Nik Mohammed, father of eight, spent three months without work, with no way to pay for food, warm clothes for his family, wood to heat their home. In desperation, he took his children from school and sent them to the bazaar to find odd jobs.
But a new cash-for-work program funded by USAID/ Central Asia Development Group with close collaboration with the Farah municipality has brought 4,000 temporary jobs to Farah Province, including one for Nik Mohammed.
The workers are employed to work on city cleaning and construction projects. They are divided into four groups and guaranteed two months of work daily. They received the equivalent of $6 per day and work from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Unemployment in Farah is said to be about 40 percent, and joblessness is cited as a key reason youth either join the insurgency or leave the country.
Sheer Ahmad, who has many bad memories from months of unemployment, now is thrilled to have a job. “I have three children but I am uneducated,” he said. “Every day I was going to the place where workers gather to seek a job for the day, any kind of job, difficult or easy, just some way to earn money to feed my children. But many days I was not able to find a job, and for those days we did not have anything to eat at home. Today I am very happy that I can work for two months thanks to this project.”
The temporary workers are building a bridge over a canal, planting more than 200 trees around the city, cleaning and building a rivulet and building three parks in Farah Province.
“There are two important focuses on this project. First, it has provided job opportunities for many people. Secondly, through this project we can make Farah Province clean and solve many problems,” said Farah Mayor Abdulrahim Asehaqzai. “The budget for this project is about $2,800,000.”
Many refugees who came to Farah from Herat, Gazni, Badghis and Ghor Provinces have also found work through the project.
Mohammad Sadeq of Ghazni Province is one such refugee. He traveled to Farah with his wife and five children after searching in vain for work in Ghazni. “My children and I were even without food,” he said. “But now I am happy because I have a job for two months.”
Although it is not clear what will happen to the workers once the temporary jobs are finished, enthusiasm for the project is still high. “This project is a positive step toward reconstruction of the province and improving people’s economic status,” said one resident, Rahmattullah. “The day the project began, I saw many youth and workers were smiling and they were so happy. They are not getting money for free, but they are working, and are pleased to have a job.”