Afghan villagers pilot disaster risk reduction scheme 

Men and women in a village in Afghanistan have been learning marketable skills to limit annual flooding, as part of a larger project to enhance disaster preparedness in the country.

Women from the village of Jabraeel preparing wire gabions to be filled with stones as part of the project. Photo: UNOPS

The village of Jabraeel on the banks of the Harirod River in Herat province has repeatedly suffered from flooding as the water overflows the river’s natural banks. The flooding has been exacerbated by unpredictable weather, the mismanagement of natural resources, and the construction of infrastructure that has encroached on the natural river bed.

Village elders attempted to prevent or reduce this flooding by constructing a wall to protect the river bank and to do this they contacted the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA).

Developing an action plan

ANDMA sought support from the Enhancing Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response (EDPER) programme which is funded by the Government of Italy and implemented by UNOPS to help Jabraeel village construct a retaining wall to limit flooding.

A soil and water conservation expert, together with technical staff from ANDMA and the Provincial Department of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) evaluated the needs in the village and developed an action plan with the community.

Ensuring community participation

Women in the community were trained to build gabion baskets (cages weaved from wire) and men filled them with stones, ensuring full community participation in the process. The gabions were then used to build a wall that would reduce the damage caused by flooding to the community.

Building walls
Men from the village of Jabraeel filling the gabions to reinforce the retaining wall to limit flooding. Photo: UNOPS
Khadija, a woman who received training in gabion weaving said: “A neighbouring village has now asked our women’s group if we can weave gabions for them in return for payment. With the training I got I was able to contribute to the wall project in my own village and to the family income.”

Mrs Sakina Hossaini, a member of parliament who helped with the selection of Jabraeel for this pilot project said: “The people of this village approached me to help them with their problem. Through ANDMA in Herat, the connection to UNOPS and thus to technical specialists and a funding source [the Government of Italy] was established. The successful finalisation of this project now proves to the people that we, the Government, really help them and they will become more confident in us. This project strengthens the government’s position in the villages”.

During the spring and early summer months the community usually earns money from raising crops. However they were willing to continue with the gabion-weaving initiative in spite of the smaller revenue it generated as the community viewed this activity as uniquely valuable.

Funded by the Government of Italy, EDPER aims to strengthen the capacity of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority in Herat, Farah, Badghis, and Ghor provinces.

Programme priorities

The EDPER programme will initially concentrate on assessing risks to local populations and compiling a risk and vulnerability database of those communities regularly affected by natural disasters.

The next priority for the programme is to create disaster management and contingency plans at the provincial level in order to enable vulnerable communities to mobilize resources in times of crisis.

The third component will enhance the operational capacity of ANDMA and boost ANDMA’s outreach ability at a regional and provincial level through the construction and equipping operations centres. As such, EDPER will support the construction of a pilot operations centre for ANDMA in Herat and assist with procuring logistical and radio communications equipment.

The Jabraeel village flood mitigation project is an example of the fourth component of EDPER which will implement community-based risk reduction projects that help communities prepare for natural disasters and reduce the damage caused.

To date, EDPER has launched nine pilot projects of this kind to help vulnerable communities by providing training in technical skills, environmental awareness and small income opportunities.

Achieving UNOPS contribution goals

During 2010-2013, four high-level goals are defining the work of UNOPS. They are called ‘contribution goals’, since UNOPS contributes to the work and results of its partners. This project is working towards the second contribution goal: Early recovery of communities affected by natural disasters. It also complies with all three of our cross-cutting objectives: Gender equality and the empowerment of women; National capacity development; and Environmental sustainability.

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Key facts

Project title
Enhancing Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response in the Western Region

The Government of Afghanistan, the Government of Italy

$2.6 million

UNOPS services
Project management