Cash-for-Work Rehabilitation of Irrigation Schemes in Pakistan

SEADS Handbook Location: Chapter 7

The heavy monsoon rains experienced during the last week of July 2010 resulted in floods in Pakistan. FAO estimated that over 2.4 million hectares (ha) of cultivatable land were lost, and in some areas the irrigation schemes were affected. FAO implemented a cash-for-work (CFW) intervention response. The main objectives were to generate additional income for households (HHs) and to restore HHs’ access to functioning irrigation schemes.

Major direct results of the intervention are as follows: 35 laborers were employed for over 181 days per scheme under rehabilitation, disbursing an average daily amount of 12,300 Pakistani rupees (PKRs), whereas on average an HH member worked 24 days and generated an income of 9,000 PKRs. Overall, 1,010 on-farm irrigation channels were desilted. Irrigated land recovery totaled 104,885 ha, resulting in 220,180 HHs gaining access to an important source of income. Ninety-three percent of the HHs came from the same villages, and the rest came from villages that didn’t benefit from the rehabilitation scheme. Overall, 75,750 HHs have restored their access to irrigated land, at an average area of 1.45 ha per HH. Only 9.5% of the schemes needed some construction materials, with an average cost of 45,340 PKRs each. Out of a total average channel length of 2,734 meters per scheme, around 95% of the channels had to be desilted.

Other major outcomes to which the FAO’s intervention contributed significantly are: available food stocks in the beneficiary HHs increased from an average of 264 kg just after the flood to 421 kg after the end of the intervention, ensuring at least 142 days of food self-sufficiency compared with 55 days before the intervention. An 33% increase was recorded concerning the number of meals eaten per day by the benefiting HHs, and a 13% increase was recorded concerning the diversity of food group intake factor. The share of HHs with debts was reduced from 62% to 36%.

The CFW intervention focused on two main results: i) generating a temporary income source for the HHs, who were able to perform and in need of casual labor work; ii) increasing the land area and the number of HHs with access to a functional irrigation scheme.

Labor was available from the most vulnerable flood-affected local HHs.

Criteria of selection of water courses:

Social: Water courses being operational before 2010 floods and benefiting small farmers (1 ha or less); irrigation channel serving the maximum number of beneficiaries (a minimum of 25 HHs actively cultivating the land served by the scheme); Water User Association (WUA) exists or will be formed; community endorsement of the proposed CFW assistance; selected schemes within any Union Council’s scheme allocation are evenly distributed among affected villages; the selected scheme is free from relevant, ongoing conflict/litigation hampering the rehabilitation process; community/beneficiaries willing to participate in the proposed CFW.

Technical: Irrigation channels being functional before 2010 floods; the primary reason the water course is not functional is due to siltation from the floods, and intensive manual desilting would have an immediate impact on water flow; adequate quantity of water for irrigation is available from the water course; upstream elements of the irrigation system must be functioning so that if the tertiary system is rehabilitated, water can be released into it. The following water courses will be given preference for the rehabilitation: water courses serving the maximum number of beneficiaries (minimum of 25 HHs actively cultivating the land served by the channels); silt layer at field level not above the top of the water course so that if it is cleaned, it is adequate for water to flow into the field; technical works are limited to very simple structures such as outlets and culverts utilizing no more than 10% of the project budgeted amount, as 90% should be allocated for labor wages.

Financial: Initial cost per scheme is USD 5,000 (material and labor); irrigation system with benefit/cost ratio > 1; beneficiaries willing to be engaged in operation and maintenance of rehabilitated canals after completion of the project.

Criteria of selection of laborers for CFW: belonging to the same locality; priority given to the poorest local HHs; agreement of WUA; wherever possible, female labor should be included in project activities.

CFW implementation approach: The desilting and rehabilitation of irrigation channels was carried out in close collaboration with the provincial On-Farm Water Management (OFWM) Department. The irrigation schemes were identified together with the OFWM Department and affected communities in the flood-hit target districts. The OFWM Department assisted the FAO irrigation engineers in estimating
CFW costs. This information was used in the preparation of Terms of Partnership (TOPs) with the WUAs at community level. Payments for the irrigation schemes was based on the work completed on the selected schemes.

FAO (2011). Cash-for-work intervention report: Part of FAO's flood response Pakistan. FAO. Unpublished.