During a visit to the bazaar in the Shar-e Safa Village of Zabul Province a few months ago, a U.S. military team engaged many of the shopkeepers and the village elders to address their issues and concerns. Several of the locals expressed a need for night illumination to improve security as well as to extend the length of shop hours. They mentioned this as one of their top priorities. The district center had solar panels and lights from USAID in a storage container but did not have the money to install them. With support from Spirit of America, the troops and the district leadership were able to hire a contractor to put in 9 lights along the street.
Prior to installation, the Shar-e Safa elders, including the one who oversees the bazaar, gathered together to sign a formal agreement stating they would ensure the panels and all associated equipment would not be moved or used for any other purpose, thus placing responsibility into the locals' hands. Also through this undertaking, the U.S. team has been able to honor their commitment to the people and foster a better cooperative relationship with the Afghans while enabling them to be accountable for projects in their area. This partnership has allowed for greater development and progress within the community.
This is a shot of local Afghans gathering at the newly renovated bazaar
The solar panel lights endeavor enhances a current renovation of the bazaar (see previous story here.) The NGO, Central Asia Development Group (CADG), sponsored construction through USAID funding. The workers installed barriers so that trucks couldn't get too close to the shops and cause any damage. They also built up and reinforced the sides of the street with concrete walls. The renovations make the entire area more aesthetically pleasing; this coupled with new lights significantly improves the shopping area and encourages more people to come and patronize the stores.
According to the U.S. military liaison to the Afghan district leadership, "The lights in the Shar-e-Safa bazaar have enabled the shopkeepers to keep their stores open a little later in the evening. This serves to improve the local economy and increases security for the shopkeepers, citizens and travelers making their way through Shar-e-Safa village." This addition will support better business in the village and help contribute to greater stability in the region.
Afghanistan Field Rep