Canada had committed $50 million to cleaning up and repairing the irrigation network and the dam that supplies it, but Afghan farmers and officials complain that the project wasted money, taught villagers to expect handouts and lined corrupt people’s pockets.
And after all those costly mistakes, the outdated Dahla Dam’s reservoir is so full of silt that it can’t hold enough water to get crops through the driest months.
“I just want to say to Canadians that if you pave our canals with gold, what can we do with it?” chided Meerab Zakirya, 52, a Mandisar village canal manager. He has to answer to about 1,000 angry Daman district farmers when water runs out.
“If we don’t have water, our main problem is not solved,” he added, both hands clenched to the arms of a white plastic patio chair. “Me, I don’t need money. I want real work. If you want to do something, do it the right way.”
Similar complaints echo across the thousands of desert farms that Canada has struggled to irrigate, into crumbling schools Canadian aid money built, and through the halls of a deeply corrupt justice system Canada helped support despite good intentions.
There are two cardinal rules of development aid: projects must be closely monitored to make sure money isn’t wasted or lost to theft and corruption; and they should be sustainable, so projects survive after foreign experts move on.
After a month-long investigation in Kandahar’s war zone, it’s clear that Canada failed on both counts, tarnishing a legacy that thousands of Canadian troops and civilians died or suffered debilitating wounds trying to build [...]
Two years ago, Canadian security officials overseeing the Dahla Dam project fled the country following a tense dispute with armed members of Watan Security Management, operated by a cousin of President Hamid Karzai.
As reported by the Star’s Mitch Potter in June 2010, the guns hired to protect the project actually turned on each other in a hair-trigger confrontation.