Qiam Rahmani (pictured above, taking a break from work) had never planned to leave his home, but when violence erupted one night he had to make a decision. The 27-year-old took his wife and two young daughters, rented a driver and escaped.

Now living in a small rented house - a mud brick structure, already damaged by heavy rain and on the brink of collapse - Qiam admits that life had been getting increasingly difficult since the family’s escape, but he still didn’t regret leaving.

“We lived in a war zone. I couldn’t bear for my children to hear the gunfire and I was worried that one day it would take our lives. It’s hard to start over again, but at least we are safe.

Starting over in a new town

Qiam and his family now live in Samangan’s provincial capital Aybak, hours away from their native village and their extended family. Since he had never received a formal education, Qiam took up work as a daily labourer, earning a small sum each day - just enough to support his family. 

Aybak, nestled in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains in northern Afghanistan and home to ancient Buddhist caves and excavation sites, is a melting pot of Afghans from all across the country, most of them working here as farmers. The warm climate offers excellent conditions for farming, though only small portions of the land have so far been cultivated. In partnership with local communities, we’ve been working to restore this land to productive use, and ensuring the farmers know how to sustainably manage the natural resources in their area.

Adapting work to the new COVID-19 reality

Qiam, who had been out of work for weeks due to the coronavirus lockdown, was struggling to support his family and was starting to feel desperate. Then he heard Afghanaid was recruiting for construction labourers to work in the hills around Aybak, digging trenches and setting up what will be almond tree plantations and irrigation systems in the future.

These plantations are part of our broader work supporting local communities to make the best use of the natural resources on their doorsteps. By strengthening the management of the watersheds they live in, these communities will be able to reduce the risks of annual flash floods and droughts, diversify what they grow and strengthen their resilience to unexpected events like this pandemic.

 

In order to continue this work whilst ensuring the safety of those involved, we’ve provided all workers with information and advice about COVID-19, along with a protective mask. Before starting their work, they line up to wash their hands, while one of the men checks everyone’s temperature with an infrared thermometer. 

“I immediately jumped on the opportunity,” Qiam said, digging his shovel deep into the fresh soil. Alongside him, about one hundred local workers were hired to help prepare a total of 400 hectares that would be turned into productive farmland. 

“The potential here in Samangan is huge,” explained Wahidullah, the head of our office in Aybak, “The province is famous for its almond trees, which can become a cash crop for entire communities.” 

Finding positives during the pandemic

For Qiam, taking up his new work has provided him with something he’s previously not had: job security. 

“For as long as I can remember, I’d get up in the mornings, not knowing if I would come home at the end of the day with an income or not. Most days it worked out, but it was stressful regardless,” he explained. His new job is providing several weeks of work and a steady income, with the potential to expand. 

Displaced families are some of the most vulnerable people in the world and their existing challenges are only magnified by crises like the spread of COVID-19. 75,340 people like Qiam have fled conflict in Afghanistan in the first 5 months of this year alone. Despite living away from home in a rented house in poor condition, Qiam said that going back to his village wasn’t an option as long as violence continued. 

“We are tired of fighting and we don’t want to return to the war,” he said. He hopes his children - both toddlers - will be able to attend school one day, and grow up peacefully. “My new job has given me a bit of hope that life will continue, and that everything will be okay,” he said.

Please donate today to support vulnerable families like Qiam’s get through this crisis

Please select a donation amount: *
Set up a regular payment Donate

From all of us here at Afghanaid, from Qiam and the countless people like him, thank you.

Update from the ground: how is the spread of COVID-19 affecting Afghanistan?