TAKHAR -- The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has launched a 700-metre-long irrigation canal gabion reinforcement project in Takhar province that is employing almost 200 local residents and will irrigate thousands of hectares of land once completed.
Floods have destroyed the irrigation canal, which means water has not been able to reach agricultural lands on time, according to Sibghatullah Qani, director of the Taloqan Water Basin.
The FAO launched the project, which is expected to cost $400,000, to remedy those problems, he told Salaam Times on February 20.
Construction work began January 30 and is expected to be completed by June, he said.
"The project covers gabion fortification of a 700-metre-long irrigation canal in the Joy-e-Sheikh area in Taloqan, the provincial capital, which gets damaged by floods every year," he said.
"With the completion of this project, about 460 hectares of land will be irrigated while hundreds of hectares of land will be protected from the danger of floods," he said.
"In addition to the benefit of irrigation water reaching farmers, jobs were created for 200 unemployed people who are paid in return for their work," Qani said.
One of the priorities is to address water shortages, said Taqi Hamidi, regional director of the FAO in Takhar province.
"The objectives of the project are to create jobs ... and it has long-term benefits including restoration of hundreds of hectares of destroyed agricultural lands," he said.
The irrigation canal in the Joy-e-Sheikh area was being destroyed by floods every year, but "now it will be fortified using gabions, thanks to the project," he said.
Reducing flood risks
Farmers in the area could harvest their lands only one season each year because the canal was destroyed, said Rohullah Faqirzada, 43, a farmer in Taloqan.
"The Joy-e-Sheikh canal lies near the Taloqan river. Every time there is a flood, it destroys our canal," he said.
"Unfortunately, thousands of hectares of farmers' land did not have irrigation water, but now we are glad that work on the fortification of our canal has started and that we will have a canal and irrigation water in four months," he said.
"Another advantage of the project is that it prevents the further destruction of agricultural lands,"' he said. "Since the canal was destroyed and water could not be managed properly, floods would damage agricultural lands."
"I am very happy that I am working on the project and building [our] canal with my own hands," said Sakhi Mohammad, 54, another farmer from Taloqan.
"Like me, most of the farmers are working on the project, which helps ensure the quality of the project and allows them to earn a halal living," he said.
"The project is very valuable to us because we earn money by working on the project and our agricultural lands will be protected from floods and seasonal rising water levels," he added.
Critical international aid
Poverty and unemployment have increased in the country, leaving most Afghans dependent on international aid, said Naseer Ahmad Safi, a tribal elder in Taloqan.
"UN-supported projects like this one have saved many households from poverty," he said. "Such projects are critical in the current situation as poverty and economic problems are at their peak."
"In addition to such projects, some aid agencies have been providing assistance to thousands of impoverished families in the districts and provincial capital of Takhar," he said. "Such assistance makes [residents] hopeful about their lives and the future."
"If such assistance had not been provided in the current situation, many families would have faced the risk of famine and hunger since poverty has significantly increased," Safi said.