Improving groundwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihoods in Pakistan: Final report

Jehangir Punthakey, C Allan, Muhammad Ashfaq, Michael Mitchell, Farooq Ahmed, Waqas Ahmad, Saira Akhtar, Asghar Ali, Rana Ali, Muhammed Amin, Usman Khalid Awan, Irfan Baig, Richard Culas, Muhammad Shafqat Ejaz, Simone Engdahl, Ghulam Zakir Hassan, Faizan ul Hasan, Naveed Iqbal, Syed Khair, Mobushir KhanAbdul Khilji, Tehmina Mangan, Aurangzeb Memon, Mustafa Nangraj, Javaria Nasir, Amina Price, Abdul Latif Qureshi, Abdul Rashid Tareen

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (public)


Pakistan’s population of over 220 million relies heavily on its agriculture-based economy, and especially on irrigated agriculture. The centrally managed surface water supply across the Indus River Basin is insufficient to support current agricultural practice, and dependence on groundwater has rapidly increased in the Indus Basin provinces of Punjab and Sindh. In Balochistan, irrigators rely almost entirely on groundwater, and the province has witnessed some of the most rapid rates of depletion.
This project aimed 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. Enhancing farming livelihoods includes ensuring long-term sustainability of agriculture and fairness of consideration across the socio-political spectrum. The project objectives were to:
1. Develop and articulate a shared understanding of sustainable groundwater use for agriculture and the need for improved management in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces.
2. Develop, with collaborating stakeholders in each case study, groundwater management tools and options that have the potential to enhance livelihoods of farming families.
3. Enhance capacity and institutional arrangements for post project adoption of tools and options developed in Objective 2 by collaborating stakeholder organisations.
This project’s theory of change acknowledges the challenges facing farmers by focusing efforts on building the capacities of the organisations, institutions and individuals in and around case study farming communities. The project posits that building the collaborative and adaptive capacity of water management agencies along with increasing their capacity to gather and use information, will enable stronger, better informed water using communities to emerge.
The overall approach was ongoing co-inquiry and co-design; that is, the Project Team took a collaborative, iterative and adaptive approach. To achieve the objectives and make real impacts knowledge creation and sharing activities focused on six case study sites: two each in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab, between 2016 and 2021.
The Project Team, comprising personnel from fifteen organisations, gradually built a strong learning and support network. Capacity in groundwater monitoring was enhanced through improved equipment and software, and skills in groundwater modelling were developed within universities and provincial government Irrigation Departments. These skills enable consideration of the consequences of management actions by governments and individual farmers. Participatory social and economic studies supported development of the project’s case study Stakeholder Forums, deliberative spaces where information and learning could be shared among agency staff, farmers, universities and non-government organisations, and where water efficient farming systems could be developed and trialled, supported by apps and equipment.
This project has resulted in significant human and social capital, as well as some infrastructure, being built in some parts of the country. There is some changed awareness and practice in the six sites of the project. These are small steps, and continued investment is needed to turn the small steps into larger ones.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra, Australia
PublisherAustralian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
Commissioning bodyAustralian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
Number of pages171
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2021

Grant Number

  • 0000101862


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