Road Construction Activities Improve Lives of Rural Population in Rustaq

Article, 26.09.2017

For 24-year-old Abdul Manan, the reason for working on the road construction in his village is not only an attractive daily wage but taking part in the reconstruction of his country.

Abdul Manan, a construction worker/Cashier
Abdul Manan, a construction worker and cashier. ©FDFA

This is something he is proud of as he feels roads are essential for the development of his village and Afghanistan. “The people in our village don't have easy access to schools, health facilities and markets due to the bad road conditions” says Abdul Manan, a resident of Batash village in Rustaq district. He explains: “Children have to walk for hours to reach the nearest school and for farmers it is difficult to access markets to sell their produce.”

Safe and drivable access remains a challenge for many villages in Rustaq, a district located in the northern Takhar province of Afghanistan. People have to walk long distances to have access to basic services such as education, medical care, markets and local government administration. Rustaq’s villages are connected through a seasonal track road which is extremely dangerous to drive on. The road is not functional when it rains and is completely blocked in winter, when snow covers the steep areas. Due to the current road conditions, there is no public or private transportation service available to facilitate villagers’ access to services and markets in Rustaq town or in Taloqan, the capital of Takhar.

Labor-Based Road Construction

Rustaq is one of Afghanistan’s largest districts and is comprised of 200 villages with over 300’000 inhabitants. The mountains that characterize the district make building and maintaining roads a challenge. The network of paved or tertiary roads is limited and many remote communities are still isolated. A good road network is essential to connect rural areas and to boost development, among others by connecting farmers to the market.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation supports the rehabilitation and construction of 35 kilometers of tertiary road in Rustaq to improve local communities’ access to markets and services. The Labor-Based Road Construction and Rehabilitation (LBRC) project also aims to provide a reliable income for the local communities and therefore employs as much labor as possible and utilizes as few machineries as necessary. Each construction worker has the opportunity to work for at least three months per year. This has a significant impact on the household income and discourages seasonal migration.

The road connects 14 villages and benefits an additional 15. In addition to constructing the road, the project will also plant 60’000 trees alongside the road. Over 20’000 trees have already been planted at the completed sections of the road to stabilize the roadside. Construction workers are trained in maintenance, ensuring that the necessary reparation works can be performed after the end of the project.

Engaging Women

While only men are directly engaged in the road construction works, women and children benefit from improved household economy and easier access to education and health facilities. In May 2017, a group of women started weaving gabions that are being used as stabilizer for the parts of the road that are by the riverside.  This activity has been identified as a possible way to engage women. The women engaged in income generating activities, such as gabion weaving, earn the same amount as the men engaged on the road construction. In addition, 300 children and 195 women from vulnerable families and women-headed households are engaged in vocational trainings, literacy courses and health and hygiene awareness and promotion.

Tailoring has been identified as one of the culturally acceptable forms of vocational training for young unmarried women. A group of 7 young women, all aged between 16 to 18, started tailoring and literacy classes in May, which is being conducted in the home of the female trainer in Chechka village. They were selected from poor families and none of them have attended school. “I want to become a good tailor in the future to have an income for myself”, says Sweeta, 16, one of the trainees, who is an orphan. Apart from tailoring, she is also attending the literacy classes offered by the LBRC project.

The project is being implemented by the Terre des hommes (Tdh) NGO with the close collaboration of AF-Iteco through its Afghan-registered branch, Rustaq Engineering and Construction Company (REC). Tdh is responsible for the overall project activities and the REC is in charge of the complex technical works such as survey and design of the road, construction of bridges, road gravelling and final compaction. Tdh is also responsible for the maintenance of the road until it is fully completed and then the responsibility will be handed over to the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.

The LBRC project is complementing SDC’s Livelihood Improvement Programme Takhar (LIPT), which aims to build a more sustainable future in Rustaq and improve the living conditions of its rural people through the promotion of sustainable natural resources management practices and income generation activities for both women and men. The LIPT project was initiated in 2007 and will run through September 2017. The LBRC project started in 2016 and will be completed by the end of 2019.

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