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Working with local community vital to Helmand Irrigation success

Involving local contractors has been crucial to successfully repairing the Central Helmand canal and irrigation system, the Institution of Royal Engineers said last week.

The team worked in Afghanistan to repair the irrigation sytem on the Helmand river. The formal irrigation was built in the 1950’s with the help of the US Army and has been locally managed since.

Speaking at the annual joint lecture with the ICE, speakers involved in the project outlined what had made it a success.

“Putting the local community at the nucleus of the project was key,” said Royal Engineer major Mike Eytle. Eytle was seconded to the Department for International Development (Dfid) for project

“It enhances security, quality and assurance and ensures good representation and transparency.”

Despite this, working with the local community often provided its own challenges too.

“It’s difficult to find contractors without links to corruption or insurgency, so often [contractors] have very poor capacity in the local area,” said Dfid infrastructure adviser John Bowker.

The team were eager to see the lessons learned in Helmand applied to other projects in conflict-affected areas. Eytle suggested that a similar approach may be implemented in Mali.

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