FAO Afghanistan – Receives funding from Japan to support community-based irrigation for improved agricultural production in Afghanistan

28/08/2023 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Government of Japan has launched a four-year project at a cost of US$9.5 million through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The project aims to strengthen the food security and livelihoods of more than 12,600 poor food-insecure men, women and children in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan, increase the amount of irrigated land, and increase local food production. The project will provide direct environmental benefits to local communities, help protect fragile landscapes and help recharge vital groundwater resources, especially important in the context of increasing climate change impacts.

Agriculture depends on water. A growing population and growing climate change impacts make access to water even more critical across Afghanistan, which depends on irrigation for more than 70 percent of food production. The project will rehabilitate the existing Nurkal Irrigation Canal in Kunar Province, improving both the quantity and reliability of irrigation water for agricultural production and increasing the agricultural land irrigated by the canal – by 70 hectares to a total of 643 hectares. Increase in overall agricultural production and productivity by at least 12 percent. Importantly, the project will enable poor food-insecure rural households to grow two crops a year, rather than just one wheat crop, increasing income, resilience and food security. The project will benefit communities, help protect over 2 000 hectares of fragile land through improved and adapted plant species and recharge vital groundwater resources. The project builds on the Green Earth Project initiated by Dr. Tetsu Nakamura and Peace (Japan) Medical Services (BMS) since 2003 to develop irrigation systems in the Kunar River basin. The dry farmlands were once again abandoned for green fields. 650 000 beneficiaries.

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Addressing the audience at the project signing ceremony held today at ICON Complex, HE Takashi Okada, Ambassador of Japan to Afghanistan, said, „The drastic transformation of the Greenfield Project has not only provided food, water and livelihood, but also hope for the people. This success is a testament to the hard work and resilience of the Afghan people. Japan will work with FAO on Dr. Nakamura’s legacy project, which will help local communities manage precious water resources and promote sustainable agriculture. Help them rebuild their livelihoods and stand on their own two feet again.”

„FAO appreciates the Government of Japan’s continued and timely support in supporting agriculture, irrigation, improving food security and improving the livelihoods of local communities in many parts of Afghanistan,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Afghanistan. “Water is life. Water diet. Access to irrigation is critical throughout Afghanistan, especially for poor food-insecure rural households. As the impacts of climate change unfold in rural areas, Japan’s generous assistance will significantly increase agricultural productivity of the most vulnerable, marginal and food-insecure farmers, strengthen both food security and livelihoods, and help protect fragile land and groundwater resources. Also, empowering local communities to address water management challenges not only improves social cohesion, but also strengthens community ownership and sustainability of project outcomes,” he added.

Improving irrigation infrastructure to improve food security

The project will establish and develop national capacity in managing and utilizing irrigation systems using the PMS system. Through the PMS approach, the project will promote informed community-based sustainable practices to improve traditional irrigation infrastructure, ensuring reliable water supply to downstream communities who depend on irrigation for their livelihoods. The project will focus on establishment of functional irrigation facilities, intakes, check gates, cross drainage structures, culverts, dividers, sapper paths, sediment pond structures, regulating gates and restoration of secondary/tertiary canals as per 'BMS method’. Irrigation Program Guidelines’.

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As an integral part of the project, watershed management and rainwater harvesting activities will focus on flood management and mitigating rapid stormwater runoff in catchment areas. These efforts include planting of adaptive vegetation, construction of water ponds, dams and other measures for effective rainwater harvesting. Interventions will be determined in consultation with community representatives to improve canal carrying capacity.

PMS experts will train more than 100 local technical experts in PMS methodology. Also, 110 water users from the community will receive operations and maintenance training, enabling them to effectively manage irrigation systems and ensure long-term results and impacts.

In Afghanistan, FAO is strengthening efforts to improve resilience and protect and restore agricultural livelihoods and local ecosystems in all 34 provinces of the country. These efforts include various aspects such as improving the production of nutritious food, increasing cash income and preserving the important agricultural sector growth achieved in recent decades through the revitalization of rural markets and the economy.


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