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ADB Grant for Irrigation Development in Tajikistan

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, December 12, 2003 [ 12:29 ]
By InterNews, InterNews

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DUSHANBE (InterNews). A technical assistance (TA) grant of US $600,000 is being prepared by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to develop and repair irrigation facilities in order to help poor farmers in Tajikistan, according to an official.

"The TA amount is just to prepare the project for ADB's pipeline for next year," Emile Gozali, a project economist in the Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Division at ADB headquarters, told IRIN from the Philippines capital, Manila on Tuesday.

A loan of about $20 million would cover between 60,000 and 80,000 ha, or about 10 percent of the country's irrigation command area, he said, adding that twofold project goals envisaged the prevention of operational failures of key irrigation facilities, as well as capacity-building for local government and farmers to run the water systems on a sustainable basis. "The latter will provide a model for investment in and maintenance of other less dilapidated irrigation systems," he said.

Five years of civil war in the 1990s had destroyed or led to the neglect of irrigation systems, resulting in critical damage such as washed-out diversion headworks, collapsed main canals, severe siltation and breakdown of pumps, an earlier ADB press statement said.

With poverty levels estimated at 83 percent, efforts to address poverty should focus on rural areas, where livelihoods rely heavily on agriculture, it added. Tajikistan had decontrolled agricultural prices, abolished mandatory crop sales to the government and transferred state and collective farms to private management, the statement said, but added that serious impediments remained for the rural economy.

"The liberalisation in agricultural production and pricing regimes has been a move in the right direction," Gozali said, pointing out, however, that Tajikistan's economy continued to suffer from inherent problems dating back to the time when it was a part of the former Soviet Union.

"These relate to the lack of capacity of the local economy to generate adequate outputs to sustain the population's standard of living. Further, as a relatively new country, Tajikistan needs to develop capacity for long-term strategic planning and governance of the market economic system newly introduced to the country," Gozali observed.

It was the lack of regulatory control and competition within the private sector that had resulted in the growth of farm indebtedness, he said, stressing that in order to address these issues the project would provide capacity-building and investment funds to promote private-sector competition in agricultural input supply and agro-processing.

"The project will also assist the government to refine its strategic planning in water-resources management," Gozali said, pointing out that the eventual project would involve building capacity for the operation, maintenance and repair of irrigation and rural infrastructure, as well as management of water resources and enhanced farm management and technologies.

The project-feasibility study to be funded by the TA would be completed by June 2004, he added, saying that the study would identify and select the areas to come under the project and work out the costs etc.

Lack of government funds had also left rural settlements without adequate domestic water-supply systems, the ADB statement said, as a result of which only one-fifth of the population had access to safe drinking water. That had led to a high incidence of typhoid and hepatitis in rural areas, it added. "Serious waterborne-disease outbreaks have occurred in every region of the country since 1991," Gozali said, a phenomenon which had substantially reduced the earning capacities of rural families, and thereby contributed to high poverty levels.

"It is estimated that only 20 percent of the rural population in Tajikistan has access to safe drinking water. If poverty is going to be tackled in a meaningful way, then providing safe water for a larger proportion of the population is going to have to be a priority," Gozali stressed.

"Since rural domestic water-supply and irrigation systems usually share water sources and distribution infrastructure, improvements in the two subsectors should be jointly carried out in a cost-effective manner," he said. Such an approach amplified the benefits of rural water-sector investments and promoted an integrated management of water resources, he added.

The ADB was already studying, through an ongoing technical assistance project, various options for Tajikistan towards easing its farm-debt burden, the press statement said. "Resolution of farm indebtedness was discussed in an ADB-funded conference in 2002," Gozali said, adding that options discussed had included debt rescheduling and temporary management control of farms by the creditors.

"These options are complex and are currently being studied and discussed with relevant stakeholders as part of our ongoing technical assistance on the farm-debt resolution," Gozali added. The press statement said the total cost of the water-resources project TA was estimated at $708,000, of which the government would provide the equivalent of $108,000.

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