Attaullah, 60, a father and elder of his community in Safar Khan village in Herat Province. © UNDP Afghanistan / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018


All life on Earth depends on water. For those who grow crops to live, however, it is especially important.  After decades of war, Afghanistan’s economy, and the lives of many of its people depend on agriculture. In the countryside, agriculture, irrigation, and production support the basis of rural life.

Imagine, then, that you are a farmer, and you have seen your land, previously fertile, become dry and arid. As the crops fail, and the ground becomes dusty and hard, the local people start to despair, and then they leave, one by one, so that the very future of the community is threatened.

This was the situation for Attaullah, 60, a father and elder of his community in Safar Khan village in Herat Province.

“Back then, there was no canal or water management system. Every year, flooding would destroy our lands, and the land would just dry up when the water left.”

This canal is built by the UNDP CCAP in Safar Khan village of Herat province, it keeps flooding under control, and save water. © UNDP / S. Omer Sadaat

Without water, there is no life. When Attaullah’s land dried up for lack of water, the locals began to leave the area. Attaullah’s 25-year-old son, Safiuallah, was one of these. He left for Iran, across the border, to look for work. The outlook was grim.

Today, however, the situation has improved remarkably.

“Now, we have about 100 hectares of land,” says Attaullah cheerfully. “We grow wheat, and various kinds of vegetables.”

The reason for this remarkable turnaround?  Four hydro-management canals built by the Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP) of UNDP, implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture. The canals keep flooding under control, and save water.

“We used to collect about 224 tons wheat each year, but the harvest has doubled since the canal was built.” Said Attaullah.

The construction of the canals completely changed the economic situation of the 400 beneficiary families in Safar Khan and four other nearby villages, dramatically increased their income, and paved the way for the people to get back to farming.

“Our main income is from selling agricultural produce, like vegetables, beans and cotton,” says Attaullah: “our livelihoods depend on this produce.”

Attaullah irrigates agricultural lands in Safar Khan village. © UNDP Afghanistan / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018
Attaullah irrigates agricultural lands in Safar Khan village. © UNDP / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018
Shahpoor, 47, member of community in Safar Khan village in Herat province. © UNDP / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018

After years in Iran, Safiullah returned to Safar Khan village and started working with his father again.  Attaullah and his family has also started a small livestock farm, which helps his family produce dairy products to be sold at market

“I now have 20 goats, we call them ‘American goats’, and a few cows,” he says. “The villagers sell around 240 litres of milk every day from our own farms.” Attaullah is grateful to UNDP because the CCAP project has improved lives in the community. Water, the gift of life, has returned to Safar Khan.

UNDP’s Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP), is funded by the Global Environment Facility Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). It started in 2014 and will run through to 2019. Together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL), UNDP implemented more than 100 livelihoods projects, including building greenhouses and training farmers on how to process and store food, as well as to protect 800 hectares of land from flooding. The project improved irrigation for 500 hectares of agricultural land and helped communities repair 30 canals.

Furthermore, UNDP environment projects are helping people adapt and finding jobs in the face of climate change, bringing clean power to rural areas, preparing for natural disasters, establishing and protecting national parks, and conserving biodiversity for future generations.

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