Distributing the scarce water available for irrigation has always been a challenge in the Arghandab River Valley in Kandahar. The Mirabs who are responsible for scheduling the delivery of irrigation water used manual labor, rocks, wood and plastic sheets to divert water from the river to canals, sub-canals and farm ditches.

Mr. Amanullah, a 72-year-old Mirab in Salawaat village, was appointed by farmers to manage the Salawaat Canal. He has faced challenges as the canals were damaged and neglected during three decades of armed conflict. He says, “There is a direct connection between water and conflict. No water – no crops – no income – no food – more conflict!”

In 2017, the Kandahar Food Zone (KFZ) program desilted 14 kilometers of the Salawaat canal and removed 15,000 cubic meters of accumulated soil, debris and vegetation. It also built eight water control structures with twenty control gates. Now the Salawaat Canal irrigates 2,400 hectares on 9,000 farms.

Amanullah shows local farmers how he allocates and schedules water to their farms. He says, “With these control gates, I can divert water based on farmers’ water allocations and deliver it when crops need it most. Winter floods won’t damage the canal. More importantly, the farmers are satisfied with the way I distribute the water.”

Conflicts over water have all but disappeared. “Now every farmer in our village gets his water allocation. There are no conflicts anymore,” he explains. Salawaat farmers are committed to maintaining the new water control structures. “I had two days of training on how to use and maintain the control gates, but all the farmers are concerned with, and share responsibility for, maintaining the canal.”

KFZ is a USAID-funded program in Afghanistan that addresses the drivers of poppy cultivation in target districts of Kandahar Province by rehabilitating irrigation infrastructure, expanding alternative livelihood opportunities, supporting small businesses and helping the Ministry of Counter Narcotics design effective alternative development policies.