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Distributed Essential Services in Afghanistan (DES-A)


I. Pilot Project in Nangarhar Province




This wiki supports planners and those working in the field on the Distributed Essential Services in Afghanistan (DES-A) program, particularly the pilot project in Nangarhar Province.  DES-A seeks to provide essential services (as valued by Afghans and sustainable by them) by leveraging information and communications, enabled by distributed renewable energy.  The wiki's goal is to provide useful information to planners and operational personnel by drawing on distributed knowledge sources.  It is a living document--any approved "writer" can add content.   Formats and fonts are less important than substance.


The most important thing about DES-A is that key parts of the Nangarhar pilot are ready for implementation NOW.  As of mid-August 2009, Chris Corsten (chriscorsten@hotmail.com, skype) who has been installing microhydro power (MHP) systems in Nangahar for the past several years under State Department auspices  identified 37 sites in 10 districts where MHP sites are operating in the province.  Nearly all of these sites also have communications.   The existing sites (by district and sub-village) are: 

Deh Bala 6 (Koz Yaghi Band, Khanano, Dand Khanan, Charwazay, Said Kareem Khan, Jawdara)

Dari Nur 3 (M Yousef Khali (2), Dodarek, Janjapur)

Hesarak 2 (Naseer Zhernada, Budi Naw)

Achin 7 (Katar Tot Geranda, Kander, Kamki Kaly, Akundzadgan, Zal Mohammed, Lees Mohmand, Merjan Weyaleh)

Momandara 7 (Sultan Khil, Kar Khil, Hadji Choora, Akhund Zadgan, Landy Kaly, Ziart Kaly, Sultan Khil (2))

Kama 1 (Saheb Zadgan)

Dur Baba 2 (Shulgara 1 & 2)

Kuz Kunar 1 (Nowjo)

Surkh Rod 7 (Sardaran, Koz Kakokhill, Daria Kalay, Ghondy, Bar Kakrak, Baloss Kalay, Marwandina)

Behsoud 1 (Hada)

Detailed files are linked from Section C1


Chris and his team are preparing to start 24 more MHP projects by October 2009.  All will be finished within about four months of breaking ground.  Snow will not affect them much as they will be working in the eastern districts that have lower elevation.  Only one or two projects may have some issues but there are ways to work around it.  The western districts are more affected by snow: Khogiani, Hesarak, Sherzad.


More details are at Section C1, but the point is that surveyed sites with operating power and comms are available now for leveraging.


In addition, Tony Woods (Sustainable Energy Solutions Afghanistan--SESA, www.sesa.af ) has begun deploying containerized solar systems in Paktika province.  The cost for a system with two wind turbines, solar, diesel backup plus robust (3,000 AH) battery packs is variable depending on design.  Solar and wind systems do cost more upfront, but then have low ongoing costs and allow the local community to develop their local economy without the continual and immediate drain of diesel costs.  Feedback from users so far is very postiive.  The principal constraint is the lead time of getting equipment into country, which can run four-to-six months for equipment to be ordered outside the country.  There also will be a solar-powered, container-based cold storage system ready in 3-4 months for Gardez. It will be focused on pommegranites and melons and other high value crops to spread out deliveries to market, and SESA has consulted and requested assistance from USDA fieldwork teams to give guidance in this regard.  SESA enlists the help of the local community to provide security for the project before it starts and, and uses local contractors whenever possible.  Taking into account the lead times for overseas components, these kind of solar-wind-hybrid systems also could be made available in Nangarhar.  SESA fully understands that batteries are a comonent that require replacement in future, but for sites where no hydro potential exists they are unavoidable.  See C1b2.


Organization of the Wiki


This wiki is divided into five parts, in five separate pages--this FrontPage and four linked "Section A" to "Section D" pages:


  • FrontPage
    • Background
      • Broad DES-A Concept
      • Information for Contributors


  • Section A includes general information about planning processes, assumptions, metrics, etc
    1. Project Overview
    2. Planning Process
    3. General Sizing Assumptions
    4. Metrics


  • Section B addresses domains (Agriculture, Clean Water, etc.) and Essential Services within them (market information, irrigation, micro-credit, etc.), recognizing that the Afghans may redefine what they consider essential, which may vary from place to place.  As such, these proposed services should be considered as hypotheses until final decisions are made. 
    1. Agriculture/Food (Cold Storage, On-Site Processing, Solar/Integrated Cooking, Market Information, Precision Agriculture Information, Financial Transactions, Irrigation-related information and power)
    2. Clean Water (Purification systems tailored to local conditions)
    3. Public Health (Cell Phone based Pre-Natal and Maternal Care, Hub-and-Spoke Telemedicine)
    4. Lighting (Basic Household Lighting plus Business and Community Lights)
    5. Education (Extension of Internet Services, Expansion of Low-Cost Laptops, Experimentation with Cell-Phone Based Programs)
    6. Business Development (including Entrepreneurial Development)
    7. Training to Support Sustainable Economic Growth (Linked to Ability of Economy to Absorb Jobs)
    8. E-Commerce Training for Afghan Women


  • Section C includes information about Critical Enablers (Power, Communications, etc): 
    1. Distributed, renewable energy (Microhydro, Solar, Wind, perhaps Local Geothermal, Hybrid).
    2. Communications (Text Messaging to Cell Phone to High Speed Internet)
    3. Information Sharing (to give non-traditional participants the info they need)
    4. Reachback Support (from overseas)


  • Section D covers Related Areas:
    1. Social Network Development and Trust-Building
    2. Converting Policy and Doctrine into Field Operating Procedures
    3. Legal and Regulatory Constraints 
    4. Resource Allocation 
    5. Training, Exercises and Education
    6. Engagement with Associated Areas (Governance, Rule of Law [Dispute Resolution], other Infrastructures)


Broad DES-A Concept


Information and communication (I&C) are powerful forces that can contribute much to Afghanistan.  Together with distributed, renewable energy, they can support essential services through a bottom-up approach (through organizations like the National Solidarity Program--NSP) that could be executed quickly, while being consistent with “top-down” national development strategies. Private sector investment is essential in building sustainable, long term capacity.


A hypothesis (subject to modification by the Afghans to suit their needs), is that the combination of power and comms could support:


·         Agriculture/Food--Information about market conditions, forecasts and transportation; cool storage and on-site processing; micro-loans, integrated solar/combustion cooking; irrigation.

·         Clean Water--Purification systems tailored to local conditions.

·         Public Health--Cell phone-based services for pre-natal and maternal care in remote areas, satellite-based telemedicine services to clinics, expanded internet access to hospitals.

·         Lighting--Basic lighting for streets, stores and households (a light in every kitchen).

·         Education--internet expansion to universities, extension of learning access to remote areas.

·         Business Development--Sharing information on market opportunities, extension of micro-credit, coordination of buyer/seller relationships, encouragement of entrepreneurs.

·         Training to Support Sustainable Economic Growth—Hands-on, project-based learning focused on building Afghan business capacity and the market’s ability to absorb job skills, including e-commerce training for Afghan women.


These also could enhance governance through more satisfied citizens, transparency and funds transfers, and contribute to rule of law through innovative justice and dispute resolution.


Critical enablers of these services include (1) distributed, renewable energy (microhydro, solar, wind, local geothermal, hybrid, etc.), (2) communications, including extended infrastructure (radio, TV, cell phone voice, texting, and high speed internet, etc.) plus ‘content’ and ‘sensing’ applications to enhance utility, (3) information sharing with responsible participants, (4) supplementary ‘reach back’ support from experts outside the country, and (5) social network development and trust-building.


Nangarhar has been chosen for the pilot since it is relatively prosperous and stable, and has significant private sector capacity.  Within Nangahar the initial focus would be on Jalalabad, four district capitals, 25 remote villages, and a camp for refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).  Preparations suggest that useful services could begin this Fall and scale quickly, if the effort is given priority.  If judged successful, the approach could be extended to other provinces, combining Afghan and international efforts and adapted to local conditions.


The DES-A concept has been discussed with Ambs Eikenberry and Wayne since May, and got support.  GEN McChrystal (Commander, International Security Assistance Force--ISAF) concurred via videoteleconference on Aug 7, as did representatives from CENTCOM and USAID in Kabul.  Representatives of the Afghan Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) and the Ministry of Communications and IT (MCIT) expressed interest in early versions of the project.  The proposal also has been reviewed with businessmen, the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, other USG representatives as well as people from NGOs, PVOs, etc.  Approaches have been made to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).


The next step is to move the concept and the planning forward, with reachback support, to turn DES-A into a "pull from the front" action.  Contributions from all sources are welcome to this wiki to provide planners access to as  information as possible from distributed talent. 


Information for Contributors


Before beginning, please read the four-page project outline in the file titled:  DES-A 8-23-09 long version.doc


Request that contributors provide a general text overview of their approach(es), including potential barriers to success.  Where possible, include the following data in tabular format: 

  • Project Location (Jalalabad, district capital, remote village, refugee/IDP camp, etc)
  • Set-up costs, including shipping, customs, etc.
  • Annual costs
  • Total 10-year cost
  • Notes


Samples can be found below under B3b: (Telemedicine hub and spoke), B4a & b (solar flashlights) and C1c (Microhydro power in remote villages). 


Please include references, contact info for those who could be reached for more information, and cross links (for example, to the "DES-A Working Group" on the www.star-tides.net website).  Don’t include proprietary info or other data you don't want shared.  Cost info can be anonymized if desired (e.g. “One firm estimated that”).  Please respect that this is not an advertising site, or a place for registering formal proposals—those will be addressed separately by the line decision-makers.  If you’d like to describe your company/NGO/PVO and list links and contact info, that’s fine, but please keep it dispassionate.


Section A: General Overview 


Section B: Domains and Essential Services 


Section C: Critical Enablers


Section D: Related Areas 












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