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Afghanistan: Helmand Province

Volume 688: debated on Monday 22 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What targets are set for the reform and reconstruction of the Helmand province of Afghanistan during the United Kingdom's three-year deployment; and what progress the deployed forces have made on meeting these targets to date. [HL937]

A joint UK plan for Helmand was drafted by a cross-Whitehall team facilitated by the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit (PCRU) in December 2005. The Helmand plan is jointly owned and implemented by DfID, the FCO and the MoD. The Helmand Executive Group based in Lashkar Gah is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the plan. The overall strategic aim of the joint UK plan for Helmand is,

“an effective, representative government in Afghanistan, with security forces capable of providing an environment in which sustainable economic and social development can occur, without substantial security support from the international community”.

The strategic objectives of the plan are broken down into four categories—governance, security, economic development and counter-narcotics. DfID is responsible for the economic development part of the plan. The objective of the economic development strand is,

“greater economic opportunities and access to public services to reduce poverty and a sustainable improvement in the legal economy of Helmand”.

The economic development part will be measured by 1) a higher level of household income, 2) increased food security, 3) better health and 4) more people educated. The way in which progress will be measured is by using a combination of the National Rural Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) report and various UN reports. As development activities have been implemented in Helmand only since April 2006, it is too early to judge the impact.

DfID is providing £30 million over three years to support the Helmand Agriculture and Rural Development Programme (HARDP). This programme aims to increase economic opportunities for the rural poor of Helmand by supporting the Government of Afghanistan in the roll-out of existing successful national programmes in Helmand. Priority preliminary tasks have been undertaken and, by the end of March 2007, this programme will have constructed 200 wells in and around Lashkar Gah city, and 49 kilometres of road will be under construction by then.

In addition, DfID has committed £4 million to the UK Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP) funding allocation of £6.5 million for the delivery of quick impact projects (QIPs) in Helmand to get short-term development results and help build a platform for longer-term activities. Of the £6.5 million available, over £4 million has already funded over 80 projects in Helmand. These funds have provided humanitarian assistance to victims of the drought, constructed permanent vehicle checkpoints to improve security, improved security around the shrine in Gereshk, reinforced the riverbank walls and provided flood defences for the Bowlan bridge.

Through the £3 million DfID-funded Research into Alternative Livelihoods Fund (RALF), the Restorative Agriculture and Rural Economy Research Project, implemented by Mercy Corps, in Helmand is working on export feasibility of grapes, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplants and okra, and has made strong contacts with raisin importers (organic and fair trade). The programme is evaluating at least 10 different small-scale agri-processing industries, and producing case studies of enterprises that prove to have value added—for example, tomato paste.