of Public Health, Mines and Industries, and Planning Now Warm. The heating systems for these three ministries are once again operational. Because there was no capacity in the country to repair these systems at the time these projects began, a secondary outcome of the project is that three Afghan construction firms now have the capability to carry out similar undertakings.

Kabul - The Ministry of Justice Now Has Email, a Legal Library, and a Kindergarten. All of the ministry's legal books were stolen or destroyed during the time of the Taliban. While the refurbished legal library is not nearly as extensive as it once was, it now contains a good representation of legal texts related to some of the most pressing issues currently being debated in the country, such as the role of Islam in the government, and the rights of women in an Islamic society. While other organizations have committed to continuing the procurement of legal texts, the library is complemented by an internet connection to Lexis-Nexis, an online legal library.

Kabul - The Head of the Civil Service Commission Now Has an Office. Although the Civil Service Commission, whose mission is to reconfigure the overstaffed civil service, is not functioning, the office space is ready.

Kabul - The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation Better Prepared to Welcome the 2003 Returnees. This project included communication equipment to enable the various offices scattered throughout Kabul to communicate with each other, support to the ministry's regional offices, and increase their effectiveness as advocates.

Kabul - The Ministry of Communication Ready to Put Pouch System Into Operation. Three vehicles have been delivered to the ministry, complementing the two vehicles donated earlier by the International Postal Union. Together, the five vehicles are the basis for the country-wide pouching system that will facilitate the movement of government documents between Kabul and the provinces.

Kabul - The Renovation of the Ministry of Finance Building Complete. The extensive renovation of the ministry's office complements work undertaken by the USAID Mission's Democracy and Governance Program.

B. Program Impact Reports

The Radio Programs "Among Us" Stimulates Discussion. This project is a collaboration between OTI and the French NGO AINA to produce radio talk shows that address issues related to national stability. Topics include: formation of the national army, the economy, women's rights before and after the Taliban, problems with the university system that lead to students being killed during a recent demonstration, and reconstruction issues.

Minster of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Hanif Atmar, represented the government during the program on reconstruction. The atmosphere was open and the questions from the studio participants generally constructive. One person asked why money that should be spent for "poor people is going into particular persons' pockets. Mr. Atmar, you should cure this illness!" The minister responded with, "Come and let's bring the lists to check which tasks we have promised to do that we haven't done!" This led to much animated discussion and is an example of how radio can be used as a means of dispelling persistent but erroneous beliefs while educating people as to what's happening in their country. The cost for 16 weekly programs, which includes the training of the radio production Afghan staff, is US$56,000.

Women's Market Garden Project in Herat Produces Unexpected Results. The target population for this income-generation project is 100 women who have no male members of their family to support them or their children. From the beginning, the project faced resistance on the part of government officials who did not support the concept of a women's cooperative. This was eventually overcome due to the results of a survey of 7 villages in the area that demonstrated the support of most men and women and which resulted in the government donating land to the group.

While visiting the site, OTI staff observed men working plots of land next to where women were planting almond trees, vegetables, and flowers. The men said that they were willing to help the women if needed, but that so far "they seem to know what they're doing... they will be good farmers." The women talked excitedly about what they had learned and indicated that they would like to also learn to read.

One benefit of the project has been the new friendships that transcend village boundaries. When the project brought women from different villages together, the women initially resisted meeting one another. One elderly woman, widowed for 8 years, said, "This is the first time I've come out of my house since the fighting ended. I had no place to go before. Now we get to know each other and we talk while we work." Another woman said, "At first I resented being with women from other villages. But now we talk and we are very much alike. We are going to begin visiting each other and we think that our children might like to meet new friends too."

Dam and Canal Rehabilitation in Bamyan Gives New Hope. The Bamyan IOM-ATI office has struggled to move projects out of the provincial capital into areas where heavy fighting occurred and where ethnic acrimony endures. The Saighan District is one of those areas. To visit the dam, OTI's Field Program Officer traveled 3 hours over tortuous passes. The dam, which provides irrigation water for the area, had begun cracking, putting the villagers at risk of spring floods and lost agricultural capacity. To solve the problem, IOM-ATI hired 250 men to repair the dam and canal, thus safe-guarding that 975 acres of land will stay in production.

When asked about the dam, a teenage boy told the OTI staff member that his family walked over the mountain top each week to watch the work. Although unsure how the dam works, he knew that his family's livelihood depends on it and he was amazed that "someone in the world cared to come and fix it."

Projects such as this demonstrate to local authorities and residents that they have not been forgotten and that their government and the international community are working together for their benefit. This has resulted in talk of the district and provincial leaders meeting to discuss future projects beyond the capital.

Canal Reinforcement Project Puts Women to Work. OTI grantee Medair is implementing a project to reinforce the walls of an irrigation canal in the Sorobi District of Kabul Province. During project negotiations, the community was reluctant to accept the condition that there had to be a 20 percent community contribution. However, the project is a major success. When the IOM-ATI project team visited the site recently, there were approximately 60 men working on different parts of the canal: digging, placing and filling gabion cages, or placing concrete slabs on top of the newly reinforced canal. The site engineer privately told the monitoring team that the community was so anxious to get started on the work that they had decided to use their own tools rather than waiting for the arrival of tools to be provided by the project. He also said that the work would be completed ahead of schedule.

IOM-ATI staff inquired about the women who were supposed to be building the gabion cages, as per the agreement. The villagers explained that the men had not felt comfortable allowing the women to work at the site so Medair had trained a group of men who in turned trained the women who were working from their homes. While this was not the women's empowerment activity that had been envisioned, it still represents a chink in the cultural armor that defines roles and responsibilities in much of Afghanistan.

C. Grants Activity Summary for USAID/OTI Programming in Afghanistan for the month of February 2003.

Program Category
Approved
Total
Community Infrastructure
12
$442,703
Good Governance / Transparency
2
$168,720
Media
3
$247,347
Total
17
$858,770

USAID/OTI signed the following small grants during the current reporting period, February 2003:

Subgrantee
Project
Beneficiaries
Media Action International Radio stations and media centers at the Universities of Herat and Kabul. 25 students directly involved with the stations. Indirectly, all students of the Faculties of Journalism and the listenership of the stations.
Community of Qara E Shihkee, Faryab Province. Dam construction for irrigation, Khoja Shubsz Push District. The 1,000 families in the catchment area. Initially 8,800 acres will be irrigated, possibly growing to 17,600 acres. 11 skilled and 50 unskilled laborers for 60 days.
Community of Dawl Atabad, Faryab Province Rehabilitation of the Esfandi Dam for the provision of irrigation water. 18,000 families will benefit from the cultivation of 13,200 acres.
Community of Mehtarlam, Laghman Province. Placing culverts along the roads of Mehtarlam and surrounding villages to prevent seasonal washing out of the roads. An estimated 40,000 people who live in the area will benefit from being able to travel all year. 80 laborers.
Community of Mehtarlam, Laghman Province Construction of Totai Toor Bridge. This 7 meter bridge over the Alisheng River will replace a make-shift bridge that collapses every year. The 40,000 residents of Mehtarlam and surrounding villages will have improved access to education, health care and markets. 50 laborers.
4 Villages in Lahgman Province. Construction of a protection wall for the Jougi Bridge to redirect the river back into its original bed. 15,000 families will be able to travel freely during the 6 months of the year when the road is normally flooded with water. 200 farmers whose land will be safe from flooding. 75 laborers.
14 Villages in Alishing District, Laghman Province. Construction of Islamabad Bridge across the Alishing River, connecting 14 villages. 16,000 families will benefit from improved access. 200 laborers.
Relief International Leadership survey in 3 provinces to best determine which leadership cadres are most listened to for use in planning civic education activities. The survey will have nation-wide implications for civic education campaigns.
AACA Information Unit. Purchase of equipment for the just-hired staff of an information collection and dissemination unit to be based at the Office of the President. Hiring of trainer. The beneficiaries will be the people of Afghanistan who will receive professionally-produced reports and updates on the reconstruction process.
Human Rights Commission. Provision of equipment to the Human Rights Commission. This project assists the Human Rights Commission become operational which will have national implications.
Renovation of Kabul Public Court. Renovation of the main courtroom and secondary offices. Primary beneficiaries will be those who will have access to the renovated facilities. Secondary beneficiaries are all people of Afghanistan as this will serve as a model for other courts around the country.
Community of Western Dara-e-Suf District, Samagan Province. Construction of 100 kandas (family reservoirs) for storage of water throughout the year. 1,000 - 1,500 families will have a dependable water supply for themselves and their livestock.
Ghashie Village, Wardak Province. Provision of potable water for Ghashie Village, Chak District through running a pipe to the village from a spring 1.5 kms away. 2,500 people from Ghashie Village. 41 unskilled and 3 skilled laborers for a total 1,980 man days of work.
Community of Kunduz, Kunduz Province. Rehabilitation of Alchin Bridge over the Khanabad River on the Tajik border. The direct beneficiaries will be the 1 million inhabitants of Kunduz and Takhar Province who will have a trade link with Tajikistan. 11 skilled and 37 unskilled laborers for 90 days.
Community of Chadara, Kunduz Province. Construction of dams and protection works at Isakhil and Bande Jadeed to resolve flooding and guarantee permanent access to irrigation and drinking water. 3,400 families will benefit from the construction of the dams and protection works. 3 skilled and 12 unskilled laborers for 90 days.
Communities of Dashti Archi and Chardara. Water diversion and protection works for the Archi Canal. 1,100 families will benefit from the construction of the dam and the retaining walls. 3 skilled and 16 unskilled laborers for 60 days.
Mushak Village, Wardak Province. Construction of a weir and intake system so that water from a nearby river to provide water for irrigation. 1,200 people from Mushak Village will have access to sufficient water to irrigate 330 acres of land. 41 unskilled and 3 skilled laborers for a total of 3,200 man days or work.


NEXT STEPS/IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES

During the month of March, USAID/OTI will:

  • Continue working with the Supreme Court to develop and operationalize a plan for computerizing Afghanistan's documents.

  • Expand training on conflict-resolution and civic education.

  • Continue the search for a Public Information Officer for the Office of President Karzai.

  • Continue the process of encouraging the development of independent radio stations throughout the country.

  • Develop an action plan for operationalizing the consultative process for the new constitution.