Afghanistan is the most water insecure country in the world and the people of Ghor province are among the most affected in Afghanistan. Insufficient water for agricultural production severely limits licit livelihood options for farmers and livestock keepers in Ghor province. As a result, a resilient crop like poppy, which provides relatively high returns from small plots of land, is an attractive option for water insecure households.
CRS initiated a two-year Village Based Watershed Restoration Program for western Ghor Province in early 2007. The objectives of this program were to improve natural resource management in strategic watershed areas in Ghor as part of CRS biodiversity objectives for Afghanistan. Short one-page snapshots of this program are available on the Ag/Environment Sharepoint site, here.
USAID has now funded a three-year $6 million expansion of this program, from July 2008 to June 2011. In scope, the expanded program adds domestic water supply, irrigation, and agricultural development objectives to the original watershed restoration program. The program provides a model for Integrated Water Resource Management in Afghanistan and recognizes that characteristics of water insecurity and its underlying causes are complex: climate, physical landscape, poverty, population pressure, and poor infrastructure contribute to the problem. It is explicitly designed to create sustainable agriculture alternatives to opium production in Ghor Province.
The project aims to increase access to alternative, licit livelihoods for 53,000 people within five districts of Ghor Province, by improving access to water for agricultural and domestic purposes. There is sufficient precipitation in Ghor to meet the needs of the population. Most water, however, is lost to run-off due to the limited amount of infrastructure for water harvesting, storage and management, as well as the severe denuding of the land. To address these issues, this program is assisting thirty vulnerable communities to:
- undertake the construction of irrigation infrastructure,
- improve soil and water conservation within their watersheds, and
- develop safe water supplies for productive and domestic use.