Nakamura spent decades in Afghanistan, providing humanitarian support to improve the lives of people there. In addition to his medical activities, he dedicated nearly 20 years to projects that bring water to arid regions, supporting around 650,000 people.
He hoped his efforts would help bring an end to the violence and turmoil that still plague Afghanistan. “People are fighting these battles to earn a living,” he said. “They have no choice, but no one would want to fight if they had water and could farm.”
Nakamura was shot and killed in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, on December 4, 2019, at the age of 73. Police have yet to make an arrest for the killing.
Nakamura’s impact is still felt in Afghanistan and beyond by people such as Sadequllah Ahmadi, a student at a university near Tokyo. The 30-year-old PhD candidate analyzes genes to make poultry farming more efficient in his native Afghanistan.
Ahmadi says he knows what it’s like to be hungry. He still remembers times as a child when he couldn’t even afford an apple. The Asian Development Bank says more than half the population there live in poverty.
Ahmadi first became aware of Nakamura after he moved to Japan in 2014 and learned of his work in a TV documentary. Until then, he had thought international aid workers spent a few years at most in the war-torn country, but he felt Nakamura was different as he had been there much longer, working for exactly what people needed. “Our methods are different, but our goals -- to feed people -- are the same,” says Ahmadi.
Seeing Nakamura’s work for himself
In 2018, Ahmadi got the chance to visit a project in Kama District in eastern Afghanistan to see Nakamura’s work first-hand. The landscape at the site, about 700 kilometers from his hometown, had been transformed. There was water and lush greenery, and it was clear that the work was changing lives.
Ahmadi had faced repeated setbacks in his own research, but standing there he became convinced he could overcome them. “I was very impressed by Nakamura’s work,” he says. “I felt I could accomplish what many thought was impossible through determination and perseverance.”
One of Ahmadi’s dreams had been to meet Nakamura, so the news of his death had a profound effect. The same day, he posted, “Today Afghanistan lost a true hero and public servant” on his Facebook page.
Just days later, Ahmadi went to Narita Airport to show his respect as Nakamura’s body returned. He says it made him even more determined to continue his own research and help secure a more stable food supply.
“I will follow (Nakamura’s) way. I have to work hard consistently and continuously,” says Ahmadi. “I know that then I will see results. No matter how many difficulties I face, I will not give up until this country stamps out hunger.”