SURKHRUD DISTRICT, Nangarhar Province – Gul Agha and his farmer friends know a good thing when they see it. Their irrigation canals are flowing twice as fast, their land is twice as productive, and their income has doubled. Now they’re eager for more.
“These modern ideas are helping us so much,” says Gul Agha, 56. “Before we were using old agriculture methods, and we have had three decades of war when our production was almost zero. But now the canal improvement projects, laser land leveling and other new ideas are very good for us.”
Recently, when a visitor arrived at the village of Bar Sultanpur in the Surkhrud district of Nangarhar province, Agha produced a lengthy letter of formal thanks and spent an hour painstakingly going over the benefits of the new On Farm Water Management Project (OFWMP), financed by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which has brought prosperity to his people.
“We are forever grateful and only request that you continue to help our farmers and don’t forget us,” concluded Agha’s letter. “If you keep working with us, we guarantee that some day we will supply all the grains, fruits and vegetables to Kabul and everywhere, and Afghanistan will be a self-sufficient country.”
As head of his village’s community development council (CDC), Agha says he and other local shura leaders, like Akhtar Mohammad, 58, of nearby Dobandi village, agreed in 2012 that rehabilitation and construction of irrigation canals in their region was a top priority. Engineer Inamullah Safi from the Afghan ministry of agriculture, irrigation and livestock proposed the OFWM project to them. “We made the decision to try and the engineer sorted it out for us. Now we really appreciate it,” says Mohammad.
Supported by the ARTF for a total of $25 million, OFWMP supports on-farm water management investments in five regions (central, eastern, southwestern, northeastern and northern) covering a total of 175 irrigation schemes benefiting 50,000 hectares.
Irrigation schemes improves lives
The project improves agricultural productivity by enhancing efficiency of water usage. People are also encouraged to use modern farm technology, such as laser land leveling.
Around Agha’s community and four other villages, two irrigation schemes called Dobandi and Malakan were launched under OFWMP. The irrigation projects, which benefit about 14,000 people, had about four kilometers of ancient irrigation canals lined with concrete, 700 filter structures installed to block debris, culverts for vehicles and flood protection walls built, and community access platforms added so people could safely do washing, or collect buckets of water for their animals, explains Engineer Safi.
“The idea is to avoid severe water loss and to increase its velocity,” he says.
“Before changes were made, it could take six hours for water to be delivered downstream, because there was no appropriate slope, as well as loose banks and water seepage.”