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New plan to woo Afghan Taliban could harm villages

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"It would affect one of the few successful programs in the country and reduce further the access to the population," he adds.

An aid program that delivers

The NSP works by making small grants of around $30,000 to villages across the country and allowing them to choose which projects to pursue. The program, which has reached 70 percent of the country's villages, is run by Afghanistan's Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) and funded by international donors including the United States and the World Bank.

Each village is teamed up with an NGO, known as a facilitating partner, that helps run a local election for the council and develop the village's list of project priorities. It also provides engineering assistance.

In the village of Sakha in northeastern Afghanistan, all 118 families now have electricity for the first time after residents decided to spend their NSP funds on a micro-hydro turbine. The project was finished six months ago for less than $50,000 with the help of Afghan Aid, an international NGO.

Before the election of Sakha's council, called a shura, the villagers had no leaders. Now the shura has become a point of contact between the Afghan government, NGOs working on development projects, and the villagers. It's even become a local court of sorts.

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