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Enhancing Farmer Water Management in Pakistan

Developing approaches to enhance farmer water management skills in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan

Project Leader: Sandra Heaney-Mustafa

Project Team: Richard Stirzaker (CSIRO)

Funding Body: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Category 1 Research Grant

Partners: Pakistan Council for Research on Water Resources (PCRWR), National agricultural Research centre – Social Sconce Research Institute (NARC-SSRI) and Society of Facilitators and Trainers (SOFT)

Female Farmers Sharing
Female farmers sharing their experiences
with project leader and other team members

Project Description: This project aims to develop and scale out tools and approaches for increasing farmers’ irrigation management skills, and hence their livelihoods, on small- and middle-sized irrigated farms. Irrigation is critical to Pakistan’s food security, poverty reduction and economic development. Irrigation profitability in Pakistan is amongst the lowest in the world. Over 22% of Pakistan’s rural population are living in poverty, with more than 12% of the population living on less than US$1.25 per day. Despite the increasing feminisation of the rural workforce, with some 72% of women in rural Pakistan being engaged in the industry, women and girls continue to experience the effects of poverty. Irrigation profitability is essential for reducing poverty, as there are strong links between irrigation, crop productivity and poverty alleviation.

The use of conventional irrigation methods and poor agronomic practices leads to overuse of water. Farmers believe that using more water on their crops results in higher yields. Several studies have found improved irrigation profitability through improved irrigation systems and management practices. However, farmers have little way of knowing what is happening in their fields in respect of water and nutrient management. Farmers with small to medium holdings have had little access to technologies for irrigation, as affordable and accessible tools are neither produced nor widely distributed in Pakistan. Extension specifically about irrigation practices has not been undertaken.

Farmers installing Full stop
Farmers are installing Full Stop
on self-help basis in Punjab
District Sargodha Village 29SB

The main extension challenge is how to scale out existing and new technologies over the vast irrigated areas of Pakistan. The development of skills and capacity among farmers to manage and maintain irrigation is critical to Pakistan’s continued economic growth and food security. Extension approaches to farming in Pakistan occur in two ways: the traditional top-down, expert-to-farmer approach; and the interactive Farmer Field School (FFS) approach. FFS programs are used to “transfer specialist knowledge, promote skills and empower farmers”. The FFS approach has had varying degrees of success in relation to the farmers involved. However, the scale-out to other farmers has been poor.

Three adult learning methods have been trialled and evaluated. Following feedback from farmers, women, youth and facilitators a new integrated model comprising the most suitable aspects of the three methods have emerged as the Farmer Integrated Learning Model (FILM). The project is now entering the phase where farmers are now moving out to neighbouring villages and teaching other farmers using FILM and the farmer to farmer trial is underway.

Children have natural desire to learn
No wonder if little champs
are more curious in learning

The project takes a whole of community approach, engaging women, men and youth in all activities within acceptable cultural boundaries. Throughout the learning phase farmers have adopted new technologies and methods for managing water and nutrients on their farms and there has been a reduction in irrigated water use and reduction in the use of fertilisers. Farmers have seen improvement in crops and increased yields. As the project enters its final year end-line data will be collected to give a more accurate picture of changes in social, economic and environmental aspects since the baseline data was collected at the outset.

Publications and Refereed Conference Papers (see also ACIAR Reports -

  • Heaney-Mustafa, S., Sofo, F., Afzal, M., Anwar, Z., Fatima, B., and ul-Hasan, F. 2018. Bridging Farmer and Researcher: Extension through the Eyes of Agents in Rural Pakistan. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education. 25(3). Pp.111-124.
  • Hussain, I., Mukhtar, S.N., and Heaney-Mustafa, S. 2019. Guidelines for SOFT Facilitators: Developing approaches to enhance farmer water management skills in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan. Society of Facilitators and Trainers, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Other Project Resources

Pakistan Projects Poster