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Water Reforms and Agriculture Productivity Activities in Disarray in Afghanistan

in Afghan Business

Water Reforms and Agriculture Productivity Activities in  Disarray in Afghanistan

The result of a recent study, conducted by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) on Water Reforms and Agricultural Productivity in Afghanistan, reveals widespread disarray in the work of relevant ministries.

According to the study, all aspects of the reforms including policy choices and decision-making as well as project and program design, implementation and data sharing suffer from lack of coordination. The main reasons for lack of coordination at the ministerial level is a struggle for more power in the water sector, competition for donors and funds and the politics of budget utilization and expenditure.

Afghanistan enacted Water Law in 2009 based on the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) principles. Its intention was to make agriculture a more dynamic driver of the national economy. Though the sector has huge potential for contributing to sustainable development, its dynamism is heavily dependent on the functionality and efficiency of irrigation, which accounts for 95 percent of total water consumption.

The reforms introduced by the Water Law instigated new institutional frameworks and functional mechanisms at central, river and sub-river basin levels in accordance with the IWRM principles. The reforms are focused on restructuring water management based on river and sub-river basins.

Providing an in-depth understanding about the impacts of water reforms on agricultural productivity in Afghanistan was one of the main purposes of the study. The study took place in Harirod, Murghab, Kabul, Northern and Panj-Amu River Basins. In-depth interviews (IDI) were also conducted with the representatives of relevant line ministries and national institutions.

The study found out that cooperation among newly established grassroots organizations, including Irrigation Associations (IAs), Water User Associations (WUAs), River Basin Agencies (RBAs) and others, was much stronger at the horizontal levels than the vertical. Strong cooperation and contact existed between Irrigation Associations (IAs) and Water User Associations (WUAs), while vertical cooperation between IAs, WUAs, River Basin Agency (RBAs) and other higher organizations was weak. The horizontal cooperation was both inter- and cross-organizational. The implemented agenda was effective in terms of neutralizing inter- and intra-community water-based conflicts between the water users. IAs and WUAs were highly effective platforms for farmers and water users to resolve their conflicts. Accessibility of conflict resolution platforms and instruments at grassroots levels, monitoring and supervision roles of the IAs and having decision enforcement mechanisms were the three main reasons behind the effectiveness of the reforms agenda with regard to conflict resolution.

The implemented reforms improved community-level agricultural productivity and were highly appreciated by the water users, including farmers. The improved agricultural productivity was facilitated either by the improved infrastructure, including lining the canals and installing gated offtakes, or by the resolution or prevention of conflicts. Improved infrastructure enhanced the flow of irrigation water in the canals by reducing the waste of water, minimizing water stealing and cultivating efficient water sharing. However, increased agricultural productivity did not augment farmers’ income due to lack of market access.

The study recommends the creation of a technical, non-affiliated and empowered working group at the central level tasked with implementation of the agenda. The implementation should be revoked from the portfolio of the line ministries, which will neutralize their struggle for power and authority.

The water sector portfolio of line ministries should be restructured from political administrative units to natural boundaries of the given river. There is a need for a systematic assessment of the impacts of the implemented reforms at national, sub-national and community levels within relevant national institutions.

This study also recommends that no amendments should be brought to the reforms agenda before its full implementation. Another recommendation of the study is the creation of a mechanism between water sector institutions and the security sector of the country. This is not securitization of the agriculture and water sectors; rather, it balances the nexus between food, water, environment, individual and community securities.

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