Afghan Villagers Unite to Preserve Access to Water
- Villagers in Kandahar region are inspired to contribute to development activities after seeing the direct benefits of a government development project.
- Activities undertaken by the Irrigation Restoration and Development Project (IRDP) to rehabilitate irrigation canals and built new infrastructure are resulting in significant increases in agricultural output and encouraging villagers to invest in them.
- IRDP supports the rehabilitation of irrigation systems, serving some 300,000 hectares of land across the country.
DAND DISTRICT, Kandahar Province – Every year in the middle of March, villagers in Qalach-e-Abad village come together to clean the Nawai Pathaw canal to ensure they have enough water to irrigate their farms for the rest of the year. This what they have done this year—cleaning the canal to make sure all of them have access to enough water for irrigation on their farms for the rest of the year.
Haji Abdul Wali, 51, head of the Community Development Council (CDC) for Qulchabad village, is monitoring the progress and supervising people. “As a matter of routine, the canal needs to be cleaned every year on account of mud and silt that accumulate and need to be removed for the water to flow smoothly,” he explains.
Today, over 100 villagers are working together to clean the Nawai Pathaw irrigation canal. Haji Wali says it will take 20 days to clean the 10.5-kilometer long canal, which provides irrigation water to six villages in Dand district in Kandahar Province. It was common for villagers to spend 40 days or more to clean and fix all the leakages in the canal. Despite this annual restoration, in most years, villagers ran into water shortages due to recurring leaks.
“In the past, a lot of water was wasted but this is not so now,” says Haji Wali. The canal, which was originally constructed nearly half a century ago, was rehabilitated by the Irrigation Restoration and Development Project (IRDP) in June 2014. The rehabilitation work, which took a year, included building sluice gates, a protection wall, flumes, and culverts along the length of the canal. As a result, agricultural output as well as productivity have improved. The canal now irrigates 2,748 hectares of farmlands compared to 2,320 hectares previously.
"Since IRDP invested in this project and people witnessed a significant increase in their harvests, they were happy to invest personally in the canal too." Haji Abdul Wali, head of Community Development Council, Qalach-e-Abad village
“In the past, villagers were not keen on spending more money on restoring the canal,” says Haji Wali as he points to channels built by money contributed by the farmers. “Since IRDP invested in this project and people witnessed a significant increase in their harvests, they were happy to invest personally in the canal too, financially as well as physically,” he says.
IRDP aims to holistically increase agricultural productivity and production in target areas. It operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) in six regional offices: Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Kunduz, and Mazar-e-Sharif. It supports the rehabilitation of irrigation systems, serving some 300,000 hectares of land across the country. So far, a total of 98 irrigation schemes has been rehabilitated, covering 100,000 hectares of irrigation command area and benefiting over 63,000 farmers.
The project is supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), in partnership with the Government of Afghanistan.
Sense of Common Purpose
IRDP started its work in the Kandahar region (covering the provinces of Helmand, Zabul, Kandahar, Nimroz, and Oruzgan) in 2011. To date, it has completed the technical work on 29 projects, 20 of which have been completed. “Overall, IRDP’s work has enabled farmers to earn more,” says engineer Samiullah Momand, head of IRDP for Kandahar region. “For example, in Nimroz province, now that IRDP has solved some water-related problems, the harvest is much better than in the past, and farmers are even exporting their products to our neighboring country, Iran.”
Ahmadullah, 28, a resident of Nasiran village, is one of the thousands who have benefited from the rehabilitated canal. He is now able to cultivate all 10 jeribs (2 hectares) of his farmland instead of only 6 jeribs previously. “Farming is easier,” he says. “As we cultivate more, of course it will help us to earn more.”
IRDP projects have not just increased agricultural production and productivity, but also united the locals with a sense of common purpose. In the past, water shortages translated into frequent altercations, especially in the farming community. But with enough water now and a sense of personal ownership of the development changes that are happening around them, villagers are working better together.
“IRDP’s work has brought prosperity to Kandahar region, it is obvious to anyone who visits the region,” says Samiullah. “But the fact that communities feel more vested and united, that, indeed, is the true power of development.”