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Water Management

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Decades of war, drought, deforestation, and overgrazing have devastated Afghanistan’s natural environment and its capacity to support life – 98% of the trees in Afghanistan have disappeared in the last 30 years.

irrigation_ditch GPFA engages in large-scale watershed rehabilitation projects and employs new irrigation technologies to improve the land and renew the environment of Afghanistan, benefiting over 80,000 individuals.

A watershed is an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. GPFA’s watershed management projects work to improve rainwater infiltration to the soil, prevent erosion of quality topsoil, reduce the risk of flooding, and restore the karez (subsurface irrigation) and canal irrigation (surface irrigation) systems.


Activities include:

  • hillside terracing,
  • construction of check dams,
  • major canal and karez repairs,
  • rip bank armoring, and
  • tree planting on hillsides which reinforces terracing and prevents erosion.

Local community members aid in site location, construction, and planting, and are provided with extensive training to enable better long-term management of water resources.

Clark Binkley, GPFA Advisory Council Member, explains the dire importance of GPFA’s work to better manage Afghanistan’s water supply:

“Watershed rehabilitation synthesizes all the key elements—environmental, economic, and social—of successful rural development.  These projects typically begin by re-vegetating overgrazed and/or deforested hill sides.  The plant’s leaf cover intercepts rainfall, reducing its erosion power.  The plant’s root system holds the soil, further preventing erosion.  The change in vegetation and increased water-holding capacity of the soils alters the hydrograph, so river flows are more even making the streams more useful for irrigation or other domestic uses.  The plants, whether trees, shrubs or grasses, can have valuable economic uses—for locally-available fire wood and construction material—and provide habitat for other plants and animals that may have been absent or rare prior to rehabilitation.”


GPFA staff and farmers construct terraces and dig pits for trees in Qalai Qazi, Sayed Abad. The new system prevents erosion from the hills washing into farmers’ fields and provides a community area for forage and grazing after the establishment of the forested area. 2009.

One year later, vegetation took root in Qalai Qazi, Sayed Abad. 2010.

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