United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Good practices in irrigation development and livelihood support geared towards attaining SDG (Project GCP/AFG/097/JPN-a case of western Afghanistan)

United Nations / Multilateral body

    The project area lies in Kushk Rabat Sangi district, Herat province, Afghanistan. The majority of the people living in the project area are poor and depend solely on agriculture for their livelihood. The sustainable development of water resources, as well as the capacity building of the marginalized communities, coupled with the provision of new opportunities for them to enhance their livelihoods have been identified as essential. These objectives were expected to be achieved through the implementation of three outputs: 1. Watershed management (WSM); 2. Water management improvements; 3. Community capacity development. The project is ongoing and working towards achieving the desired outputs.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The project has adopted good practices in the preparation and implementation of watershed management (WSM), in consultation with the communities corresponding to two watersheds covering an area of 6 500 ha. The work plans have identified various options like vegetation plantation, improvement of rangeland, terrace farming, gully control measures (check dams) and small-scale water harvesting structures. These interventions will help control soil erosion and protect agricultural land. In terms of water management improvement, the project will rehabilitate 14 irrigation schemes of which five have already been completed. Farmers will be able to cultivate two to three crops per year as a result of the improved water delivery performance. The major crops cultivated in the project area are wheat, barley, melon or black cumin. The project will also install nine drip irrigation schemes, out of which five have been completed. Farmers will cultivate cash crops such as pistachio or almonds with optimal water utilization. These new improvements in irrigation schemes are expected to boost farm income significantly. The project will also provide support to four livelihood areas, namely saffron farming, poultry, goat farming and beekeeping. A total of 311 women out of a total of 600 people will benefit from the distribution of agricultural inputs, provision of training, and product processing for value addition to marketing. The project has established a sound M&E system, which has been integrated with the one of MAIL to monitor longer term impacts beyond the project period. The project is generously funded by the Government of Japan with the total budget of USD 5 million.


    The physical works related to watershed management covering an area of 6 500 ha in both watersheds have been completed. This has resulted in the stabilization of slopes and erosion control. Five new irrigation schemes covering about 1 000 ha (against the initial target of 1 400 ha) have been completed. Water delivery performance has been improved, thus resulting in an increase in production and productivity, as well as in cropping intensity. The exact figures of these parameters will be obtained after the forthcoming cropping season. Similarly, all nine most viable drip irrigation schemes identified have been awarded and five out of them have been completed. Four-hundred households have been trained in the best agricultural practices for saffron cultivation, goat farming and beekeeping. These families have also received livelihood inputs.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The cost/hectare for WSM has decreased by 53%, from USD53/hectare to USD25/hectare. In turn, the cost/hectare in irrigation development for both types of irrigation schemes combined has also decreased by 16%, from USD 1 152/hectare to USD 968/hectare. Since the cost per beneficiary has also decreased, the number of beneficiaries for livelihood support will be increased by 25%. The decrease in unit cost across all outputs is triggering an improved return on investment compared to the original plan. COVID-19 and the security situation are the main factors causing delay in the project implementation and constraining the regular field movement.

    Sustainability and replicability

    Activities related to irrigation management (Operation & Maintenance, train farmers, field demos) are being carried out immediately after the completion of the physical activities of watershed management and irrigation schemes. Also, watershed management groups and irrigation associations are established and registered across all schemes. Regular monitoring and continuous support until the marketing of the products will be performed. This will ensure the sustainability of all outputs and, in turn, the overall sustainability of the project. Based on its successful implementation which incorporates irrigation scheme development, watershed management and livelihood support, this type of project should be replicated in other places of Afghanistan. WSM implementation in the rugged terrain, irrigation rehabilitation where the water source is scarce and livelihood activities in the areas where the majority of the farmers are marginal can also be considered highly replicable in other areas.

    COVID-19 Impact

    COVID-19 affected the project area in the form of huge deficit of the labor and lack of construction materials. Consequently, the project’s progress was adversely affected and several trainings could not be conducted. The project made all possible efforts to sustain the progress related to construction works, which could continue with construction workers strictly adhering to all the precautionary measures. Virtual communications were carried out among project staff on a regular basis, and some trainings with a small number of participants could be conducted by putting in place all preventive measures to spread the virus. Despite all the adversities and although not having met all expectations, both resource and implementing partners and beneficiaries are satisfied with the project.

    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 September 2018 (start date)
    31 August 2021 (date of completion)
    Other beneficiaries

    It is expected that a total of 58 000 people from the targeted area will benefit from the project; 38 700 people will benefit directly, while 19 300 people will benefit indirectly. The Government of Japan is the resource partner of this project. MAIL, together with community-based organizations such as watershed management groups, irrigation associations and livelihood groups are the implementing partners.

    More information
    Contact Information

    Sanju, Chief Technical Advisor/ International Irrigation Engineer