The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Afghanistan today signed two grant agreements for a total of $76 million grant including a $50 million grant equivalent of co-financing from the European Union (EU) to enhance crop diversification and food security by improving irrigated agriculture in the Panj-Amu River Basin.
“The project will improve water availability for irrigated agriculture through better water distribution and management,” said Tom Panella, ADB Country Director in Afghanistan. “It will improve income for around 55,000 farming households through increased cropping intensities, higher crop yields, and crop diversification.”
”The project is also expected to generate approximately 9,000 full-time jobs for local residents over the project life of 20 years,” added Mr. Panella.
Agriculture is a major engine of growth for Afghanistan. The sector is the main source of livelihood, employing over 50% of the national workforce and contributing 24% to the country’s gross domestic product during 2010-2015. However, Afghan agriculture has been suffering from low productivity, with crop yields below the world average and limited crop diversification due to inefficient water resource management and inadequate irrigation infrastructure. It is also highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change like more frequent floods and droughts.
“We are grateful for the continued support and contributions of ADB and EU for the development of infrastructure in Afghanistan,” said Eklil Hakimi, Afghan Minister of Finance. “Agriculture is one of the government’s priority sectors and a foundation for improved livelihoods and economic growth. We are very appreciative to the focus of ADB and the EU to the sector’s development.”
Afghanistan relies on wheat imports to meet its domestic demand. Food insecurity is prevalent throughout the country. This includes some areas of Panj–Amu River Basin, located in the northeast of the country encompassing the provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar, and Bamyan.
"This additional contribution reinforces the long-standing commitment of the European Union to improve sustainable water management in the Panj-Amu river basins areas", declared the Deputy Head of Cooperation, Gonzalo Serrano, Deputy Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Afghanistan. "It also witnesses the continuous effort of the EU in working side by side with key international donors like the Asian Development Bank and close governmental partners like the Afghan Ministry of Finance"
The project will rehabilitate and upgrade irrigation infrastructure, including main, secondary and tertiary canals, as well as watershed management to protect irrigation schemes from floods and improve water distribution to downstream users, particularly in dry seasons. It will address key climate change adaptation needs under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Capacity building support will be provided for water users/irrigation associations and relevant government agencies to operate and maintain irrigation infrastructure, and ensure effective water allocation for downstream users. The project will also improve farmers’ knowledge and skills in farm management through hands-on training using demonstration plots and community-based natural resource management publications.
Finally, the project will help Afghan members of the Afghanistan–Tajikistan trans-boundary technical working group to set up and operate the joint Panj River Basin Commission, responsible for joint hydrological monitoring of the river.