IWMI in Pakistan

IWMI’s work in Pakistan, which dates back to 1986, directly supports the efforts of federal ministries and provincial government departments to improve water-use efficiency and increase agricultural productivity at multiple (farm/irrigation/basin) scales in the Indus River Basin. Our priorities – elaborated with development partners and a wide range of national and provincial stakeholders – are to support the design and implementation of effective policies on water, food and climate; improve water-use efficiency and increase agricultural productivity; and build stronger water institutions at all levels. Key research areas include disaster risk monitoring and climate resilience, water resources assessment, irrigation modernization, agricultural water management and capacity building. IWMI’s strategy is centered around three strategic programs – Water, Food and Ecosystems; Water, Climate Change and Resilience; and Water, Growth and Inclusion – each supported by high-quality science and digital innovation. IWMI also supports the efforts of Pakistan to meet its targets towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.Dr. Mohsin Hafeez, Country Representative, IWMI, Pakistan

  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
    Improved water management enhances food security and econcomic development in Pakistan
  • Traditional hand pumps are common in rural Pakistan
    Traditional hand pumps are common in rural Pakistan
BackgroundWater, Food and EcosystemsWater, Climate Change and ResilienceWater, Growth and Inclusion
Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, contributing 18.5% to its gross domestic product and employing 38.5% of the country’s labor force. Despite substantial investments, particularly in irrigation, land and water productivity is very low due to a number of factors. A massive 95% of freshwater is used for agriculture, and as much as 60% of this is lost due to inefficiency. Pakistan has the capacity to store rainwater for only 30 days during the three-month monsoon season, limiting the water supply needed for year-round irrigation. Groundwater is depleted at an alarming rate due to unsustainable use. Aging infrastructure, outdated technologies and a low level of coordination among government departments constrain efforts to establish modern agricultural systems. A major challenge is the lack of comprehensive and accurate information on the availability, storage, distribution and use of water resources at various scales.

Urbanization is taking place faster in Pakistan than anywhere else in South Asia, overloading already limited resources and services: only 20% of the population has access to safe drinking water and 40% does not have access to decent sanitation facilities. There is significant income and social inequity between men and women; the latter are mostly restricted to menial labor due to limits imposed by education and culture. Pakistan is extremely vulnerable to climate change. The country has faced catastrophic floods, droughts, cyclones and heat waves in recent years; these have killed or displaced thousands of people, destroying livelihoods and taking a heavy toll on the economy.

A systemic approach to natural resource management recognizes the complex relationships between hydropower generation, irrigated agriculture, water quality and environmental flows. IWMI champions this approach, which aims to balance farmers’ needs with those of energy consumers and water users. In Pakistan, we are spearheading innovative approaches to improve water-use efficiency at the farm and basin levels, supported by information gathered through remote sensing and decision support tools. Hydro-informatics and socioeconomic models help us to assess water resources management approaches and inform water policy.

In collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), IWMI is supporting socioeconomic development and political stability in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Completed in 2013, the Gomal Zam Dam aims to boost the incomes of an estimated 30,000 farming households through an irrigation scheme that provides irrigation water, flood control and hydroelectric power. While the scheme has substantially increased agricultural production, it has not met its full potential due to a lack of progress on governance and management. IWMI is working to reduce constraints to the productive and sustainable use of water in the Gomal Zam irrigation system. A key goal is to improve coordination between irrigation and agriculture departments and the federal Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). IWMI is also helping to build the capacity of these departments and farmers to construct water channels, ensure equitable water distribution, and measure flows and weather parameters; we also provide targeted training to improve water governance at all levels. IWMI particularly aims to engage women and youth in project activities. A number of activities around home gardens, gray water reuse, electric and diesel pumps, solar-powered pumps, basic nutrition and hygiene, livestock management, female literacy and education specifically target women.

A project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) promotes the use of solar-powered pumps as an alternative to the unsustainable use of groundwater in irrigation. Solar-powered pumps are environmentally friendly, reliable and low maintenance. Once established, there are no operating costs. The government has already installed over 2,000 solar-powered pumps. However, this was done without giving much attention to sustainability or gender and equity concerns. The IWMI project emphasizes capacity building for using solar-powered pumps for the abstraction of groundwater, and the conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water, highlighting the use of water-efficient farming techniques. We are also studying the impact of solar irrigation on agriculture, energy, women and groundwater to support sustainable and socially-inclusive policies and approaches.

IWMI’s research on the impacts of climate change on water availability enables us to develop climate-smart interventions that improve the efficiency of agricultural water use across Pakistan. Our approach to climate change adaptation in the Indus Basin prioritizes the maintenance, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems. The approach uses ‘nature-based’ solutions to support and manage naturally-occurring processes for cleaner and more reliable water supplies, for example, by enabling the underground storage of floodwater during the monsoon season to improve groundwater recharge. Supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), IWMI has developed rapid emergency response maps based on high-resolution satellite images. The maps can locate vulnerable populations, and assess crop damage from floods, droughts and extreme rainfall. This provides valuable guidance to relief operations and post-flood impact assessments.
Efforts to find sustainable solutions to Pakistan’s water management challenges are hampered by the lack of reliable, evidence-based information on water availability and use. A good example is the interprovincial disputes over the shared waters of the Indus River. A major constraint has been the lack of accurate and reliable information on water flows of the canals and their distributaries between provinces. In 2004, WAPDA installed an electronic telemetry system to measure the depth of flow at various key locations along the Indus River. Unfortunately, the system was not approved by the Indus River System Authority or by provincial irrigation departments, due to serious reservations about data quality. Together with the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, IWMI is promoting dialogues and using state-of-the-art telemetry technology to measure water flows between provinces. We are exploring institutional arrangements and mechanisms for capturing water data and information, including a possible role for the private sector. A project funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) builds the capacity of water institutions to enable flow measurement through training and technology transfer. A major goal is to build trust among the country’s water institutions, enhancing their engagement in resolving shared water issues. Involving stakeholders in every stage of the project has been critical to its success.

Latest News

Our Projects

Publications

Our Videos

Nusrat Nasab - Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan
Nusrat Nasab, Head of Emergency Management, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan responds to a question about what she feels is working best in the Indus Basin Knowledge landscape and...
Nisar A Memon - Water Environment Forum, Pakistan
Nisar A Memon, Chairman, Water Environment Forum, Pakistan responds to a question about what he feels is working best in the Indus Basin Knowledge landscape and what new feature he...

Upcoming Events

Innovation bundles

Farmer-led irrigation development is about much more than installing a pump in a field. It requires access to financing, labor, energy, and input and output markets, so that investments in irrigation translate into sustainable returns. IWMI uses a systemic approach to understand the farming system as well as the factors in the enabling environment that prevent women, men and youth from engaging in and benefitting equitably from farmer-led irrigation. We partner with farmers and the public and private sectors to test contextually relevant innovation bundles that combine irrigation technology such as solar pumps with financing mechanisms like pay-as-you-own or pay-as-you-go, agricultural inputs and agronomic techniques. We also look at ways to improve on-farm water management and nutrient use efficiency and reduce evapotranspiration through digital advances and agricultural extension. We integrate the scaling of innovation bundles into agricultural value chains to enhance the impacts on farmers’ irrigation investments, incomes and livelihoods.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, Health & Food Security Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Gender and social inclusion

The barriers facing women and men in accessing irrigation technologies are not the same. Neither are the benefits. Social, cultural and religious norms influence inter- and intra-household power relations. These, in turn, affect access to resources such as land, credit, information and training. IWMI carries out cross-dimensional analysis of gender and social inclusion in policy, financing, livelihood assets and access, institutional approaches and interventions as well as gender-based technology preferences. For example, we work with farmers, financial institutions and the private sector to address gender-based constraints in credit scoring and enhance women’s purchasing power. But benefitting from farmer-led irrigation does not stop at accessing and adopting technologies; enabling women and resource-poor farmers to participate in input and output markets is equally important to ensure that investments in irrigation result in improved nutrition and economic empowerment. Other ways we enhance gender and social inclusion include tackling agency issues around financial management and literacy, livelihood diversity and social capital as well as access to infrastructure, extension services and market linkages.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion

Environmental sustainability

Population pressure and increasing water competition in a changing climate require us to take stock of the availability and use of water across scales. Water availability not only influences farmers’ commercial prospects but also irrigation-related enterprises and agri-businesses. Greater water scarcity could jeopardize irrigation and agricultural markets while excessive water use can lead to declining ecosystems, water quality and soil health. IWMI advises development partners and the public and private sectors on all aspects of water resource availability and use through a variety of advanced modeling and remote-sensing products and tools, including Water Accounting+solar irrigation mapping and internet of things. These are complemented by multi-criteria analysis to evaluate the potential of irrigation expansion, taking into consideration environmental flows. With our private sector partners, we are leveraging converging technologies, such as sensors on solar pumps that capture usage data, to encourage better resource management and governance.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Environmental health and biodiversity

Adaptive scaling and partnerships

The ability of farmers to engage in or expand irrigation depends on the prevailing socioeconomic, ecological and political contexts, which are often complex, non-linear and changeable. Overcoming systemic barriers to farmer-led irrigation development while taking advantage of existing opportunities requires scaling processes to be adaptive. This means diverse actors feed off, adapt to, support, cooperate, compete and interact with each other, forming different multi-actor networks and engaging in collective action to undertake various functions in the scaling ecosystem. IWMI works with farmers and public and private sector partners to co-design and pilot contextually relevant innovation bundles and their scaling pathways or strategies, influence policies and accelerate the transition to scale of innovations with demonstrated early impact.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion Environmental health and biodiversity Climate adaptation and mitigation

Financing ecosystem

A lack of affordable credit, particularly for women and resource-poor farmers, is one of the main barriers to expanding farmer-led irrigation in low- and middle-income countries. But credit alone is not enough. Financing for irrigation equipment must be embedded in a wider financing ecosystem that bundles credit with inputs and services, market information and access, and technology such as digital payment. In several countries, irrigation equipment suppliers are stepping in to provide financing directly to farmers. In doing so, they increase their own risk. To address this issue, IWMI works with farmers, private companies, finance institutions and development partners such as the World Bank Group to analyze whether credit-scoring tools are inclusive. We also help to identify gaps in the financing ecosystem and de-risk the private sector from testing innovative end-user financing mechanisms that take into account farming system typologies, financial and social capital and crop seasonality.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs

Human capacity development and knowledge exchange

Scaling farmer-led irrigation requires strengthening human capacity and knowledge exchange among all actors and stakeholders involved. IWMI takes an action research approach, working with national and international research institutions, governments, extension agents and public and private organizations to co-develop the scaling ecosystem and strengthen capacity to drive scaling networks and collective action. We support the development of or reinforce national multi-stakeholder dialogues with the aim of sharing scaling experiences and realizing win-win collaboration, interactive learning and capacity development. Other modalities for capacity development include hackathons, innovation research grants for bachelor’s and master’s students, private sector scaling grants and innovation internships with private companies. These all serve to stimulate local and contextually relevant innovation, close the research-private sector divide and enhance job readiness among young professionals.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion Environmental health and biodiversity Climate adaptation and mitigation

This website uses cookies in order to improve the user experience and provide additional functionality. By clicking "Accept" and continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies.
Read more about our terms of use.