Machha: For Water Independence
The Akkar district is distinguished by large coastal plains and rolling mountain chains. Within these large mountains lies the town of Machha through which the Estawan River flows. The rural town conserved much of its green cover and is characterized by large agricultural areas located on its hills. Because most the 90 ha of agricultural lands are located above the river bed, water flowing from the Estawan River, which could be sufficient to irrigate all the crops, only irrigates nearby low lands. Also, the town lacks sufficient infrastructure and water pumping systems that could efficiently utilize the water flowing from the Estawan River. Consequently, nearly 80 ha of land are not irrigated. This explains why only 20% of the town is dedicated to agriculture. However, 3,000 permanent residents rely on farming as a primary source of income, this is almost half of the total resident population, and the lack of water is detrimental to their financial situation.
In order to improve the infrastructure of the town, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding from the Government of Germany and KfW and in partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Water, implemented a project that benefited the farmers. To easily draw water from the river, a small water pumping system, a water reservoir, canals and pipelines were installed to cover 45 ha of land.
Because lands are not well irrigated, the town mainly cultivates olive, which does not require constant irrigation. However, with the installation of the water pumping system and the construction of water canals, the agriculture of Machha will see a considerable change in diversity. “We had a problem with water before, especially for the lands that are far away from a water source and where the farmers counted on the agriculture of olive trees because it doesn’t need to be constantly irrigated. Now, because water is available, we are able to change the kind of agriculture […] the prominence of water will contribute to the flourishing of the agriculture of pomegranates, the second most important after olives” said Khaled Al Zoubi, mayor of Machha.
The project directly benefited the farmers of the town but as one villager pointed out, the canals indirectly improved the safety of the town’s roads. “Before the canals were installed, the borders of the road that overlook the valley were unprotected and so if a car slipped it would end up at the bottom with great damage. But now, the water canals provide a solid structure that protects the cars from falling over,” said Khaled Al Zoubi.
The municipality of Machha is very conscious of the importance of water and is mobilized to find innovative means by the town could become water-sufficient. “We currently draw water from Joumeh, and we all know about the water crisis there. As a result we may experience a water crisis soon, so we are working on being independent water-wise,” said Khaled Al Zoubi. The implementation of this project is one of many milestones that the town is set to achieve to reach a water-independent Machha.