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The Power of Water

November 6, 2008

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps  </span>
    This seven-foot-high wall is part of an irrigation system engineered to direct an equal amount of water to four different croplands. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

It's rather stunning to think what something as simple as water can do for an impoverished community.

On our second day, Miguel and I, accompanied by a caravan of engineers and program coordinators from Mercy Corps' Kunduz office, visited a number of rural farming communities whose lives are changing for the better. And it is all thanks to water.

In one village, a group of workers was constructing seven-foot-high walls of rock and cement to funnel water from a nearby canal to their fields. These walls have been engineered to regulate the flow of water in equal amounts to four separate groups of farmers, some of whom have been clashing over uneven water distribution for their wheat and rice crops.

And in the village of Qooq, local officials joined Mercy Corps staff and dozens of community members to celebrate the completion of an aqueduct. This conduit was constructed to help irrigate fields throughout the village, offering the potential of double the yield of crops and double the income for a family selling them at open market.

The ceremony included some impassioned speeches and a physical ribbon cutting where a dozen men — including myself — made small cuts in a long piece of pink fabric. We concluded the event with a lunch of lamb, brown bread and plates heaped with yellow rice mixed with fruit. A worthy celebration for the hard work the villagers put into building the aqueduct, and for the Mercy Corps staff who helped make it a reality.