Better water management key to tackling Afghan poverty, UN envoy says

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 7, 2009 -- The inefficient management of Afghanistan's water resources is critical to both the country's widespread poverty and deadly tribal conflicts over territory, a United Nations envoy said recently...

Jul 7th, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 7, 2009 -- The inefficient management of Afghanistan's water resources is critical to both the country's widespread poverty and deadly tribal conflicts over territory, a United Nations envoy said today, calling for better management to help foster stability and build prosperity.

Kai Eide, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, told a conference on water resources development in Kabul that donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should focus more on enhancing the management of water resources.

"Whether we look at poverty, food security, health or economic development, there is no issue more important for this country at this time than the development of Afghanistan's water resources," he said.

Afghanistan's economy remains dominated by agriculture, which employs two-thirds of the national workforce and accounts for more than half of gross domestic product (GDP). But decades of conflict and misrule have destroyed irrigation systems, stunting economic growth.

Eide said today that trans-boundary issues with other Central Asian countries should also be resolved.

"Afghanistan needs agreements with its neighbors that can provide equitable sharing and cooperative management of water resources in accordance with principles of international law," he said.

"Afghanistan has a right to its share of its resources. Today they are unused. The United Nations is committed to helping to effectively manage the world's trans-boundary waters and will continue to support such efforts."

The Special Representative added that the predicted good harvest this year, following strong rainfall, should not detract from the need for sound water management policies.

Meanwhile, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced today that it is giving a grant of nearly $24 million to back a rural microfinance and livestock support program across Afghanistan.

The project, IFAD's first major program in the country, will focus some of the under-served segments of the rural population, including poor herders, smallholders, households headed by women and the nomadic Kuchis.

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