Canada pledges more than $3M for Afghan projects

Canada plans to spend $3.1 million on rural development projects in the volatile province of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

Canada plans to spend $3.1 million on rural development projects in the volatile province of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

About 135 projects will be funded by the Canadian International Development Agency,an Afghan officialsaid at a contract-signing ceremony Tuesday in Kandahar.

Much of the money will be used to rebuild water reservoirs and canals in Kandahar, hit hard by years of fighting and more recently by clashes between the Taliban and Canadian troops.

Villages in the province had presented proposals for 653 projects, but only about 135 were chosen.

Mohammad Ehsan Zia, Afghan minister of rural rehabilitation and development, told tribal elders when he announced the funding that foreign countries want to see Afghans move away from poppy cultivation.

Zia said support for reconstruction projects depends upon a willingness by Afghans to find new ways of making money.

The new irrigation projects, essential to enable Afghan farmers to cultivate crops other than poppies, are expected to create work for 2,860 Afghans for 30 days, he said.

Zia said the irrigation projects will begin in the districts of Khakrez, Panjwaii and Spinboldak in Kandahar. He spoke in the basement of the Kandahar governor's meeting hall.

No Canadian government officials were present at the ceremony and initially there was confusion about the exact amount of money that Canada has pledged to give.

Zia, when he thanked Canada, said it was going to give $31.8 million, but the amount was corrected later by a CIDA official who contacted him to say Canada actually going to give $3.1 million.

"It is just a matter of language," Helene Kadi, a CIDA development officer at the provincial reconstruction base, told the Canadian Press. "It was a typo."

Kadi said Afghan officials didn't invite Canadian officials to the ceremony.

The U.S., through the United States Agency for International Development, has pledged to give $500,000 Cdn to the projects, she added.

Canada has said it will spend close to $1 billion over 10 years in Afghanistan to rebuild the country, reduce poverty and enable the Afghan government to establish its authority.

Canada has set up an embassy in Kabul, as part of its mission in Afghanistan, and has more than 2,000 troops stationed in Kandahar.

Forty-four Canadian soldiers have died since Canada first sent troops to the country in early 2002.

Corrections

  • Canada plans to spend $3.18 million on rural development projects in Kandahar province, not $31.8 million as originally reported.
    Jan 30, 2007 1:10 AM ET

With files from the Canadian Press