SMWA - Social Management of Water in Afghanistan (Kunduz River Basin Programme)


Irrigation, local governance institutions, participatory resource management, water and land use, Afghanistan




The SMWA project is part of the larger Kunduz River Basin Programme (KRBP) and comprises a research component undertaken by ZEF and an implementation oriented, community mobilizing component carried out by our cooperation partner Deutsche Welthungerhilfe, DWHH (German Agro Action, GAA). It has to be seen against the background of the combined efforts of the UNO, the EU, the new Afghan government and many international donors to reestablish and to strengthen the governance institutions and to reconstruct the infrastructure after more than twenty years of war and political unrest in Afghanistan. During that period the rural population in the Northern Afghan Provinces has been severely affected by fighting, massive migration and a disruption of its former social organisation. As a consequence many local communities can no longer maintain their major water resources and irrigation canals, which previously were managed by a sophisticated system of land-water-use and local repair mechanisms. This SWMA project aims at building sustainable social and technical water management capacities in the Kunduz River Basin (KRB) of North Afghanistan. Local communities in rural areas are strengthened in (re-) building their capacity to effectively manage their water resources while integrating all sections of the population in the process.

The target group consists of approximately 250.000 rural people living in five irrigation areas of Kunduz and Takhar Provinces, who shall benefit as water users from the project. Key issues that threaten the former management system of five selected run- of-the-river surface irrigation schemes include:

  • the decrease of water availability due to drought, deforestation, physical damages and degradation of embankments and canals;
  • a collapse of managing capacity and communication on canal maintenance and labour supply between up-stream and down-stream communities;
  • vested interests of big land owners and local commanders;
  • decreasing support to locally elected water managers;
  • knowledge gaps regarding hydrological conditions, farm water use and social water management;
  • an unregulated increase of water use through the extension of tertiary canals and ditches or water intensive crops.

The project focuses on the erosion of traditional knowledge and social managing skills of local communities on their water resources and distribution mechanisms. Activities comprise a) in-depth study of existing managing systems, b) the involvement of all water user groups in the planning and organisation of priority water management projects, c) an improvement of farm and household water management, and d) the linkages of communities to efficiently manage their water resources in collaboration with neighbouring villages and local administrative institutions.

Main Cooperation Partners

Deutsche Welthungerhilfe DWHH

Duration of the Project

April 2006 - April 2008


Jan Monsees


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