For four years UNOPS has been working on a Swedish-funded road improvement project in Afghanistan. As well as implementing a quality project, we have added value in a range of ways.
|Women preparing wire baskets known as gabions as part of the project. The gabions will be filled with stone and used to rehabilitate roads. Photo: UNOPS|
The isolated Sar-e-pul and Samangan provinces are located in the northern part of Afghanistan. Over 90 percent of the 800,000 people in the region derive their livelihoods from agriculture but low production has created poverty and food shortfalls. Many people have to depend on the import of supplies from other rural areas.
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) is funding the Rural Access Improvement Project to improve access to food, education and health services by constructing and repairing roads and bridges. UNOPS is implementing the project through a capacity building partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Public Works.
We were initially chosen as the implementation partner by rapidly responding to a request from Sida to construct three steel bridges in Sar-e-pul province before snow limited access in 2007. This enabled the World Food Programme to deliver much needed food aid to the region in time for the winter and gave Sida confidence in our ability to deliver quality results quickly.
Since its launch, the project has constructed 65 kilometres of gravel roads, 20 kilometres of asphalt roads and three steel bridges and kept four passes free of snow.
The project generated temporary employment for almost 8,000 local people and compared to 2007, both travel time and costs have been reduced which has benefitted an estimated 680,000 people living in the target areas."
|Female workers from Sar-e-pul and Samangan provinces in Afghanistan employed under the Swedish-funded road-building project. Photo: UNOPS|
“The new roads have really changed our lives. Now we can access schools, hospitals and markets easily. We have no problem going to work in the provincial capital now and people are earning a lot. This also brings peace and stability to our district as people are busy and have no time to fight," said Mohammadullah, a farmer who participated in the project as a labourer on road works in Khuram, Samangan. Before the roads were built, he only allowed his sons to attend school because of his family’s remote location, but with increased access he now feels it is safe enough to allow his daughter to make the journey as well.
In line with UNOPS commitment to mainstream gender considerations in our operations wherever possible, the project staff devised an approach to increase female employment in this extremely traditional region.
From the start, two female community liaison officers were employed to reach out to local community leaders in order to get permission for women to take part in the labour-based works. This approach was a success and 105 women were eventually employed to use an innovative gravel screening technique, providing raw materials for resurfacing works and valuable income.
In addition to building the capacity of the ministry and providing valuable cross-cutting gender inputs to the project, UNOPS has taken a strong stance on non-performing contractors and two such contractors were put on the UN's list of suspended vendors for poor delivery.
The project has been praised by Sida headquarters for responsive communications and timely reporting during its lifespan. The Governer of Sar-e-Pul province also provided a letter of appreciation for the quality of the new road infrasturcture in the region.
The confidence of both the donor and beneficiary in our value led to the engagement of UNOPS for a second phase of the project.
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 first contribution goal: rebuilding peace and stability after conflict and also addresses one of UNOPS cross-cutting concerns: gender equality and the empowerment of women.