The Government of Tajikistan and the World Bank yesterday signed a US$16.5 million grant agreement for the Zarafshon Irrigation Rehabilitation and Management Improvement Project aimed to rehabilitate and improve irrigation management in Tajikistan. The project, financed by the Trust Fund of the European Union (EU) will allow farmers in the Zarafshon river basin of northern Tajikistan to increase their crops and improve their livelihoods.

According to the World Bank Dushanbe Office, of the total area of potentially irrigable land in the Zarafshon river basin, approximately 40 percent is currently used for low-yielding, rain-fed barley, wheat, and oilseed production. The ability of farmers to increase crop production or shift to higher-value crops is hindered by inefficient irrigation. Deferred maintenance of primary canals and pump stations, sand sedimentation of irrigation infrastructure, unreliable electricity supply, and outdated pumping equipment are some of the reasons for poor irrigation and water losses in Tajikistan.

The Zarafshon Irrigation Rehabilitation and Management Improvement Project is expected to strengthen the infrastructure needed for effective irrigation and water resource management.  The project will fund rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, key flood protection works, and feasibility studies for improvement and modernization of irrigation schemes.  In addition, project activities will provide institutional and implementation support for highest-priority irrigation reforms, strengthen the institutional capacity of the Agency on Land Reclamation and Irrigation to respond to floods and mudflows, and support new and existing Water User Associations.

The project is a part of the broader EU-financed Rural Development Program, which includes policy and institutional support to the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan and a community support component to be implemented in the same river basin.

The World Bank’s active portfolio in Tajikistan includes 19 projects, with a net commitment of US$615.9 million.