DUSHANBE (TCA) — The Government of Tajikistan and the World Bank on January 16 signed a US$16.5 million grant agreement for the Zarafshon Irrigation Rehabilitation and Management Improvement Project aimed at rehabilitating and improving irrigation management in Tajikistan. The project, financed by a Trust Fund of the European Union (EU), will allow farmers in the Zarafshon river basin of northern Tajikistan to increase their crops and improve their livelihoods, the World Bank said.
Hidajet Biščević, Head of the EU Delegation to Tajikistan, stated: “The project will increase food availability for rural communities in the Zarafshon Valley and, as such, will contribute to the overarching objective of improving food security. The EU is committed to rural development in Tajikistan – and, in particular, in the Zarafshon Valley, with our long-term, integrated approach to supporting local rural economy.”
Of the total area of potentially irrigable land in the Zarafshon river basin, approximately 40 percent is currently used for low-yielding, rain-fed barley, wheat, and oilseed production. The ability of farmers to increase crop production or shift to higher-value crops is hindered by inefficient irrigation. Deferred maintenance of primary canals and pump stations, sand sedimentation of irrigation infrastructure, unreliable electricity supply, and outdated pumping equipment are some of the reasons for poor irrigation and water losses in Tajikistan.
The Zarafshon Irrigation Rehabilitation and Management Improvement Project will strengthen the infrastructure needed for effective irrigation and water resource management. The project will fund rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, key flood protection works, and feasibility studies for improvement and modernization of irrigation schemes. In addition, project activities will provide institutional and implementation support for highest-priority irrigation reforms, strengthen the institutional capacity of the Agency on Land Reclamation and Irrigation to respond to floods and mudflows, and support new and existing Water User Associations.
“The focus on rural development and the creation of rural economies, through infrastructure and institutional reforms, will help to provide people with improved economic opportunities and bring additional income to the country’s poorest regions,” said Jan-Peter Olters, World Bank Country Manager in Tajikistan. “This project builds on many years of a comprehensive reform program, initiated by the Government of Tajikistan, to create an efficient and sustainable water resource management system and provide better irrigation services to the farmers of the country.”
The project is a part of the broader EU-financed Rural Development Program, which includes policy and institutional support to the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan and a community support component to be implemented in the same river basin.