Farmers in Bala Murghab Expand Irrigable Land, Leave Flood Woes Behind

April 29, 2021

The Wash structure constructed by CBARD with control gates for regulating water supply. © UNDP Afghanistan / CBARD / 2021

The construction of two irrigation structures in Kapa Baba and Sarkhalang villages of Bala Murghab in Badghis province, has transformed more than 277 hectares of land that was mainly left barren due to water wastage and challenges of water distribution among farmers.

Bala Murghab is one of the important districts in Badghis. There are 32 villages in the province and it has a population of over 40,000. The Bala Murghab River, running through the district, is a primary source of irrigation water for most of the villages. However, the plateaued and uneven terrain consists of areas at higher elevation where irrigation is challenging.

Kapa Baba is one such village where villagers struggled with water shortages and a poorly assembled water supply mechanism for years.  This makeshift WASH structure consisted of a barrier erected to divert some of the river water for irrigating higher agricultural lands. However, the waterway was  on a flood route. Heavy rains and flooding would sweep the barrieraway each spring, forcing the villagers to repeat the previous year’s efforts all over again. Hundreds of villagers would come together to fill sandbags, gather stones, logs and tree branches to rebuild the barrier. It was a constant struggle that became a physical, mental and economic burden on the villagers.

The UNDP’s Community Based Agriculture and Rural Development (CBARD) project constructed a new WASH structure after evaluating the area. This new structure prevents destruction and erosion by floods and has also expanded the area of irrigable land to over 148 hectares. The structure was constructed by approximately 40 laborers and took nearly seven months to complete.

Mohammad Nadir, a farmer from the village, stated, “before the structure was built, we did not have enough water to irrigate the higher lands. Hundreds of people would gather to build a barrier for guiding the water to the higher level. But, that would not last long.”

“With floods destroying the barrier,  everyone would quarrell over the limited water supply”.

In the Sarkhalang village within the same district, an irrigation canal had been previously built by a government agency. Over time, it became prone to erosion and water waste. The villagers would place reinforcements at spots along the canal banks  that were vulnerable, but  required a more viable solution. After CBARD surveyed the area, it decided to build protection walls for the canal to serve its purpose sustainably.  

Ghareeb Dost is a farmer who cultivated opium poppy on his 0.2 ha land but, due to water shortages, could harvest the crop only once a year. The yield and resultant income was insufficient to make ends meet. The water supply is now greatly improved. He is also the beneficiary of a grape orchard from CBARD. Until the orchard bears fruit, he cultivates different vegetables as inter-crops between the trees. He harvests his land twice a year.

With the construction of the WASH structure and protection walls for the canal, more than 277 hectares of land are now irrigable. There is no fear of water shortage or floods hindering the water supply. Farmers in these villages typically cultivate wheat, corn, chickpea, cotton, beetroot, and other vegetables. Many of them are interested in planting fruit orchards and earning even greater profits. More than 450 families benefit directly from the two irrigation structures.

The project has planted more than 1,121 hectares of fruit orchards for more than 4,100 beneficiaries in the previously mentioned provinces. The orchards produce varieties of fruits such as apples, pomegranates, grapes, sweet oranges, lemons, peaches, plums, pears, walnuts and persimmons.

The CBARD project constructs cool storage facilities for fruits and raisin houses for grape farmers. It also constructs and rebuilds irrigation and water-management structures such as irrigation canals, protection walls, water dividers, siphons, and water intakes. These structures have prevented the loss of vital agricultural land to floods and water wastage. They have transformed hundreds of hectares of land in target districts that were otherwise left barren due to inefficient water distribution systems and insufficient water supplies for irrigation.

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