A WFP Irrigation Project Fosters Food Security And Stability For The Poorest
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Published on 12 April 2013

Residents of Kerme-Too village in southern Kyrgyzstan working on the construction of a water reservoir for easily accessible water. Copyright: WFP/Elizabeth Zalkind

The residents of a small southern Kyrgyz village will never again have to scoop water from a dirty, and often dry, clay pond. For the first time, people in Kerme-Too will soon be able to get water from a tap after WFP and the German Government's development agency (GIZ) complete the construction of three water reservoirs.

KERME-TOO -- Saadat-eje waits impatiently for the reservoir tap near her home to start functioning. Fetching water from a distant pond has been a daily grind for most of her life. The steep treacherous steps that lead down to the water source have become harder to navigate over the years; they are iced in winter and slippery after it rains. 

Carrying water home is even more arduous; Saadat-eje has been repeating this journey three or four times a day for as long as she can remember just to meet her household‘s basic water needs. The decades-old Soviet era water pond was carved out of the ground by hand and has never been rehabilitated. The automated Aravan Akbura Canal, located in in the Osh province of Kyrgyzstan, feeds the pond. However, technical problems that often interrupts the flow of water from the canal forces Kerme-Too’s residents to spend weeks without water.

“Availability of water is an unbearable problem,” says Saadat-eje. “We are not dreaming of having clean water, that would be too great to expect, but we are simply dreaming of a water supply closer to home that never stops.”

To Saadat-eje’s delight, she will receive regular water once the reservoirs are completed. As the community could not afford the project, WFP and GIZ joined forces to help the village residents help themselves. 

With GIZ supplying construction materials and technical expertise, WFP ensured that the most food insecure families were able to volunteer their labour in return for food assistance. The reservoirs will be large enough to store a two-week water stock for 6,000 people. 

By the end of April, 25 volunteers from the poorest households will have completed the two-month project. In return for the participants work on the project, each will receive 200 kg of high quality wheat flour and vegetable oil enriched with essential vitamins and micronutrients; significant and costly food staples for any poor household. 

Kerme-Too is part of Osh Region, which has one of the highest food insecurity rates in the country, with more than 38 percent of the population affected by chronic food shortages. The reservoirs will go a long way to helping ease this burden as they will also supply water for agricultural purposes during times when the Aravan Akbura Canal is not functioning. 

Osmon Kabulov, a father of five, is also excited by the prospect of having easily accessible water for better harvests. 

“There might be no water at all for irrigation during the dry summer seasons,” Kabulov says. “Our harvest is barely sufficient for own needs because of the water shortage, so I usually need to seek seasonal work to support my family. This supply may help to change this cycle of living hand to mouth.” 

The community plans to practice good water management by carefully sharing the water for irrigation. Kabulov, who usually grows low-yielding corn, hopes to be able to diversify his family’s diet with tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables and be able to sell surpluses at the local market. 

“Water means a good harvest and good income for the family,” says Kabulov. “It basically means life.”