A Place to Call Home
February 15, 2011—During the 1980s, Juma Gul and his family fled to Pakistan from Afghanistan, hoping to escape violence and war. Just over three years ago, the family returned to their village in Kabul province. When they did, they found their home had been destroyed, as had local water sources for agriculture and livestock.
Gul took his wife and children to live with his relatives. “We lived all together, in one room,” he says.
“We faced many problems upon our return,” Gul explains. “There were no job opportunities. And although we had land and water to irrigate it, all the streams and the canal had dried up because of the surrounding destruction. We were unable to rehabilitate them.” It was like having no water at all.
One day, the leadership council for Surobi District, where Gul’s village is located, called together the community’s elders. The council, or Shura, informed them they had been invited to discuss their village’s needs with representatives of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Similar consultations occurred in Paghman and Khaki Jabbar districts, which also are located in Kabul province, where other Afghan returnees faced similar problems.
In the village of Khaldari in Paghman District, for example, a farmer by the name of Karim returned home to find the stream that had watered his family’s farmland had been destroyed by flooding.
The family dug a new stream, but this, too, was destroyed within a year. When a neighboring landowner refused to allow the family access to his land to rebuild the stream, the family was obliged to rely on rainwater to irrigate their fields.
In the three districts, the most immediate needs the communities identified included the restoration of the damaged streams, the rebuilding of homes, and the provision of medical care. UMCOR’s field office in Afghanistan created a program to address these needs.
By the end of 2010, the program benefited some 44,000 Afghans. UMCOR rehabilitated more than five miles of streams, 50 karizes (an underground irrigation system), and 30 reservoirs.
The field office also oversaw the construction of a clinic, trained 198 women as community health workers, distributed livestock or fruit tree seedlings to 1,250 households, and helped 250 families—including Gul’s family—rebuild their homes.
Funding for the program was provided by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
“We now have shelter to protect us from the rain and sun, and we have plenty of water for our family as well as for our animals and agriculture,” Gul reports. “I am proud to be an Afghan living in my own country, in my own house, and cultivating my own land,” he says.
As for Karim, the stream he and his family so dearly needed was rebuilt. “We now have enough water to cultivate our land and garden,” he says as he thanks UMCOR Afghanistan for its work in his community.