Leveraging multi-stakeholder partnerships for integrated water resources management in Afghanistan: Processes, accomplishments and lessons learnt

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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About the project

Strengthening Water Resources Management in Afghanistan (SWaRMA) was a two-year project (2018–2019) supported by the National Water Affairs Regulation Authority (NWARA) – formerly the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) – Government of Afghanistan, and the Government of Australia. The project was implemented by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization (CSIRO). It aimed to strengthen water resources management in Afghanistan by assessing water resources at various levels, monitoring the cryosphere and floods at the community level, developing and using water information systems, fostering integrated river basin management (IRBM), and supporting Afghanistan’s regional engagement to showcase result-based outcomes.

Domain of intervention

SWaRMA undertook work in seven thematic areas integrating capacity enhancement, knowledge co-creation, and co-learning platform facilitation.


  1. To generate technical and institutional knowledge to effectively increase the management of water resources
  2. To develop a roadmap for water information system
  3. To strengthen existing networks and platforms to increase the participation and awareness of Afghan stakeholders

Scope of operation

SWaRMA operated at various levels. At the regional level, discussion platforms and networks were created to learn and share scientific research findings and for networking. Tools and assessments at national and basin scales were implemented with a specific focus on the Kabul river basin. Field-based activities including cryosphere and flood monitoring were conducted at specific sites at the local level.

The process

SWaRMA organized more than 37 major events with 271 participants encouraging women’s participation (approx. 10% women). The initiative was able to enhance individual and institutional capacities through a series of focused events, resulting in grounded activities. Effective needs-assessments were undertaken and agreed upon early on in the process; institutional commitment and ownership was ensured; and contiguous training series created synergies through co-creating and co-learning opportunities and continuous follow-up, which resulted in a multiplier effect. The capacity of partner institutions was measured using a clear framework including baseline and end-line capacity self-assessments and tracer surveys.

Key achievements

  1. First benchmark glacier established in Afghanistan: For the first time Afghanistan has established a benchmark glacier for long-term monitoring of cryosphere. Mass balance measurement has started in Pir-Yakh glacier and an automatic weather station has been installed.

  2. J2000 hydrological modelling widely adopted in Afghan river basins: The J2000 hydrological model is now adopted by the NWARA for water resources assessment in 16 sub-basins of the Kabul basin and 5 other basins in Afghanistan, and technical support was provided to integrate the model in the university curriculum.

  3. Science-based multi-stakeholder partnership and platform established: The multi-stakeholder partnership model promoted by SWaRMA in Afghanistan was highly appreciated by the Afghan partners as it provided a common platform for experts from various government and non-governmental organizations to discuss issues of common concern. The regional Upper Indus Basin Network (UIBN) and its Afghanistan Chapter (UIBN-AC) provided an opportunity to share science-based knowledge and to learn from other basin countries.

  4. Knowledge on multi-scale integrated river basin management enhanced: Multi-scale IRBM was conceptualized and tested with technical support from more than 50 experts from ICIMOD, Australia, Afghanistan, and Nepal, who provided a conceptual framework for water resources management in the context of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), and specifically in Afghanistan.

  5. Roadmap for water information system (WIS) prepared: A roadmap for WIS was prepared. The roadmap includes a long-term vision for WIS development, detailed next steps for developing a national WIS, specific activities for capacity development, and a sustainable data platform for Afghanistan.

  6. Technology for flood monitoring transferred: Telemetry based flood monitoring was piloted in Pariyan and Peshghor areas in Panjshir province and successfully tested in Pariyan.

  7. Assessment of GESI integration conducted: An assessment of GESI in water resources management policy, institutions and implementation was initiated in key ministries with technical training on implementing a gender-integrated approach.

  8. Source model introduced for scenario-based planning: The project developed the NWARA’s capability to model the river systems and explore/assess the impact of development scenarios on water availability and demand using the Kabul basin eWater Source model.