What is the situation on ground in Sindh?
Home to 50.4 million people, Sindh is vital to Pakistan’s economy. Irrigated agriculture is the backbone of Sindh’s rural economy – 77% of Sindh’s agricultural land is irrigated – but limited water resources are not used efficiently. An estimated 60-75% of water withdrawn is lost either to surface water evaporation or to seepage into saline groundwater. Sindh is facing significant water scarcity problems, particularly during the summer months before the monsoon. Agricultural water use, which already accounts for 90% of water withdrawals, is projected to significantly increase if current irrigation and cropping practices are not changed.
Sindh’s agriculture sector has also been devastated by the 2022 floods, and emergency rehabilitation support for farmers is essential. According to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment conducted by the Asian Development Bank, EU, UNDP, and the World Bank, about 70% of the total damages and losses in Pakistan happened in Sindh province. Sindh’s overall needs assessment for post-flood recovery and reconstruction stands at US$7.9 billion, which is the highest of all the provinces.
What are the challenges facing Sindh?
About 37% of the rural population in Sindh lives below the poverty line. Poverty rates are higher in flood-impacted districts, which also experience some of the country’s highest stunting rates.
The agriculture and food sector—the backbone of Sindh’s economy—has been devastated by the 2022 floods. Without support for recovery in the sector, jobs and livelihoods could be impacted in the short term, and food security could be affected in the long term.
According to reports, more than 4.4 million acres of agricultural land have been destroyed. Irrigation and flood protection systems serving over half a million farmers on 5.1 million hectares of farmland have been severely damaged. More than 538 irrigation and 234 drainage systems, representing an estimated 7,300 kilometers of canals, have been destroyed. Approximately 90 flood protection structures have been washed away, leaving agricultural land and millions of households unprotected for upcoming rainy seasons.
Most farmers have lost their crops and their incomes. Many of them have fallen further into debt as they often rely on credit at the start of the season for the purchase of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and land preparation. Many small farmers also rely on their crop production to help meet household food security needs. The widespread destruction of crops and loss of livestock is putting cumulative pressure on food security in Sindh.
How will Sindh Water and Agricultural Productivity project help the people of Sindh?
The Sindh Water and Agricultural Productivity Project aims to increase agricultural water productivity – the amount of crop grown per drop of irrigation water – in selected Farmer’s Organizations (FOs) in Sindh. This will require improving irrigation water delivery and making on-farm improvements. Higher agricultural water productivity would allow farmers to make more money with the same quantity of water, potentially freeing water for other uses. The selected FOs could provide an example for how agricultural water productivity improvements could be replicated in other FOs and parts of Sindh. The project will also support legal and policy changes to allow for more integrated and participatory management of Sindh’s limited water resources following the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management. Finally, the project will also support small and medium sized farmers in recovering from the 2022 floods via cash transfers. A restored agricultural production system after the flooding will lay the foundation for future transformation in the sector.
Who will benefit from this project?
The project will directly benefit up to 385,000 households (approximately 1.9 million people). An estimated 99% of these households are either small- or medium-sized farmers (i.e., less than 25 acres or 10 hectares) with generally low incomes. These households also provide significant employment for landless agricultural workers, who disproportionately fall below the poverty line. The project targets small- and medium-sized farmers to ensure they can participate equitably and benefit from the project.
Around 20,000 households within the Farmers’ Organization subproject areas will benefit from improved irrigation services and agricultural support that will help boost farming income. An estimated 14,000 households will receive direct financial benefits from the pilot smart subsidy schemes supporting small- and medium-sized farmers who grow water-thrifty crops.
Renovating the Akram Wah canal will benefit approximately 50,000 farming households by improving irrigation water supply reliability in the command area. Improvements in Akram Wah will also help ensure a reliable raw water supply for towns and cities that draw upon the canal, including Hyderabad, which has a population of around 2 million.
The Floods Emergency Rehabilitation Component will benefit approximately 300,000 farmer households through the provision of cash transfers to help restore agricultural production after the 2022 floods.