The World Bank created the Small Scale Irrigation Schemes (SSIS) in 2008, with the hope of increasing the availability of groundwater to Pakistani farmers in the province of Balochistan. With the help of the World Bank, the Government of Balochistan was able to improve and restore 15 groundwater aquifers and train Pakistani farmers to sustainably manage their farms.
Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan, containing 44 percent of the country’s total landmass with a population of 9 million people. Balochistan experiences a scarce amount of rainfall, ranging from 50 millimeters in the southwest to about 400 millimeters in the northeast of the province.
Although the arid climate is not conducive to farming, The World Bank reports, “agriculture and livestock remain the major sources of income for the majority of the highly dispersed population.”
Farmers get most of their irrigation and drinking water from underground galleries called Karezes, which tap groundwater from aquifers. The water is transported through gently sloping tunnels that are many kilometers in length. This method is environmentally safe and powered by gravity.
However, the channels carrying the water in the Karezes were made mostly of earth. The Irrigation Department of the Government of Balochistan reported that, “conveyance losses within these systems are high, estimated to be 50 percent or greater.”
Through the SSIS, the Government of Balochistan was able to not only line the irrigation channels, but also provide flood projection and associated structures such as small storage tanks and flow division.
This initiative is a U.S. $25 million project funded 100 percent by the World Bank. It has three main components to be implemented over five years: restoration of water storage, development of 15 small-scale irrigation schemes and institutional strengthening and capacity building.
According to The World Bank, since the project began, productivity in the targeted areas has increased by 40 percent and crop intensity and crop yields by 25 percent.
This project ends in December of this year, but its successes will be long-lasting. The Pakistani farmers have been trained in the cleaning and maintenance work of the irrigation systems, so they can continue the project work after the SSIS is complete.
A farmer in Balochistan reflects on the success of the SSIS, boasting, “Now I’m growing tomatoes, onions, peas and wheat along with apples and apricots. I can now produce crops throughout the year, which was unthinkable before.”
— Grace Flaherty