BAMYAN CITY, Bamyan Province – A decade after the local irrigation systems were rehabilitated in two rural communities in Afghanistan's central Bamyan Province, residents continue to reap the benefits of improved water management, although changing climatic conditions are starting to have an impact.
In Foladi and Dokani villages in Bamyan city where the majority of residents depend on farming, ensuring the irrigation canals are in good working condition is a top concern, which was why the canals were upgraded in 2009 under the Irrigation Restoration Development Project (IRDP).
As the dry season comes to an end in Bamyan, the local shura, a council of elders, from Balkhi neighborhood in Foladi village walks along the canal inspecting its bed in preparation for the upcoming wet season. Taking advantage of the low water levels, the council notes places for repairs and clears away debris from the canal intake valves.
Aewaz, 77, a farmer from Foladi village, recalls the problems with flooding before the canal rehabilitation. “The river used to destroy our sand bags 3–4 times a year and flood our villages and crops,” he recounts. “We had a lot of problems before, but now that these intake valves have been installed, we don’t have a flood problem. After this project, the situation is better.”
The rehabilitation included lining the Balkhi canal bed and sides with concrete, installing metal gate valves at weak points prone to flooding, and adding small footbridges to address the most pressing problems.
Amin, 35, IRDP Bamyan provincial manager, points out that improving water management through infrastructure improvement has had long-term benefits for Bamyan Province, where 90 percent of the population depend on agriculture. “As the majority of Bamyan residents rely heavily on agriculture, projects like the rehabilitation of the Balkhi irrigation canal are extremely important. If we can improve water management, we can help rural farmers improve their livelihoods and raise their standard of living as a result.”
More than 600 households in the four villages— Foladi, Nawrozi, Qhazan, and Sia Khar Bloq—served by Balkhi canal have seen their economic and living conditions improve significantly. Says Qhulam, 79, a farmer from Foladi village: “I used to get 3,500 kg of potatoes from my land and with the better irrigation, I harvest 5,400 kg. My [monthly] income has increased by 2,000–2,700 afghanis ($26–$35)*. This project was the right decision for the people of our village.”
The Balkhi canal is one of over 180 irrigation schemes rehabilitated across the country by IRDP. Over 425,000 households benefited from IRDP services, which aimed to improve access to irrigation in the targeted areas and strengthen capacity for water resources management at the National Water Affairs Regulation Authority (NAWARA). IRDP was implemented by the Ministry of Energy and Water and then by NAWARA through six regional offices: Kabul, Kandahar, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad, and Mazar-e-Sharif.
IRDP was funded by the government, the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors, and the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.