FEATURE STORY

Improved Irrigation Canal System Allows Farmers to Control Water Flow

February 9, 2015

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Mir Ahmad recalls the hardship they had been through over the past years, especially the lack of water for irrigation in these villages.

Rumi Consultancy

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Farmers in Herat Province who previously struggled to irrigate their crops are now able to control the flow of water to their fields through a rehabilitation and improvement of their canal scheme.
  • The canal scheme is one of several being rehabilitated and improved across Afghanistan under the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Project (IRDP), under the Ministry of Energy and Water and supported by the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.
  • IRDP supports rehabilitation of irrigation systems serving some 300,000 hectares of land throughout the country, as well as the design and construction of a limited number of small multi-purpose dams.

ZINDA JAN DISTRICT, Herat Province – The water flows fast and noisily down a canal bordered on either side by tall trees. Stretched parallel to the canal is a dirt lane leading towards Haji Mir Ahmad’s house.

The canal is in Sangbast village of Zinda Jan district, west of Herat City, bordering Iran. The village is separated from neighboring Ghalmaran village by a large stream called Mezak, although the residents of these two villages do not have a sense of separation from each other. They share the same Community Development Council, chaired by Haji Mir Ahmad, 80.

Mir Ahmad recalls the hardship they had been through over the past years, especially the lack of water for irrigation in these villages. “We used to work hard for some 15 days buying sandbags, bringing in stones and wood and so forth to block water spillover from the intake. We would spend around US$17,000 but every time the flood would waste our efforts as it would wash away all we had built,” he recounts.

The water from the rain and floods alone would have been sufficient to satisfy the irrigation needs of these villages if only dams were built down the stream to avoid water loss.


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Baset Ahmad, 34, is responsible to control the flow of water in the water catchment.

Rumi Consultancy

" We are relieved now. Whenever water is needed, we pull up the main hatch and direct the water to whatever secondary canal system we wish. "

Fazel Ahmad

Farmer, Ghalmaran village

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The canal in Sangbast village of Zinda Jan district.

Rumi Consultancy

Today, canals, such as the one for Sangbast and Ghalmaran villages, allow farmers to harness rain and flood water for irrigation. They are being improved under the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Project (IRDP), under the Ministry of Energy and Water. With support from the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, the project builds upon and scales up activities supported under the completed World Bank-financed Emergency Irrigation Rehabilitation Project, closed in December 2012.

Better access to irrigation and jobs

IRDP supports rehabilitation of irrigation systems serving some 300,000 hectares of land throughout the country, as well as the design and construction of a limited number of small multi-purpose dams and related works, while establishing hydro-meteorological facilities and services. To date, under the irrigation component of this project, approximately 20,000 hectares (44 percent of the target 45,000 hectares) of incremental irrigated area have been achieved.

According to Project Manager Engineer Mirwais Ghoriani, the Sangbast village canal was successfully completed in April 2013 at a cost of little over Afghani 10 million (US$175,000).

“Our assessment revealed a drastic need for water canal development here,” says Mirwais. “With this project now implemented, farmlands are better irrigated and people have access to more job opportunities.”

Padar, a 40-year-old farmer and father of four children, cultivates various crops on one hectare of land in partnership with other farmers. He says prior to the implementation of IRDP in his village he was not willing to cultivate his land from fear of lack of water; however, now he has even succeeded convincing some friends to become his partners.

“This sub-project began last year. Prior to that, we could hardly block water overflow from the river. We would go out and work on the intake for 10 to 15 days. We also had to buy sandbags. My contribution alone was around $100,” he says.

Water in all seasons

Fazel Ahmad, 50, a farmer from Ghalmaran village, says he does not remember ever having had enough water for irrigation in the fall season in the past, especially when the old reservoir filled up with mud sedimentation. Although the old reservoir still fills up with mud, farmers are now able to irrigate their lands even during fall season following the improvement made in the canal scheme.

“We are relieved now. All we need to do is pile up a few sandbags against the wall and the water will stay in the reservoir. Whenever water is needed, we pull up the main hatch and direct the water to whatever secondary canal system we wish,” explains Fazel. “There are a total of nine hatches in different directions. If we do not want water in a certain direction, we simply close the concerned hatch and the water stays inside.”


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