World Bank pledges US$ 27 million to improve water supply in Georgia

The bank credit will revitalise irrigation and drainage infrastructures, improving the quality of life for some 400,000 people in the impoverished Caucasus republic of 5.5 million.

The principal aim of the funds is to improve irrigation and drainage infrastructures on agricultural land of about 110,000 hectares, upon which 80,000 farming families are dependent. It will provide a much needed boost to the national economy, as agriculture constitutes more than a third of the GDP and employs more than half of the workforce in a nation where the average annual salary is just $620.

Agricultural production depends to a great extent on irrigation in the east and drainage in the west of Georgia, yet both of these factors and their management have deteriorated substantially during the nineties as a result of civil strife, war, vandalism, as well as problems associated with the country’s transition to a market economy. A severe drought in 2000 drew international attention to the urgent need for modernising the irrigation sub-sectors on a sustainable basis.

A key element of this programme, which will last for 12 years, is to develop farmers’ participation in the operation and maintenance of the infrastructures through community-based organisations for water management.

“The South Caucasus region has limited water resources,” said Joop Stoutjesdijk, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project. “After rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure and development of better management institutions, there will be improvement in water management in the project area, which in turn will make a contribution to increased water use efficiency within the regional river basins. This is not only important for Georgia, but also for its neighbours.”

“Experience has taught us that the involvement of farmers themselves in deciding on the rehabilitation and modernisation requirements, as well as operating and maintaining such networks within their service territories is key to the long-term sustainability of these infrastructures,” said Judy O’Connor, the World Bank’s Director for the South Caucasus.

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