Afghanistan Update: Beyond the Extra Mile

“This is SO much farther than the extra mile,” laughed Danielle, a Medair relief worker in Afghanistan. Out the window of her truck, she saw steep orange-brown hills rising up on either side. This was day two of a field trip with Medair to reach remote communities in the Central Highlands, and what a journey is was – through thick mud, deep snow, and treacherous roads.

We travel to these mountain villages because families are facing extended food shortages that are causing them serious hardship. Most people survive on whatever they are able to grow on their small plots of land. They work with great determination to feed their families, but it’s an uphill fight.

Farming is not easy when you’re growing crops at a high elevation (over 2,500 metres) or dealing with a short growing season due to the long winters. Making matters worse, erosion has washed away fertile topsoil and cropland. Roads connect the villages to markets but those roads routinely crumble and fall away. When the snows arrive in autumn, entire villages can be cut off from the outside world for months.

Danielle and the team made the trek in early April with Medair’s expert drivers. As they neared the first village, Danielle looked into a soil-filled river that ran alongside the road. “When I look at that river, all I see is fertile soil washing away,” she said.

Medair runs cash-for-work projects that help protect farmland and save some of that fertile soil from being washed downstream. We provide short-term income for vulnerable farmers who build disaster-reduction structures such as contour trenches and catch dams that reduce the erosion caused by heavy rains or snowmelt.

“These roads right now – these are the worst travel conditions I’ve ever seen,” said Danielle. Yet this is the time of year when families need the most help after enduring the long winter months. As soon as the roads clear, Medair makes every effort to travel to remote villages despite how difficult they are to reach.

In just one month this spring, Danielle and the team provided 561 people with cash to buy food or whatever their families needed. In return, participants built dams and trenches that will help their communities reduce erosion and limit flood damage to their already precarious farmlands.

“Medair starts where others stop,” said a community leader. “I’m not just saying something nice about Medair. This is the truth.”