Pakistan’s population of over 180 million relies heavily on its agriculture-based economy. This sector contributes 21% of Gross Domestic Product and over 40% of employment. Agriculture also accounts for around 95% of the country’s water consumption. With growing demand for this water, the stress on available resources is also increasing. Surface water supply is highly variable, particularly for farmers at the tail end of canals in Sindh and Punjab provinces. Because of this, and increased cropping intensities, dependence on groundwater has rapidly increased with over one million tubewells in use. These are mostly owned by private farmers, pumping water of varying salinity across the Indus Basin. Continuous decline in groundwater levels and spread of salinisation is rendering fertile lands unusable. The groundwater decline in Balochistan province, for example, has reached several hundred metres. This makes pumping more expensive and undermines farming livelihoods, especially for poor smallholder farming families.
Electricity subsidisation, inefficient irrigation practices and lack of regulation creates a situation throughout Pakistan where water use efficiency is a low priority and groundwater extraction is pursued unregulated in order to maximise profits. Lack of reputable and extensive data and information, lack of awareness about groundwater management at all levels and socio-political and institutional constraints compound the challenge to maintain productive and sustainable groundwater use.
The complexity and size of the challenge requires an integrated approach towards sustainable management of groundwater to enhance productivity and thereby farmers livelihoods. Integrated management also requires more participatory governance arrangements to enable groundwater users and other relevant stakeholder communities to more effectively engage in the knowledge gathering and decision making processes determining sustainable and fair use of groundwater (Mitchell et al., 2012).
The aim of this project is to build the capacity of researchers, farmers, farming communities and relevant government and non-government agencies to improve groundwater management in ways that enhance farming family livelihoods in Pakistan.
Building capacity means building skills, knowledge and confidence, and the provision of tools and processes. Enhancing farming livelihoods includes ensuring long-term sustainability of agriculture and fairness of consideration across the socio-political spectrum.
The specific project objectives are to:
Institutional arrangements include the rules, norms and strategies that shape the decision–making of individuals and organisations.
Collaborating stakeholders include our in-country research partners and other additional collaborating organisations to be identified through the process of conducting the research, including farmer organisations and relevant non-government organisations.
By the end of the project, our intended outcomes are that:
The project will use a case study approach to enable in-depth understanding of particular groundwater systems and associated socio-political contexts, and to engage and build capacity of groundwater managers and users in each case study context through collaboration. The three provinces selected for the case study investigations represent a diversity of groundwater use and conditions due to their different hydrogeological settings, but they provide similar opportunities to enhance agriculture and livelihood outcomes through improved groundwater management. This case study approach will necessarily rely on maximising participation of Pakistani-based researchers and agency staff, including an extended number of partners and other collaborating stakeholder organisations in each case study location.
A crucial aspect to the case study approach is to enable collaborating stakeholders to develop shared ownership of how the research is defined and delivered in each case study context. This requires an initial period where the research strategy prioritises learning by the research team about the case study contexts and associated information exchange. During the first six to twelve months of the project, we will use selected established participatory appraisal methods to engage stakeholders and research end users in explaining the case study context, defining the case study problems to address, and guiding how the research activities will be delivered.
The project also builds on the knowledge base of two other ACIAR initiatives in Pakistan: (1) improved learning approaches to facilitate farmer irrigation skills in Pakistan (LWR/2014/074); and (2) modernising water management institutions to achieve water security and poverty reduction (ADP/2014/045). Together these represent a combined initiative to enhance sustainable water productivity and rural livelihoods by improving knowledge and skills of farmers and institutions in Pakistan. The project also complements the DFAT project on surface water modelling in the Indus Basin. The focus on groundwater and farmer livelihoods in this project fills an important strategic gap.
The main outputs of this project will be a suite of groundwater modelling, monitoring and reporting tools, improved cropping and water management options, as well as research reports, research papers, databases, and policy briefs to guide the development of more sustainable groundwater management practices. Networks and forums for exchanging information and skills will form an additional output.
The tools and options are expected to optimise use of scarce groundwater resources by enhancing recharge to aquifers and better managing groundwater demand. This will reduce adverse salinity and sodicity impacts, achieve more profitable and sustainable agricultural practices, and thus benefit farming families.
Increased community awareness of the need for improved groundwater management may also assist farming families explore water distribution and access equity issues. There will also be environmental benefits from reduced land and water salinisation as groundwater use becomes better managed.
Local partner organisations and researchers will benefit through capacity building and co- learning associated with their participation, and graduate students will be provided with research opportunities.
Increased capacity, awareness and the establishment of forums will also provide a basis for catalysing further investment to enhance groundwater management in Pakistan that is beyond the scope of this project. The project team will help identify such opportunities as part of its ongoing evaluation of project outputs and outcomes.
Charles Sturt University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society will lead the project, supported by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), International Centre for Agriculture research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA),University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), PMAS Arid Agricultural University Rawalpindi (UAAR), International Waterlogging and Salinity Research Institute (IWASRI), Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management (BUITEMS), Sindh Agriculture University (SAU), NED University of Engineering and Technology, Mehran University, and the provincial irrigation departments of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh.
The National Project Coordinator, Dr. Ashfaq A. Sheikh (DG, PCRWR) along with Communication Manager (Kanza Javed) visied Hyderabad and Karachi from May 4-7, 2017. The meetings with Sindh Provincial team ,SAU and MUET were held under ACIAR project "Improving Groungwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihood in Pakistan" to review the project progress with focus on PRA activities and other technical matters.
Training of project partners on Impact Pathway Analysis at Islamabad (30th Jan-1st Feb, 2017)
Training of Project Partners on groundwater modeling at UAAR (February 2, 2017)
Training of Project Partners on Remote Sensing applications at UAAR (February 3, 2017)
Field Demonstration of water table measurement at Lahore (February 6,2017)
Participatory Rural Appraisal near Renala Khurd (February 7, 2017)