Developing a framework that enables Afghanistan to manage its limited water supply and develop the agriculture research system are two objectives of a three-year, $5.5 million USAID grant awarded to Colorado State University.
Afghanistan’s infrastructure has been hobbled after three decades of conflict and war. An estimated 90 percent of Afghani water goes toward agricultural use, according to USAID. The country suffers from water shortages due to limited fresh water resources, inefficient use of aquifers and river basins, and mounting human needs. There is little regulation for use of water by households, agricultural and industrial sectors.
The group will work to identify water issues and the needs of the rural sector and develop policy and strategic plans on water use and water rights. Teaching local agricultural experts in Afghanistan about new technology that can increase agricultural potential and setting up a structure for an agricultural research system also are crucial components of the project.
"Our first goal is to identify the institutional structures that are there now," said Steve Davies, head of CSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and principle investigator for the CSU portion of the project. "After we know what we are working with, we can then start work on policy development to manage water use and allocation. Training locals on how to increase their agricultural production will go a long way in establishing sustainable agricultural practices."
The grant is part of a larger, $19.8 million grant award toward research collaboration between New Mexico State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and CSU. NMSU is the lead institution for the project.
Davies, Ajay K Jha and James Pritchett, all from the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, will work on the project with Ramchand Oad, a CSU professor of civil engineering, and Mohammed Kalkhan from CSU’s National Resource Ecology Laboratory.
"We need to see what we can do to link, with limited resources, what we can do for their overall water system and sustainable agriculture development," Jha said. "It is a very large project and challenge is for deliverables as many stakeholders, multi-disciplinary and multi-agency partners are involved."