400,000 in Western Afghanistan to Benefit from Integrated Water Resources Project

News Release | 4 January 2006

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - About 400,000 mostly poor people will benefit from a water resources management project for Afghanistan's western basins backed by an ADB assistance package totaling US$75 million.

The project will help boost agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods in the Hari Rud River Basin, which includes Herat, and the Murghab River Basin located in Badghis, Ghowr and Herat provinces.

The Project will strengthen integrated water resource management, improve irrigation, and promote more efficient agricultural practices to increase productivity in an area that contains some of Afghanistan's most extensive and intensively farmed irrigation areas.

Problems with irrigation water supply directly limit yields of wheat, which is the primary crop grown in the basins, and have been cited nationally by farmers as the primary constraint to agricultural productivity.

Local communities developed their irrigation systems to provide water for irrigation, livestock and domestic use more than 500 years ago, and have sophisticated water allocation methods. But the systems have deteriorated due to neglect during decades of civil unrest that have impeded routine maintenance and repair.

"Given the importance of water to livelihoods in the Hari Rud River Basin, improving integrated water resource management is critical to the area's development," says Thomas Panella, an ADB Senior Water Resources Specialist.

"Irrigation systems can also be rationalized to operate more efficiently and increase the total irrigated area, while water allocations also need to be rationalized."

The project will rationalize irrigation systems to operate more efficiently and increase the total irrigated area. It will also support planning and management to allocate water resources efficiently and equitably for basin development and help in the eventual setting up of a river basin authority.

It will provide for the rehabilitation and upgrading of 55,000 to 65,000 ha of traditional irrigation systems. The project will rehabilitate entire systems and enhance irrigation system intakes, improving late season water supplies.

The project will also develop capacity among staff of the Ministry of Energy and Water, which handles irrigation, as well as the mirabs who are the traditional community managers of irrigation systems responsible for overseeing system management and operation and maintenance.

An agriculture and livelihoods services component will ensure that the improved water supply from the irrigation system rehabilitation and upgrading is used most effectively to increase the productivity of irrigated agriculture and that project benefits are equitably distributed. This component also supports income generating activities targeted at women and the landless.

"Although poppies are not widely grown in the western basins, the livelihood component will ensure that this practice does not take root and that farmers have viable alternatives to poppy production," Mr. Panella adds.

On-farm water management training will be given to farmers and mirabs. Agricultural extension will be provided to improve wheat yields and to stimulate second season, higher value crops. The project will support farmer training, demonstration plots and community-developed trials.

ADB's assistance package, comprising a $60.5 million loan and $14.5 million grant - comes from its concessional Asian Development Fund. The loan carries a 40-year term, including a grace period of 10 years and interest of 1% per annum.

Project participants will contribute $7.8 million and the Government of Afghanistan $4.8 million toward the total project cost of $87.6 million. The Ministry of Finance is the executing agency for the project, which is due for completion around March 2013.

With the approval of this project, ADB has provided $235 million in loans/grants to Afghanistan in 2005, fulfilling a commitment to Afghanistan made by ADB in 2004. Of this total, $100 million was in the form of grant and the remainder in highly concessional loans.