An integrated watershed management system prevents soil erosion and floods
22 MARCH 2012 | BALKH, AFGHANISTAN
The residents of Khulm and Deh Dahdi districts are working on projects that will protect them from floods by building terraces and check dams and planting pistachio trees to prevent soil erosion and generate income.
On a sunny day in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh Province, the rolling green-and-brown hills in Khulm District lend the landscape an almost fairytale kind of beauty. On a rainy day, those same hills send sheets of water and mud rushing down into the villages below.
Gul Mohammed represents community interests as the head of the local forest management committee. He says that the area has been flooded 10 times in recent years. "This was a flood passageway in the past. Whenever we had rains, we had flooding."
That was the past. To prevent flooding in the future, the villages in Khulm and neighboring Deh Dahdi district joined together in April 2011 to create an integrated watershed management system. The system tackles the water problem in multiple ways. Terraces and check dams slow the force of water, prevent run-off, and conserve soil. Reservoirs harvest rainwater. Pistachio trees increase water infiltration, prevent soil erosion, and provide livelihood opportunities.
More than 5,800 skilled and unskilled workers are involved in building the infrastructure for the system, which will ultimately benefit some 50,000 people in 25 villages. To generate future livelihood opportunities for the two districts, the communities are also planting more than 17,000 pistachio trees – expected to generate about $20,000 a year in income – as well as pine trees to create a public park. Women will be able to participate in this next phase of the project, which involves nurturing the trees and preparing replacement saplings for the forestation.
The project is part of WFP’s Food-for-Assets initiative, funded by USAID, a mechanism that uses food as a means to support people’s initiatives to improve livelihoods. WFP implements more than 100 of these projects in food insecure areas of Afghanistan, creating assets such as dams, irrigation systems, and road networks that link villages to larger markets.
It will take another five years for the pistachio trees to begin to bear fruit, but the residents are already satisfied. "Part of the community will be safe from floods," says Gul.
Last updated: January 12, 2015