December 21, 2015
On December 19, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a grant agreement (G/A) with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to provide grant aid of up to 1.487 billion yen for assistance for the Project for Enhancing Agriculture Production through Irrigation System Improvement and Strengthening Institutional Capacity.
The project will repair and expand the irrigation facilities and spread high-quality potato varieties in six provinces of Afghanistan, and improve the capacity of officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), thereby contributing to the sustainable and independent development of the country through agriculture and rural development.
The farming population accounts for approximately 80 percent of the total population of Afghanistan, and more than half of all the households in the country are engaged in agriculture. Agriculture is a key economic industry composing approximately 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and accounting for approximately 80 percent of lawful exports. As the country has an arid to semi-arid climate, only about 12 percent of the land is arable, and therefore irrigation facilities are essential to expand the amount of cultivated land and raise productivity. However, due to the disorder resulting from civil war that lasted for more than two decades, the basic agricultural infrastructure, including the irrigation facilities, has been destroyed, and currently the amount of irrigated land is merely 2.09 million hectares out of 9.61 million hectares of arable land. Given these circumstances, improving the irrigation infrastructure and training engineers who can design, implement, maintain and operate irrigation equipment are priorities.
After wheat, rice is the second most important grain in Afghanistan with approximately 460,000 tons produced annually, but the supply does not meet the domestic demand, and the country must therefore import 160,000 tons per year from neighboring countries, draining foreign currency reserves. Furthermore, the demand for rice is expected to increase due to the rising population. Yet, an administrative support system for rice farmers and a system for engineering development and extension to expand the rice production lagbehind. In addition, although the potato is the country’s third most important staple food, high-quality varieties of potato seeds are not available in the market, productivity is low compared to neighboring countries, and the yield per hectare is merely 13.6 tons in Afghanistan compared to 21.6 and 29.2 tons for Pakistan and Iran, respectively. According to FAO estimates, the introduction of high-quality potato varieties could raise the unit yield by 20 to 40 percent, a significant potential to increase productivity.
JICA Afghanistan Office Chief Representative Eiichiro Cho delivers a speech at the signing ceremony.
To meet these challenges, this project will improve irrigation facilities in major rice production regions, support the extension of an irrigation model, and select and introduce high-quality potato varieties suitable for the high altitudes ideal for potato production, aiming at expanding the amount of land producing rice and improving the productivity of rice and potatoes in the target areas. The irrigation model that will be supported will improve irrigation facilities by controlling the force with which water flows into irrigation channels, an approach conceived of for the Yamada weir in Asakura, a city in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. For this irrigation model, technical assistance has been provided for a joint project between JICA and Peace Japan Medical Service, a non-governmental organization in Afghanistan that has received support from the Japanese non-governmental organization Peshawar-kai.
FAO, the partner in this project, has a track record of successfully implementing projects in volatile areas. By combining the support of JICA that has been focused on capacity development of local human resource and the support of FAO which has unique expertise in working in volatile areas and in building local networks, this partnership is expected to create a synergistic effect in the outcome.
This project will improve existing irrigation facilities which cover 7,000 hectares, and newly introduce modernized irrigation facilities for 2,000 hectares, which is expected to improve the agricultural productivity of approximately 9,000 farming households in the target areas. The increase in unit yield of rice in the target areas through improved facilities, as well as the training and research guidance for MAIL officials, will strengthen the organizational capacity to introduce and extend high-quality potatoes, thereby improving potato productivity, with the aim of improving food security. In addition to this project, JICA has been conducting technical cooperation to support rice-based agriculture development, and improve the capacity of officials of the MAIL Irrigation Directorate and the officials at the corresponding local districts, providing comprehensive assistance toward improving agricultural productivity in Afghanistan.