Irrigation Systems in AfghanistanIrrigation has been an integral component of agriculture since the Mesopotamian era with farmers around the world relying on irrigation methods to water vegetation. For economies that depend on agriculture to foster growth, having sufficient irrigation systems is very important. Accordingly, the improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan have boosted the economic standing of Afghan citizens.

Advancements in Bamyan Province

A decade ago, the Bamyan Province located in Central Afghanistan determined a need for irrigation upgrades after canals flooded villages and crops. To combat this problem, the Irrigation Restoration Development Project (IRDP) oversaw the renovations of canals in two Bamyan Province communities in 2009. Some of the rehabilitations included “lining the Balkhi canal bed and sides with concrete, installing metal gate valves at weak points prone to flooding” and building small footbridges at strategic points of the canal. According to IRDP Bamyan provincial manager, Amin Zaki, improving water management will “help rural farmers improve their livelihoods and raise their standard of living as a result.” Given that 90% of Bamyan’s citizens rely on agriculture, the benefits of the advancements rippled through the communities. The advancements help create economic and living improvements for “more than 600 households in the four villages —Foladi, Nawrozi, Qhazan and Sia Khar Bloq—served by [the] Balkhi canal.”

Dokani village farmers close to the Balkhi canal were even able to switch their dominant crops because of the irrigation upgrades. Instead of growing baghali beans, the farmers currently grow potatoes and wheat, which are higher-earning crops. Overall, more than 425,000 households profited from the IRDP renovations, and in future years, the organization is looking to tackle two additional water management projects in Bamyan.

Crop Improvements in Kabul Province

The Kabul Province also possessed poor irrigation systems, which caused disputes over water distribution. To make improvements, in 2017, the On-Farm Water Management Project renovated the 8-kilometer long Pazhak canal and the 3.5-kilometer long Qara Qhochi canal. The projects benefit hundreds of households by increasing the speed at which water reaches the farms, improving the maintenance process of the canals and enhancing crop diversity. Thus, farmers are using the benefits to farm more land and grow crops they previously did not have enough water to provide support. As this demonstrates, improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan are extremely important.

Recent Turmoil

After the United States withdrew troops from Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban significantly expanded its power. According to CNN, the Taliban now controls “17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, all of which have been captured” in one week as of August 13, 2021. Some of the ramifications of the Taliban’s growing control include the removal of girls from school, forced marriages of women to Taliban fighters and horrific bloodshed in battle areas. Despite the economic progress made through improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s recent seizure of provincial capitals threatens the advancements.

Looking Forward

As food and fuel prices increase following the Taliban’s blockage of import routes and hundreds of families face displacement from their homes, Afghanistan’s economic and governmental stability is in question. While the past decade has demonstrated the positive impact a rehabilitation project can have on the Afghan people, continued aid from global leaders could help ensure that the country’s progress does not dissipate in the coming months.

– Madeline Murphy
Photo: Flickr