WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 ─ The World Bank today approved a $97.8 million IDA grant for the Irrigation Restoration and Development Project to support the Government of Afghanistan's continuing efforts to rehabilitate irrigation systems across the country, with the aim of increasing agricultural production.
The project builds upon and scales up activities supported under the ongoing World Bank-financed Emergency Irrigation Rehabilitation Project (EIRP). It will support the rehabilitation of irrigation systems serving some 300,000 hectares of land, design and construct a limited number of small multi-purpose dams and related works, while establishing hydro-meteorological facilities and services.
"Afghanistan is a primarily agrarian country where agriculture accounts for nearly 80 percent of the economy and up to 70 percent of the people live in the rural areas," said Nicholas Krafft, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. "Improving irrigation infrastructure is essential for food security, agricultural productivity and overall economic growth in the country. The project will scale up the Afghan government's efforts to bring more areas under irrigation, improve crop yields, and raise incomes for thousands of rural households who are solely dependent on agriculture for a living."
Most of the cereals and other crops grown in this largely arid country are cultivated on irrigated lands. However, the maintenance of Afghanistan's irrigation infrastructure has been greatly neglected during the decades of conflict and insurgency leaving irrigation systems in a state of disrepair. As a result, Afghanistan's irrigated area has decreased by almost 70 percent since the 1970s, and crop productivity fell to less than half of pre-war levels. In 2008, the wheat crop failed because the rainfall was too little and too late, resulting in a wheat deficit of over two million tons that endangered the country's food security.
In 2004, the World Bank financed the Emergency Irrigation Rehabilitation Project (EIRP) which has since become pivotal to the government efforts to revive agriculture in Afghanistan. The EIRP covers areas across the country and is designed to respond to the demands of local communities. To date, the project has helped rehabilitate irrigation systems of various sizes over half a million hectares of land. Monitoring data indicate that the area under irrigation has increased by nearly 140,000 hectares, crop yields of wheat, maize, rice, onion, potato, and cotton have increased substantially, and water-related disputes have shown a marked reduction. Over five and a half million Afghans have benefitted.
The Irrigation Restoration and Development Project will support the Afghan Government's efforts to:
- Further increase the irrigated area by about 15 percent
- Increase crop yields by at least 20 percent in project areas
- Reduce water-related disputes by at least 30 percent in these areas
- Prepare more cost-effective designs for the rehabilitation and development of irrigation systems using improved hydro-meteorological data
The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Energy and Water in close coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock. The overall cost of this six-year project is estimated at $148.70 million. In addition to the World Bank's grant of $97.8 million, the Government of Afghanistan is expected to contribute $2.5 million from its own resources. The remaining $48.4 million would be sought from the World Bank-administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).
The International Development Association (IDA) is the World Bank's concessionary lending arm.