Feature Story

A mighty wind

June 1, 2018

Adapting to Climate Change in Panjshir
Powering a sustainable future in Afghanistan

Sang-e-Nawishta village is located in Mussahi district, one of the poorest districts in Kabul province. 

Mussahi is just 25km from Kabul City, but a world away from the city’s metropolitan bustle. It takes over an hour on rough roads to travel from urban Kabul to the outskirts of Mussahi.

With the dramatic mountains of Khak-e-Jabar to the east, Mussahi also borders Ainak on the southern side – an area of great archaeological value that contains the remains of an ancient settlement, with over 400 Buddha statues, stupas and a large monastery complex.

Despite its natural beauty, until recently, Sang-e-Nawishta had its share of problems.

Villagers did not have access to clean water, and had to drink from a polluted canal. This led to high levels of disease.

The other problem was lack of access to electricity. Being far from the city meant that they were not on a proper electricity grid.

Fortunately, Sang-e-Nawishta has been the beneficiary of a project to bring fresh water and renewable energy to the area.

Now villagers have access to clean water pumped to their houses by two 5kW wind turbines. The turbines also provide enough clean energy to light the village’s 120 houses.

"The project is a wonderful model of generating clean energy with multiple benefits for the lives of people. There is potential of generating a lot of clean energy, and the Government of Afghanistan supports these initiatives.”

Deputy Director General of National Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Abdul Wali Modaqiq.


Mohammad Ismael, 28 years old, demonstrates how to turn on the wind turbines to light up homes in in Sang-e-Nawishta.

Mohammad Ismael, 28 years old, demonstrates how to turn on the wind turbines to light up homes in in Sang-e-Nawishta.

Since Sang-e-Nawishta is located within the natural contours of a valley, wind flow is smooth and sustained.

There is great potential for this model to be expanded throughout Afghanistan. According to the Ministry of Water and Energy, Afghanistan has the potential to produce 67,000 megawatts of wind energy annually.

To realise this potential, UNDP is working with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural development in partnership with local communities to embrace this clean and sustainable source of power, and to replicate this transformation in other areas across the country.


Small Grants, Big Impacts

This project,  Environment Protection through Renewable Energy Initiatives in Mussahi District, is part of the Small Grants Programme (SGP). 

The SGP, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by UNDP since 1992, has supported projects around the world that conserve the global environment, while enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods.

In 2013, the Agency for Rehabilitation and Energy-conservation in Afghanistan (AREA), an organisation that envisions the achievement of peace and stability through enabling local communities, applied for and was awarded an SGP grant. Through this grant, AREA was able to start working with the local communities in Sang-e-Nawishta and partnering with the National Environmental Protection Agency.

During the project’s initial stage of operation, AREA assessed the installation and hand-over process, working to ensure that the turbines were both functional and maintained.

According to the AREA assessment, 300kW of wind turbines have now been installed in Herat province, 100kW in Panjshir, and smaller scale wind farms in Paktia and Paktika provinces.




Powering the Future

Lack of clean drinking water and access to lighting are problems whose linkages might not be obvious, even though they manifest simultaneously in Mussahi District.

With the support of SGP, the deployment of wind turbines addressed both problems, pumping clean drinking water to people’s homes, bolstering security and increasing productivity with light and electricity.

Local villagers are enthusiastic about the results of the project. No more dirty water lugged home in battered jerry cans. No more diarrhoea. No more school books left unopened in the corner once the sun goes down.

"When there was no electricity we had no clean water. We used to bring water from a polluted stream and we had to carry it up the hill. Now we have electricity and use clean, pumped drinking water and our lives have improved - we no longer get sick. In the evening we used to use gas lighting, which wasn't good for studying, but now we can read and study at any hour of the day using the electricity."

Abdul Qayom, a 10th grade student, writes on the blackboard in his school in Sang-e-Nawishta of Kabul.

Additionally, among the other positive benefits, this renewable energy source avoids approximately 60 tonnes of CO2 per annum that fossil-fuel powered operations would otherwise have to generate if harnessing the wind wasn’t an option. That’s another bonus for the environment.

Positive benefits of the project also include lowering indoor air pollution from the discontinuation of kerosene oil lamps and improved education, as schoolchildren have more access to computers, and the ability to complete homework at night under the new lights.

One of the most promising aspects of this project is the local manufacturing component, ensuring local buy-in, local employment, and local benefits. The wind turbines are an Afghan-made product, and each household pays a share for two trained community members who are responsible for long-term maintenance of the wind turbines.

It is no wonder that this simple, cost-effective project received a letter of appreciation from Afghanistan’s Upper House of the National Assembly in 2014. 

SGP efforts globally have provided financial and technical support to projects that conserve the global environment while enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods. Projects supported by SGP demonstrate that community action can enable fine balance between human needs and environmental imperatives.

Since 2013, there have been numerous SGP-supported projects in Afghanistan that introduce, demonstrate, and disseminate various renewable energy technologies for households, such as solar lanterns, solar air heaters, solar cookers, briquette stoves, wind power turbines, solar water pumps, biogas plants, and drip irrigation systems to lessen the pressure communities put on natural resources.

In addition to these projects, SGP in Afghanistan improved community action on rehabilitation and protection of forests and degraded land, with benefits accruing to indigenous communities, women, and local communities from conservation of biodiversity in and around three protected areas.

For more information on SGP-supported projects in Afghanistan, visit the SGP Afghanistan Country Page.

For more information on this specific project, please visit the SGP project profile:  Environment Protection through Renewable Energy Initiatives in Mosaee District

Visit the SGP website for details on the overall Small Grants Programme.

Story original posted by UNDP.

Story by Andrea Egan, Ana Maria Currea, Aimal Khaurin / Photos: © UNDP / Omer Sadaat and Rob Few