MANILA, PHILIPPINES - A new irrigation project in northern Afghanistan will improve livelihoods and boost crop yields in poor, rural communities, with a $10 million grant from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) to rehabilitate at least 120 small scale irrigation systems.
The project will take place in the provinces of Baghlan, Balkh, Ghor and Samangan and involve close cooperation with communities to tap their labor and local knowledge.
"Irrigation is crucial for improving livelihoods and achieving financial security of rural households. Women must be included since they do much of the field work in northern provinces," said Randall Jones, Natural Resources and Agriculture Economist in ADB's Central and West Asia Department.
Years of conflict and neglect have Afghanistan's irrigation systems rundown and inefficient, with water available only intermittently. Physical upgrades will allow water to be used more efficiently and intensively, with the goal of boosting agricultural output in each target province by 5% and expanding cultivation areas for each irrigation system by 10%. Improving irrigation systems will sharply reduce the need to engage in the daily back-breaking task of collecting water for fields and livestock.
Local community development councils will be tapped to provide unskilled labor and project materials will be purchased locally, where possible. Training will be given in areas such as modern agricultural production techniques, water management and operation of irrigation systems, with women centrally involved. Meetings with women's 'shuras', community decision making groups which are highly respected in the north of the country, will also be held to encourage female participation.
The project will build on a previous, successful JFPR-funded initiative for community-based upgrades of irrigation systems in rural areas, but will target new provinces. It will also complement ADB's ongoing Water Resources Development Investment Program in Afghanistan, which focuses on larger scale sector improvements. The project is scheduled to run for four years through 2016.