Bolivia expands watershed-based irrigation

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Source: Inter-American Development Bank

IDB finances construction of new infrastructure and systems for sustainably managing scarce water resources. Bolivia will build 33 community irrigation systems covering 9,000 hectares in seven Departments throughout the country under a US$34 million program financed by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Drawing on lessons from past irrigation programs in Bolivia’s arid and semi-arid regions, the new program will be designed with a watershed approach that ensures that a sustainable quantity and quality of water will be available to all users within a particular area.

The program will also finance activities to increase the capacity of Bolivia’s National Irrigation Service to grant and register water rights and resolve conflicts among various users. These activities will include creating a National Irrigation Information System that will integrate data about climate, land use and water rights to assist policy makers and investment planning.

 “We have learned that building irrigation canals is not enough,” said IDB Team Leader John Horton.  “Only by insisting on a watershed protection approach, guaranteeing the long-term availability of water to those irrigation systems, can farmers be assured of multiple crops each year and an increased ability to target the best market opportunities.”

Beneficiaries of the program are expected to initially expand their yields of traditional crops such as quinoa, potatoes, corn, hay and rice thanks to the new irrigation systems. They higher income from additional yields could eventually allow these producers to compliment these crops with higher value horticultural crops for domestic and export markets.

The IDB program includes resources to develop a future pipeline of additional projects above and beyond the 33 financed by this loan.

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