A rising civil servant in Mazar, Afghanistan

“I hope that this capacity building programme will continue for engineering students in Afghanistan. Roads are very important for our country – the development of our economy depends on roads.” - Ahmad Shahab Mobin, beneficiary of UNOPS training, Afghanistan.

Ahmad is an engineer in Mazar, Afghanistan, who benefited from training under a UNOPS-supported rural access improvement project. Photo: UNOPS

After graduating first in his class in high school, Ahmad Shahab Mobin often wondered how he could help his country and fellow Afghans. When offered a scholarship to study in India, Ahmad respectfully declined as helping meant that he would have to stay in Afghanistan. "I wanted to learn here, to serve our people and my country," he said.

Today, Ahmad is an Infrastructure and Development Specialist working for the provincial government of Mazar. Ahmad plays a significant role in developing provincial and municipal infrastructure plans and implementing projects, by providing technical engineering assistance.

After graduating from the Engineering Department of the University of Balkh in 2014, Ahmad felt he needed more hands-on experience. "At university, you mostly learn the theoretical part of engineering. Practical training on skills like GIS, surveying of road works, and material testing was not available. Our university does not have the facilities to provide proper training on practical works," he said. 

Ahmad is one of the few civil engineering students selected to join a 60-day training under the capacity building component of the Rural Access Improvement Project, implemented by UNOPS with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

This project aims to increase access to social services and markets, while developing road construction and maintenance capacity in Afghanistan's northern provinces. In addition to connecting remote areas to urban zones, the project also contributes to reducing poverty through job creation in infrastructure and the promotion of entrepreneurial activities for women.

Open to all engineering students from the northern provinces of Jawjan, Balkh, Samangan and Sari Pul, the training component of the project focused on improving the technical knowledge and practical skills of students.

Ahmad attributes getting a specialist job to this training. A week after completing the course, Ahmad was asked to join the provincial municipality's office.

"During the interview, they asked about my experience. I showed the certificate I received from the training and with that, I was asked to join the office."

The training is an important component of the project, which aims to build the capacity of target groups such as civil engineering students, members of local 'shuras' (community councils), civil contractors and provincial staff of the ministries of Public Works and Rural Rehabilitation and Development, as well as engineers involved in the project, to support the long-term sustainability of the road infrastructure in the northern provinces.

Since 2013, the project has trained 119 university students, 44 members of l­­ocal shuras, 42 civil contractors and 43 ministry staff, and 8 engineers.

When asked how he felt about the programme, Ahmad emphasized the significance of the roads for his country and wished that the same training could be provided to engineering students in every university in Afghanistan: "I hope that this capacity building programme will continue. The development of our economy depends on roads."