The road to Chil Kapa village in Badakhshan’s rural mountains is rocky and rough, trailing alongside deep canyons and barren hills, with dust whirling through the air. Once the village is reached, nestled in a valley and surrounded by mountain peaks, the scenery changes. The brown mud-walled houses are flanked by green trees, the hills lined with terraced plots, where vegetables grow in the summer.

The effects of climate change reached Chil Kapa years ago, resulting in poor harvests, extreme weather patterns and flash floods. Afghanistan ranks as one of the countries most affected by climate change in the world and, as the frequency and severity of natural disasters increased in the area, this village decided to take matters into their own hands.

Working together to combat climate change

In hopes to reverse some of the worst consequences of a changing climate, villagers have been working together to prevent floods, plant trees and set up a water storage system. 

Bibi Sahra (pictured), a 45-year-old widow and mother, lost her husband to cancer in a village where the nearest hospital is miles away and difficult to reach. Bibi Sahra is now supporting her family on her own and for a while things were not easy. 

Then Bibi Sahra took part in one of Afghanaid’s training courses and learned to weave gabion – a thick wire mesh made into containers that eventually get filled with rocks and are put up as flood protection walls. Weaving these gabions is now a full-time job that is both a vital source of income for her family, and helps prevent their village from being flooded.

She sits on the floor of her compound, working with gloves and tools to prepare the gabion, selling each one back to us as part of our cash-for-work scheme. "On a good day, I can make up to 15," she said, "With the money I earn, I can buy food, clothes, and other essentials for my family."

Getting the whole community involved

One of Bibi Sahra's relatives, Qary Ismail, later transports the gabion further up the hill, where labourers work on constructing the flood protection walls. Dozens of local men work together to carry rocks, break them and place them inside the strong wire mesh containers.

   

“The war took the trees,” Qary said, explaining that before conflict broke out in the country, most of the hills had been covered by forests. Trees have long been casualties of extreme poverty and war in Afghanistan, with many people in remote areas having little choice but to cut down forests to build houses, fuel stoves and keep warm in winter. According to the UN, trees now cover just 1.5% of Afghanistan's land.

The grave consequences of the country's tree loss have led to calls for reforestation, but the task will not be easy and will take a long time, Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency said.

“It’s not just the trees though, and that’s why we’re worried," Qary explained. “The climate has become irregular, which has affected our farming and has even killed some harvests. Many people decided to leave, hoping that life would be easier in the cities.”

A green oasis

Since working with us to build their defences against floods and re-plant trees, Chil Kapa has become a green oasis amidst a landscape of dusty brown barren mountains.

“Our relatives who visit from the city comment on how green it’s become,” Bibi Sahra said, “What we now need to do is to keep planting: in the village, in the district and (referring to the provincial capital) maybe all the way to Faizabad,” she smiled. 

How can you help?

Make a donation today and support families in Afghanistan to replant lost trees, combat the destructive impacts of climate change, and build stronger futures for themselves and their communities.

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