Here is a consultant’s review (with poorly-scanned photos) looking at the results of Phase 1 of Ottawa’s Afghan rural economic development initiative, the Integrated Alternative Livelihoods Program (see my previous post for more). Many pages of the report detail the problems with development projects in one of the world’s least-governed countries. Page 14, for example, describes how contractors hired to build canals faced resistance unless workers came from, or had the approval of, the community they worked in.
The report also describes, at length, how primitive much of the country is. Page 20 provides an account of the northern village of Robat and its struggle building a wall to divert flood waters away from a community cemetery. The seasonal rise in the water level led to exposed graves and washed-away ancestral remains, yet villagers could not find the resources or technology to build an effective barrier to keep the hallowed ground dry.
Page 25 provides some lessons learned by observers. Basically, “All people’s needs can be summarized in two words: water and electricity.” Without electricity, farmers cannot dig deep enough wells to gain reliable access to water. But without being able to produce high-value crops, they cannot raise the money needed to buy fuel and power the generators needed to help dig those wells. Page 29 describes how farmers from small villages are at the mercy of Pakistani traders, who have the extensive logistics networks needed to reach rural Afghanistan. With farmers at the traders’ mercy, middlemen can buy crops for a fraction of what the growers would make if they had the ability to transport their produce to the market.
The report concludes with some lessons for the currently-active Phase 2 of IALP, which runs until 2011 – the withdrawal date for Canada’s combat operations. Someone will have to file an FOI request in a year or two to see if this report’s advice was listened to.