For communities in Afghanistan, the climate crisis isn’t a distant threat - it’s already here. And for Basir's drought and flood-prone village, climate change is all about water.

My father taught me how to look after this farm. Although it is harder now than it used to be.

"What we have seen in the past few years is that the timing and amount of rain and snowfall in Afghanistan is changing," Guru Naik, Afghanaid's Deputy Director for Climate Action, explained. "For instance, farmers tend to sow their wheat in the month of November - and they expect the growth to happen immediately after the snowfall of December and January. But these predictable weather patterns that rural families could once rely on have been irregular in recent years, and if the timing of sowing seeds and then irrigating those seeds no longer matches, then we have a problem for large numbers of farmers dependent on rainfall for their crop."

Basir lives in Samangan province, amongst the foothills of the majestic Hindu Kush mountains. His farm, which sits right below a steep hillside, has been in his family for generations. But Samangan has become particularly dry, facing increasingly frequent droughts in recent years, making rain-dependent farmers like Basir really struggle to put food on the table.

And with droughts also come floods. When combined with four decades of conflict and deepening poverty, significantly changing weather patterns result in significant degradation of land and deforestation. For Basir, this meant that when there was heavy rain, his farm would become completely inundated with flash flooding, as the dry, sparsely vegetated hillside he lives below couldn't absorb water quickly enough.

"We would pray for rain for our crops," he said, "but then the water would come, and take our crops with it."

Khairuddin, Basir's neighbour, explained how the village was affected, "Before, people were scared of rocks, mud and floods coming from this hillside during heavy rains. It wrecked our lands. We couldn't grow anything."

Step 1: Trenches and trees

Five years ago, Afghanaid started working with Basir's community to help them adapt to the changing climate. The villagers identified that their most pressing concern was preventing the floods.

"In the first phase of the project, we dug trenches and planted trees in the hillside, to stop floodwater," Khairuddin explained.

Trenches and trees are simple but transformative flood prevention solutions. Afghanaid employed members of the community to dig the holes across a large span of hillside, which water and rocks now flow into when rain comes. Meanwhile, the canopy cover offered by the growing trees reduces the speed at which rain hits the ground, with their roots helping water penetrate into the soil. 

After we dug the trenches and the trees were planted, people weren't scared anymore.

Step 2: Solar-fuelled irrigation

Trenches and trees help the ground catch and absorb the water, but crucially, they also work to replenish water in the ground. This means, as well as preventing floods, there is more water available for future use to sustain families through dry spells.

"They increased the underground water levels. The orchards you see now didn't exist before; it's all because of the trenches. This place has turned lush and green because of them," Khairuddin enthused.

In April, Basir was installing a solar-powered pump to extract water from a well on his farm. This is the first time he has been able to access water that easily - when there was not enough rainfall for irrigation, he used to have to travel to the district centre just for water, and there often wasn't enough for everyone.

"I can now access water from morning till evening. And we can drink the water too."

Now protected from flood and more resilient to drought, Basir's farm is going from strength to strength. This year, he's growing almonds, watermelons, peaches, pears, cucumber, leeks and onions. He's recently installed a large greenhouse using the profits from his last few harvests.

"In one year, I've had a 40% increase in my profits. And with this water pump, I will make even more." 

Basir and his neighbours tending to vegetables his large greenhouse

Now that there is more readily available water, Afghanaid has worked with community members to train them on water management, to ensure the more available resource is used equitably and sustainably. 

Through the installation of a drip-irrigation system, we've also ensured that the community can more easily care for the trenches and trees on the hillside, so they can continue to protect the community for generations.

"Before, when we first planted trees here, 100 people from the community would have to come to irrigate the trees, so they would keep growing. It was very difficult, and people were getting tired. Now, in the second phase of the project, we have installed a large drip irrigation system. This drip system is very advanced. Before, we had water wastage, but now this keeps the land moist with a small amount, which is beneficial for grass, trees, and the land."

A water tank is filled through this solar-fuelled pump and is connected to a large pipe system across the hillside. Khairuddin is charged with looking after this irrigation system, to ensure it is well-maintained. He opens the valves on the pipes for two hours daily, which release slow drops of water, effectively irrigating the trees and vegetation. 

"This place looks so beautiful. It's stunningly green now, and it's only going to get more beautiful in the future. It will be the heaven of the land."

I want all of Afghanistan to come and see how beautiful and successful this place is, and everyone should know that Khairuddin maintains this area. I hope to earn everyone's admiration for what I'm doing to protect my community.

Step 3: Weaving a new social fabric

As well as protecting communities from the impacts of drought and flood, a large part of building resilience against the changing climate is through helping families to diversify their income sources.

At Afghanaid, we know that in rural areas of Afghanistan, the ability of women to help lift their families out of poverty is often overlooked. That's why we've also been working with women in Basir's community to help them generate their own incomes. Crucially, we ensure that these new income streams are not dependent on the land, so that, from weaving to soap-making, these women would still be able to provide for their families if a disaster occurred. Through this, they can increase their financial independence, raise their status in the home, and enhance their role in family decision-making.

Take Asma, who has undertaken training on how to become a weaver, and now runs a successful business with two of her neighbours."First, we boil the yarn with colours, and after that, we put it in the yard to dry. Then, with the help of a wooden sword, we weave it. It is good work. I help my husband with our income now."

Read more about how Afghan women are leading through change

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For over a decade, Afghanaid has been pioneering climate-adaptation programming in Afghanistan, working alongside rural farming communities to strengthen their resilience in the face of rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Help us continue this vital work by making a donation today:

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