Improving groundwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihoods in Pakistan: Participatory rural appraisal: Starting the co-inquiry into groundwater and livelihoods

Syed Khair, Muhammad Ashfaq, Asghar Ali, Saira Akhtar, Tehmina Mangan, C Allan

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    The ACIAR funded project LWR-2015036 “Improving groundwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihoods in Pakistan” is a collaboration through partnerships to address the complexity of achieving effective and fair groundwater management. This report describes the Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs) that were undertaken early in the project, to gather social information to underpin decision making in the initial stages of the government/community partnership. PRA is a set of approaches, methods and behaviours that help people share reflections on their social and physical environment. PRA emphasises co-learning, both through learning alongside local communities, and by involving project stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds. PRA is an intensive, systematic but semi-structured progressive learning experience, compressed in time, and carried out in a community by a multi-disciplinary team. PRA provided an opportunity to begin the collaborative process that underpins logic of the overall project., with the substantive aim of aiding the selection of the project case study sites.

    In this project the entire project team, regardless of discipline or experience, were invited to be part of the co-inquiry. Training in designing and undertaking PRAs was provided to a large group of project team members at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, Pakistan, in November 2016. PRAs were conducted by project team members in 2017 in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh. Thee individual reports are brought together in this document. There is much detail about individual sites, highlighting the great variance across and within the provinces. A common lesson across all sites was that there is room for improvement in agricultural groundwater use, although the specifics of the adaptations will vary with context.

    Following reflection on what was learned during the PRAs, and some further investigations these case study areas were selected for the remaining focus of the project: Balochistan: Malikyar and Zarghoon in the severely groundwater depleted Pishin Lora Basin, near Quetta, Balochistan. Punjab: The 1R and 11L distributaries of the Lower Bari Doab Command area, near Okara and Sahiwal respectively. Sindh: The Cheeho distributary in NaushahroFeroze district and Malwa distributary in Shaheed Benazirabad (formerly Nawabshah) district.

    PRA takes time and resources, and can seem to hold back immediate action in a project. But the benefits of taking time to understand the geo-social landscape and its implications for the project have been shown many times. In this project the PRA process achieved three major outcomes, each associated with multi-disciplinary research. One outcome is the rigorous and defensible selection of case study areas based on multi-disciplinary criteria. The second outcome was the involvement of a range of researchers and practitioners in ‘social’ research. Many project partners visited villagers, and listened to stories in ways they had not had the opportunity for before. This is a small step to reducing the silos in which all of us live our lives. The third outcome was team building- travelling together, sharing stories and reflecting on what was told, and what it could mean, helped to create empathy and professional linkages among the project partners, building a good foundation for the remainder of the project.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationAlbury, NSW
    PublisherInstitute for Land, Water and Society
    Commissioning bodyAustralian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
    Number of pages89
    ISBN (Print)9781864673913
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Publication series

    NameILWS Report


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