Afghanistan: Repair of irrigation canal benefits thousands of farmers
18-07-2002 News Release 02/29
The repair of a 13-kilometre-long irrigation canal in Bamyan — an ICRC "cash for work" project — was completed at the end of June. The canal irrigates 1,200 hectares of land, meeting the needs of between 1,000 and 3,000 farmers.
It will be essential to the next harvest of potatoes and wheat in the region, which has been severely affected by the conflict.
The Bamyan valley was once cultivated and fertile, but in recent years the fighting has forced people to flee the region and made farmland inaccessible.
Heavy rains in March caused landslides that seriously damaged the Tiboti-Surkhdar canal, which the valley relies upon for irrigation. Tonnes of mud and gravel needed to be removed so that water could again flow normally. The local population had been unable to organize the repairs on their own because of ethnic tensions.
The ICRC started discussions in April with representatives of the two main ethnic groups. An agreement was reached under which they would allow the work to be carried out by both Hazara and Tajik labourers (most of whom are landless and poor), in addition to providing tools, beams and sandbags. The ICRC paid the 100 labourers for 22 days'work.
" The project was completed just in time to save the August harvest. And it will be essential to ensuring that local farmers achieve self-sufficiency. Until now they have been dependent on ICRC food distributions, which took place every three months " , said Christophe Driesse, an ICRC delegate in Bamyan.
Now that water is again flowing through the canal, many displaced farmers are returning to the area. Not only is the irrigation system functioning, but it has been shown that members of different groups can work together for the common good.