Department for International Development
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DFID announces £4.5 million aid to boost trade at Afghanistan's Helmand Airfield

DFID announces £4.5 million aid to boost trade at Afghanistan's Helmand Airfield

DEPARTMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT News Release (Afghanistan) issued by COI News Distribution Service on 3 June 2009

The Department for International Development today announced £4.5 million of aid to boost trade from Helmand's renovated airfield, which was officially opened today, June 3.

USAID, who work with DFID in the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, have turned a gravel airstrip into a tarmac runway capable of taking modern civil aircraft connecting Helmand with the rest of Afghanistan and opening up the province for trade.

Bost Airfield is the only completely civilian airstrip in Southern Afghanistan and is the new gateway to Helmand province. DFID funding will build on USAID work, and will pay for access roads, security fencing and a new administration block for a business centre alongside the airfield.

The centre will be the focus of food processing so that farmers' produce from the fertile Helmand valley can be prepared for food markets around the country.

The new developments will strengthen counter narcotics work by giving farmers a further incentive to plant legal food crops rather than illegal poppy.

At the opening British Ambassador to Afghanistan Mark Sedwill said: "This new investment will improve the security, infrastructure and airport facilities need to turn an airfield into a thriving business centre.

"Together with the agricultural centre next door , it will help to strengthen Helmand's farming productivity and create more jobs for local people.

"The opening of the airfield is a symbol of hope and future progress for the people of Helmand."

Background notes

On behalf of the Governor and Ministry of Transport, USAID has completed the surfacing of the 2km airstrip and the refurbishment of the terminal building.

USAID has also started construction of an agricultural centre, adjacent to the airfield. In line with the airport and agricultural centre masterplan, and building on initial USAID work, DFID has agreed to undertake additional improvements to both sites, costing up to £4.5 million.

This work includes: an internal access road to the terminal building, security infrastructure, barriers to improve safety, parking areas, an external access road to the agriculture centre, an administration building at the agriculture centre, and technical support to the agriculture centre.

The airfield opening was attended by Helmand's Governor Gubal Mangal, Afghan Government Ministers, Helmand MPs and the US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.

Contact: David Rigby, DFID press office 0207 023 0821

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