Micro hydropower plants are helping to improve the quality of life for many villagers in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. This has been made possible through the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) which provides basic infrastructure and services to rural Afghanistan, and is implemented by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development with support from the World Bank and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.

Some 3200 projects, involving all types of small-scale construction, have been completed in the province under the NSP. And since 2004, in response to the demand of local communities, the programme has initiated the design and implementation of small scale hydropower projects (5-25KW) in the following districts of Nangarhar province:

• Achin.
• Batikot.
• Behsud.
• Dara-e-Noor.
• Deh Bala.
• Durbaba.
• Hisarak.
• Kama.
• Khugyani.
• Kot.
• Kuz Kunar.
• Muhmand Dara.
• Nazian.
• Pachir-wa-Agam.
• Shirzad.
• Shinwar.
• Surkhrud.

International experts have been hired to train NSP engineers. "Now, we have well-educated and trained micro hydropower experts within the NSP engineering department," says Ahmad Jamshed Ahmadi from the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. "Besides the in-house experts, NSP has trained and pre-qualified approximately 102 Facilitating Partner (FP) engineers who are responsible for conducting the technical survey, pre-feasibility study and the design of the micro hydro projects."

At present, NSP is dealing with installed capacities equal to or less than 40KW per unit of cross-flow turbines. It is encouraging local turbine manufacturers to become involved and, after scouring the local market, discovered that cross-flow turbine production capacity is limited to 40KW. Therefore, NSP has decided to limit each turbine unit to 40KW: if a higher potential exceeding 40KW is required FP engineers are requested to install two turbine units.

Local turbine manufacturers are also responsible for site assessment and installation and it will normally take four to eight months to complete a project. After a contractor has finished implementation work the company is responsible for training one or two people from the village as plant operators. The NSP took the initiative in 2013 and has succeeded in training approximately 2400 micro hydro operators around the country.

Most of the micro hydro projects are installed on the local irrigation canals, and at night the villagers divert water to the plant for generating electricity. The power has been very important to local people. Before having access to electricity many communities had used kerosene lamps for many years. They not only had difficulty in finding fuel for them in the local bazaar, which could also be expensive, but people were often getting sick because of using low quality fuel in their lamps. Visible changes can now be seen in their lives. They can listen to radio programmes and children can study at home without any problem – a factor which many believe will make for a better and peaceful Afghanistan in the future. Most of these small scale projects can only contribute power for lightning, TVs, fans, radio and mobile chargers. However in some areas where there is sufficient output capacity they are also using computers and small cloth irons, etc.

Empowering local communities

The National Solidarity Programme was created in 2003 by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development to develop the ability of Afghan communities to identify, plan, manage and monitor their own development projects. Through the promotion of good local governance, the NSP works to empower rural communities to make decisions affecting their own lives and livelihoods. Empowered rural communities collectively contribute to increased human security. The programme is inclusively supportive of all of the community, including the poorest and most vulnerable people.

NSP promotes a unique development paradigm, whereby communities can make important decisions and participate in all stages of their development, contributing to their own resources. There are so many projects that villagers can choose from but often their first priority is power and these hydro systems are proving to be a big success for them.

For more information about the National Solidarity Programme, visit www.nspafghanistan.org or email info@nspafghanistan.org