Students use project to aid Afghanistan
Global ecological crisis class reviews worldbank report
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 01:11
After more than 11 years of war, the situation in Afghanistan has few bright spots, but a class of CU Denver students is hoping to shine a little light onto the situation.
Transparency International has ranked Afghanistan at 180 out of 183 for corruption, unicef.org places the adult literacy rate at 39 percent, and “Afghanistan’s environment is under great pressure,” according to the United Nations Development Program. With the United States’ withdrawal from the country in 2014, Afghanistan is looking at facing these challenges with less support.
But the country won’t be left completely on its own. There are many groups and organizations that are working toward improving life in Afghanistan and among these organizations is a group of students in a global ecological crises class at CU Denver.
Instead of working individually on hypothetical final projects, the class, consisting of nine students, has decided to take on something that could have a real world impact. They are summarizing, and analyzing a version of the World Bank’s Strategic Environmental Assessment report.
“Essentially we’re breaking down all the of the different aspects of [the World Bank’s] plan, and we’re going to be presenting what they are going to do, and at the same time we’re going to offer our ideas and suggestions for possible change,” student Joseph Ewing said.
“Pending university approval, this report will be sent on behalf of the students to the Ministry of Agriculture in Afghanistan,” said Professor Phoenix Mourning-Star.
Mourning-Star, who teaches the class, spent December and January of last year in Afghanistan working on a biofuel project that would allow poppy farmers to use discarded seeds for fuel. During that time he established friendships and connections that led to this project.
Trying to understand and help resolve Afghanistan’s environmental issues is not easy. “We’re trying to figure out ways that this certain policy can work in every region of the nation even with the rich people and the poor people and the nomads and everybody,” student Sadi Khatiwada said.
“Phoenix shared with us some time ago about not reinventing the wheel, but adding some more spokes to it, and I think that if we look at it through those lenses…it won’t be as tough,” student Roger Cobb said. “It is an uphill battle and we’re not experts, but the information is out there, and the resources are there. It’s just us really putting our minds together…We’re here because we all really do want to make a difference.”
As the students consider how strategies from the report will be implemented they can’t help but be concerned with the level of corruption within the Afghan government, especially since the government plans to use a top-down strategy for the distribution of financial resources. But they know that the people of Afghanistan can’t wait for the corruption to end.
“There are a lot of issues that come from overirrigation or just unsustainable practices of utilizing your natural resources and it’s just going to continue to worsen,” Ewing said. “And that’s what I think they are trying to say: ‘This can’t wait for the war to end; this can’t wait until the government of Afghanistan stops being corrupt. It has to stop now.’”