By: Christopher James Wahoff
A bold energy venture is about to improve access to sustainable electricity in Afghanistan and raise the living standards of thousands of Afghans.
Driving this outcome is the Central Asia-South Asia Electricity and Transmission Trade Project (or CASA-1000), which aims to boost electricity trade between the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan in Central Asia and Afghanistan and Pakistan in South Asia.
The equation is simple: The Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan have a surplus of clean hydropower, whereas Afghanistan and Pakistan face a chronic lack of electricity.
While responding to growing energy demands in the two South Asian countries, CASA-1000 will also support all four energy partners to expand and integrate their energy markets.
At the same time, a $30 million Community Support Program (CASA-CSP) will help ensure that communities that sit alongside the new transmission lines benefit from increased access to electricity and other services.
In coordination with local Afghan Community Development Councils (CDCs), the project will finance specific initiatives, such as expanding the current power grid, improving access to potable water and sanitation, and building new roads or irrigation systems.
Meeting Community Needs
The Qala-e-Malik village in Laghman province is one of the hundreds of Afghan communities eligible for support.
Like in most rural communities, Qala-e-Malik residents depend primarily on farming for their livelihoods. Reliable irrigation is crucial to growing crops. But sandbanks in the old canal absorb much of the water, requiring rehabilitation work to line the canal bed and sides with concrete to allow water to reach fields downstream.
The community received about 2.5 million afghanis (about $33,000) from CASA-CSP that were pooled with nearly 320,000 afghanis ($4,144) in community contributions to rebuild the irrigation canal.
The decision to rebuild the irrigation canal as its most pressing need was made after a series of community-driven exercises and consultations with the residents of the area in the format of the Community Development Council (CDC).
Engineer Massood (name changed), who oversees the canal project, explains that “the 750-meter-long irrigation canal will help increase the beneficiaries’ agricultural production and increase the water flow. The project will [also] protect the nearby road from potential damages because of flooding. In addition, the construction of the improved irrigation canal will definitely help enhance the efficiency of water use.”
CASA-CSP has contributed much-needed technical assistance to engineers and will provide construction jobs for villagers. This comes at a critical time as employment opportunities are scarce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Residents of this community are really poor and the COVID-19 pandemic has made them poorer,” says a member of the Qala-e-Malik CDC. “Thanks to this project, the community was able to provide a solution to unemployment and our irrigation needs, ensuring our lands will bear food for our family and children for years to come.”
Communities and government officials agree that CASA-CSP’s holistic approach is instrumental in boosting local development.
In the words of the District Governor of Badpakh district in Laghman province: “The implementation of regional and mega projects not only help our country grow economically and restore peace and stability, but also leads to grassroots development, bringing about critical changes in the living standards of our rural communities. I assure the responsible authorities that people warmly welcome the implementation of development projects and fully support these and other national projects.”
Despite security challenges and COVID-19, CASA-CSP will keep providing the technical and financial support communities need to achieve their vision of rural development.
The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Ministry of Finance, and Afghanistan by Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), the national power utility company are working to connect Afghanistan to the most ambitious energy project in the region. CASA-1000 is supported by the International Development Association, the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and CASA-CSP is supported by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, a multidoor trust fund managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors.
(This story was originally published as a blog.)