Aybak, a district 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 in Samangan province as farmers.

My name is Mohammad Ansari, and I have lived in Larghan village in Aybak all of my life. It is isolated here and most families live off the land.

The warm climate has traditionally offered excellent conditions for farmers in villages like Larghan, though in recent years, communities in the area have been struggling to cultivate sufficient food and income due to persistent droughts. With climate change making extreme weather and natural disasters like droughts and flash floods more common in rural Afghanistan, parents like Mohammad Ansari were already struggling to put food on the table for their children. But the economic crisis which has unfolded since the withdrawal of international troops and reduction of much international support in 2021 has made matters worse, causing a sharp rise in food insecurity, and pushing more and more families into life-threatening situations.

Community-led solutions to complex problems

We've been working alongside Mohammad Ansari's community for over 20 years, delivering projects which have brought buildings, electricity and clean water to the village. More recently - recognising that in rural Afghanistan, the climate crisis is a water crisis - we have focused on building vital irrigation infrastructure, such as canals and water reservoirs, to help reduce the devastation caused by droughts and flash floods, and improve the condition of the agricultural land on which villagers rely. We've also introduced climate-smart orchards and kitchen gardens to the community to help them diversify their produce, and provide income-earning opportunities for women.

Our community-led approach has been intrinsic to the success of these projects undertaken with Mohammad Ansari's community over the past two decades, as it relies on the notion that communities know best who needs assistance, and know the assistance that is needed. This means, through setting up the village's Community Development Council, we have been able to listen to and respond to their specific challenges, and the local ownership afforded by this model guarantees the sustainability of the community's development.

Connecting villages, opening up futures

Earlier in the year, the Community Development Council emphasised that a major issue that was still affecting the villagers was a lack of a proper road connecting them to the district centre and other villages.

For 20 years we have wanted this road, but even with the village all banding together we could never afford it. Then, through our Community Development Council, we were able to raise our problem with Afghanaid, and they helped us.

So in spring this year, the Community Development Council helped us to mobilise 95 workers to construct a two kilometre road, connecting Larghan to the well known Kabul-Mazar highway, as well as multiple other villages, schools, markets and medical services.

These workers earned a daily wage of 450 Afghanis per day, with it taking just under a month of work - primarily working on excavation - to create the road.

"The people working on this project are using their wages for their daily needs, like buying food for their families and stationery for their children's schooling. Some are able to pay some debts. In this economic situation and the droughts, this is so positive. Families have worked on the farmland for many years but it is harder now, so this cash really helps out a lot."

The benefits of this road have therefore been twofold: firstly, the villagers were able to engage in short-term employment, bringing home a wage to support their families, and secondly, they have invested in the future of their community. The connection the road brings ensures easier access to healthcare facilities, schools, markets and job opportunities. This provides a much greater level of stability to the village, ensuring they are better able to withstand climactic and economic shocks, and ensure their children can develop the knowledge and skills they need to continue to build brighter futures.

We are so happy. We are connected to other people now.

Invest in change that lasts

People across Afghanistan require multi-layered support to address the complex challenges they face. You can help us support villages like Larghan to transform their futures with sustainable, community-driven solutions - by joining our monthly giving community, you can enable these Community Councils to plan ahead and empower change that will last.

Set up a regular gift today and every month, you can help us reach remote villages, respond to emergencies and natural disasters, and work with communities to make them healthier, stronger, and more inclusive. You will join us and our partnering communities in building a brighter future for Afghanistan.

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