In Afghanistan, the degradation of once-fertile land due to climate change-related droughts, deforestation and conflict has led to substantially increased risks of flash floods. With floods directly impacting over 800,000 Afghan people annually, it is imperative that rural communities are supported with the training and tools they require to mitigate the destruction they cause, and so better protect their families.

The Climate Crisis in Afghanistan is a Water Crisis: What does this mean?

When helping communities to adapt, Afghanaid enlists the skills of rural women. This is because, through training vulnerable women in the creation of gabion baskets, we enable them to play a vital role in protecting their communities from flood dangers all whilst generating a new stream of income.

What is a gabion basket?

A gabion is a thick wire mesh made into containers that are then filled with rocks, which can be used as a component in flood protection walls and other mitigation structures. They play a crucial role in slowing the flow of floodwaters, increasing the amount of time water can seep into the ground, and consequently helping to combat soil erosion. Whilst also shielding communities from floods, gabion baskets help once degraded fields and rangeland to become fertile again, providing an opportunity for vegetation and trees to take root.

By working to weave these baskets, rural women can become instrumental to their local community through providing a service to keep other households safe. As part of Afghanaid's initiative, after women have woven these baskets, they then sell each one back to us as part of our cash-for-work scheme, which are then transported to flood-prone areas where paid labourers are constructing defences by filling the baskets with rocks.

Community-led sustainability initiatives such as this facilitate the transformation of rural landscapes, all whilst providing vital sources of income and reliable work for those who live there. Through flood mitigation strategies including gabion weaving, Afghanaid has ensured enhanced climate protection for over 22,000 families from 2018 to 2021.

Arifa's story

Arifa has been the head of her household for many years following the death of her husband. With four children to care for, she has always tried hard to make ends meet and put food on the table, but this has become tougher in recent years. Severe drought and skyrocketing unemployment following the economic crisis of 2021 meant that Arifa had to get into debt just to simply get by, and with climate change exacerbating challenges such as finding and storing water, her situation was going from bad to worse. Arifa told us:

For several years due to drought and unemployment, the situation of our village has deteriorated and it was getting worse day by day, The almond trees of our village dried up, wheat could not be cultivated due to the lack of water, the springs of our village have dried up... I  have to provide all the household expenses by myself. In this situation, there is no work for women, it has become very difficult for me to live.

Whilst droughts in the short term cause a lack of water, they are also extremely likely to cause flash flooding. Because the ground soil dries up without regular rainfall, it degrades the land, meaning rainwater cannot be absorbed efficiently when it does come, causing it to pool above ground. Unfortunately, climate change has made this a much more common occurrence.

Afghanaid's local team visited Arifa's village, and she was informed about a new project supporting female heads-of-households, whilst also reducing the risks of natural disasters. Upon enrolling in the programme, Arifa and other women in the community were given all the training and tools they required to construct the baskets, including measuring tape, gloves, pliers, and wire. Now equipped with the knowledge of how to weave gabion baskets, Arifa reflected on the positive changes in her life:

Our situation is good at the moment, we received the equivalent of $100 in Afghanis for 20 days of work, we also learned how to weave gabions.

Better protected from climate change-induced natural disasters, and able to earn an income to support her family, Arifa can now see the potential for a brighter tomorrow, woven together thanks to her newfound knowledge and continual resilience.

By putting women at the heart of climate adaptation in Afghanistan, we can promote a more sustainable, inclusive future that benefits all. After experiencing decades of conflict, insecurity and limitations on their freedoms, Afghan women have had to cultivate extraordinary resilience to get by. By harnessing this resilience and giving them the training, resources and confidence needed to pioneer solutions, we can help them raise their status at home, safeguard their families and enact change.

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