Afghan market highlights aid agency
woes By Ahmad Shah Jawad
Residents of Afghanistan's Uruzgan
province say poor coordination between foreign
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local
government is reducing the effectiveness of aid
projects. One project that has caused particular
disquiet is a new market for dried fruit and nuts
in the Chora district, constructed in 2011 by the
German aid agency GIZ, formerly GTZ.
Traders say the covered market, known as
the Karwan Sarai (Caravanserai), is made of
low-quality raw materials, largely clay and wood,
with plastic sheeting used for roofing. They say a
building like this will not stand up to the harsh
"The Karwan Sarai is on the verge
of collapse even before
construction is complete,"
almond trader Mohammad Daud said. "All the poles
used in the building have become warped and the
roofs are falling down. We don't want to put our
businesses at risk by using this building."
Abdol Qayum, a tribal elder in Chora
district, claimed the original agreement was that
the Karwan Sarai market would be made of concrete,
but it ended up being constructed with clay
The head of GIZ in Uruzgan, Marcus
Lange, rejected claims that the materials used
were inferior or unsuitable. "The market is built
with materials like clay, based on engineering
principles that mean it will last 20 years," he
said. "It's very well built."
GIZ consulted local people before building began,
but they could not agree on the best way to
"The building I use as my office
is made of clay and I like it a lot," he said. "I
built the Karwan Sarai out of clay for this
reason. It isn't just my personal preference -
most of the houses in Chora district are made out
of clay. We also considered the effect of the
seasons. If we'd built it out of concrete, it
would have been cold in winter and warm in
More generally, the arguments
about the pros and cons of the market appear to
reflect an uneasy relationship between local
government and international NGOs operating in
Uruzgan. The head of the provincial department for
economic affairs, Khodai Rahim, said GIZ had never
submitted reports about its activities or budget.
"Every NGO should report to us on its
activities every six months, but they [GIZ] have
not done so," he said.
Lange declined to
discuss GIZ's financial affairs. "I can't give
information about the budget," he said. "But I can
say that our activities in Chora district are for
the benefit of residents. Karwan Sarai was
completed within a year, and 100 laborers worked
on it on a daily basis. It was a good employment
opportunity for residents of the district."
The local government chief in Chora
district, Mohammad Azim, expressed open hostility
towards GIZ, saying its construction projects
there, which have included roadbuilding as well as
the Karwan Sarai market, were "merely symbolic,
and not of benefit to people in the district".
Locals went to Uruzgan governor Mohammad
Omar Sherzad with their complaints about the
market, and he promised to investigate. He claimed
that foreign aid organizations often left him in
the dark about projects they were implementing.
"When the people came to me, I set up a
committee which I ordered to obtain the plans for
Karwan Sarai and check them to see whether the
contract says the building should be made of
concrete or clay," he said. "I will make every
effort to ascertain whether the work was done
according to plan. We will definitely take legal
action if it wasn't."
A resident of Chora
district, Fazel Karim, said that when Sherzad came
to inaugurate the completed market, they told him
he should not give it his blessingธbut he ignored
"We are confident that the project
budget was over two or three million dollars,"
Karim said. "If all that money had been spent on
the market and all the buildings had been made of
concrete, everything would be fine now."
Mohammadollah, an economic expert in
Uruzgan, said the Afghan government needed to be
fully aware of what foreign aid organizations were
"It is surprising that money is
brought into Afghanistan in the name of
reconstruction, yet the government isn't aware who
had that money, where it went and what happened to
it," he said.
Ahmad Shah Jawad
is an IWPR trainee journalist in Uruzgan