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New York Times Examines Impact Of Small, Direct Grants To Boost Development In Afghan Village

The New York Times examines the use of small, direct grants to improve health and development in Afghanistan. The article focuses on efforts in “Jurm, a valley in the windswept mountainous province of Badakhshan, in the northeast,” where small amounts of money – “often less than $100,000” – were given directly to villagers.  

According to the newspaper, the grants “have brought about modest but important changes … offering a model in a country where official corruption and a Taliban insurgency have frustrated many large-scale development efforts.”

People in Jurm used “village councils and direct grants as part of an initiative called the National Solidarity Program, introduced by an Afghan ministry in 2003. Before then, this valley had no electricity or clean water, its main crop was poppy and nearly one in 10 women died in childbirth, one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world,” the Times reports. According to the paper, “Today, many people have water taps, fields grow wheat and it is no longer considered shameful for a woman to go to a doctor.”

“If there are lessons to be drawn from the still tentative successes here, they are that small projects often work best, that the consent and participation of local people are essential and that even baby steps take years,” the newspaper writes (Tavernise, 11/12).