Trading Guns for Tube-Wells, Sowing Seeds of Lasting Peace
Mohammad Akbar (name changed), 47, a former combatant from a village in one of the northern provinces of Afghanistan, turned in his weapons, along with those of his ten men to the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme (APRP). APRP is led by the Government of Afghanistan and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). These days Akbar commandeers the APRP-supported small grants support in the form of seven tube wells that cater to the water needs of some 100 of the 400 households in the village.
Akbar, who lived the life of a fighter for three years, and is now the chair of the Community Development Council (CDC), says, “In order to see our children happy we will make sure there is security in the village at all cost. Without security it is impossible to have a good life. I have to make sure we do not go back to the past”.
Not too long ago, animals, children and adults were all drinking directly from the same Faizabad canal. Water-borne diseases were rampant. “The tube-wells installed with APRP assistance have been a boon. Improvements in our lives can be seen in a perceptible drop in the incidence of water-borne diseases, both among children and adults”, says Akbar,
A large section of the village households now uses the canal water only for irrigation purposes.
There is a new hope that the support for tube wells will be followed by support for quality and more accessible educational services at the high school level.
- Akbar commandeers the APRP-supported small grants support in the form of seven tube wells that cater to the water needs of some 100 of the 400 households in the village.
- A large section of the village households now uses the canal water only for irrigation purposes.
- Management of tube well use is now the key to peace. Under Akbar’s watchful eye, the CDC has helped prepare a user schedule that ensures that every household and neighbourhood gets its due share in the use of water at a decent hour.
- Since 2010, all over Afghanistan, 7220 former combatants, including local commanders, have laid down their weapons and reintegrated into their communities, with the support of APRP.
Nazar Mohammad, a young student from the village, says, ”This project has truly ushered in a climate of peace here. It has allowed us to hope, perhaps after years of endless conflict that after all our lives too can change for the better.”
The tube-well areas are buzzing with activity during the afternoons when women visit for washing utensils and clothes, and generally to meet and greet each other.
Management of tube well use is now the key to peace. Under Akbar’s watchful eye, the CDC has helped prepare a user schedule that ensures that every household and neighbourhood gets its due share in the use of water at a decent hour.
“We do expect more. We don’t have a high school here and most boys use the mosque as a place to study. Others including me walk five kilometres each way every day to go to the nearest school, the Lycee Farooq Shaheed High School. We also need a functional clinic”, Mohammad weighs in when asked to list what he sees as the unmet needs for basic services.
“When I was a commander, I enjoyed some respect but encountered equally a lot of hate and animosity from some sections. Ever since I and my comrades gave up on the use of weapons, I have enjoyed a fraternal relationship with all sections in the village. We live like brothers.”, says Akbar.
The village was the district hub of the Taliban and a hot-bed of militant activity until 2011. Farid, a Taliban district commander was based here. He held a big sway over the village, killing the brother of Akbar, ostensibly for the crime of opening peace talks with the Government.
Akbar held his ground and pursued the path of peace with fortitude. Once Gul agreed to join the forces of peace and turned over to the High Peace Council for support, he received support from the security forces that resulted in the Taliban leaving the village. Farid is now reported to have left the area and crossed over to a safe haven in Pakistan.
“I do not see the village going back to the bad old days of violent ways. Not just this village but peace is in the air in the adjacent villages too where we travel often. The local elders have made common cause with us and have been a big force for good”, Akbar notes with visible pride.
“We use persuasion and negotiations to convince others that are holding out and holding on to their weapons. If these measures do not work, we resort to more formal mechanisms like reporting the malcontents and potential trouble makers to the police”.
“ I always dreamt of serving my people, my village, my government. At last it seems like I may have a chance to fulfill my dream. We dream of a day when the village would produce its own qualified doctor and a good teacher. We do not have one so far. Of course, my generation can be the ones with those capacities”, says Mohammad
Mohammad, who works in a pharmacy in his spare time, says the boys of his generation have only one thing at the top of their minds: how to rebuild our village. “While we want to till the land which remains our main source of sustenance, we also want to be teachers, doctors and engineers”, the 18-year-old says with the maturity of someone twice his age.
Since 2010, all over Afghanistan, 7220 former combatants, including local commanders, have laid down their weapons and reintegrated into their communities, with the support of APRP.
Text : Kumar M Tiku
(According to UNICEF, one of the main causes of child deaths in the world is diarrhoea. Such deaths are preventable by improving access to safe water and sanitation, thus controlling waterborne diseases.)