Strengthening the Traditional Rod-Kohi Water Management System in Dera Ismail Khan [Pakistan]

Reporting Entity: Pakistan

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General Information

General Information

Title of best practice:

Strengthening the Traditional Rod-Kohi Water Management System in Dera Ismail Khan



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Property Rights

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Section 1. Context of the best practice: frame conditions (natural and human environment)

Short description of the best practice

Rod-Kohi is the local term for Hill Torrent water management system, a form of centuries old traditional practice of diverting and spreading water from hill torrents to crop fields in the piedmonts of mountain range.  The system at Seikh Haider Zam is important from the point of view that it provides livelihood to more than 30,000 families of the poor farming community who depend on their livelihood primarily on this system. The hill torrents are the only source of water in this arid tract. The farmers of the area being very poor with low investment capacity usually are not able to manage and harvest the water from these torrents given the uncertain pattern of rainfall in the catchment area of torrents. There are either heavy flash floods or prolonged droughts, and the climate change equally playing its role in this equation. The local frmers through centuries of experience had adapted to unique system for utilization of the hill torrents through a system called Rod Kohi. In this system slopes are terraced and water controled through diversion channels to spread the water. This system of flood water management is a unique example of best practices to the world where local communities employ local technological solutions to DLDD/SLM. Deforestation in catchment area no doubt also is an important factor. In monsoon season, the flood water usually becomes un-manageable destroying the earthen water control and conveyance system. The farmers spend their hard earned income almost every year to re-construct their diversion dikes and field embankments. The average village cost for these repairs stands at 80-90,000 rupees per year. The recent trends of a changing climate where extreme events and prolonged droughts have become prominent,in 10 villages of the Sheikh Haider Zam, the Sustainable Land Management Project facilitated the local farmers community and a local NGO to strengthen their Rod-Kohi system for better water control, conveyance and conservation. The use of gatted and water diversion structures helped bringing more area under irrigated agriculture, enhanced crop production which improved the local livelihoods. |


Sheikh Haider Zam area, Tehsil Kulachi, District Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan|

Brief description of the natural environment within the specified location.

The area shows a gentle continuous slope, starting from Sulaiman range down the Indus River bank. However it can be classified as plain with scattered farming and grazing parts traversed by hill torrents. The hill torrents bring down run-off rain water from hills and thus provide opportunity to farmers to divert and conserve water for cropping.|
The area is part of Piedmont plain of the Sulaiman mountain range. It is generally low in organic mater content. Soil type varies from silty clay to clay loam with high yielding potential. Soil pH varies from 7.7 to 8.3. Soils are generally well drained.
The area is located in sub-tropical climate zone, with mean annual rainfall ranging between 180-305 mm. The climate of the area can be described as moderate cool to extreme hot, with mean maximum and mean minimum temperatures as 42'C and 12'C  respectively. The area faces extreme shortage of water for drinking and cropping practices.

Prevailing socio-economic conditions of those living in the location and/or nearby

Agriculture and livestock are the main sectors for income generation. Others include small local enterprises, unskilled labour, and employment in industries, armed forces and government departments.|
The area ranks very low on Human Development Index (HDI) and other indices used to measure poverty. Lack of proper governance and transparency makes the performance of public and social sector services very nominal. Because of low productive land, shortage of water and absence of financial infrastructure, majority of people in rural areas live in poverty. Annual income of the 80% community is less than Rupees 80,000 (USD 833). |
Out of 23000 Households (HH), only 115 have more than 200 acres of land, and these owners are settled in urban areas. About 1600 HH have between 50 - 60 acres land-holding while 11700 HH have less than 10 acres of land holding. Remaining households are landless working as tenants or daily wagers. The tenants have 50% share in the crop yield. The inputs and other costs for cropping are borne by tenants.

On the basis of which criteria and/or indicator(s) (not related to The Strategy) the proposed practice and corresponding technology has been considered as 'best'?

The land and water management practices included in this study were low cost, easy to implement, and incurred heavy impact in terms of increased area irrigated and crops produced. In addition, the activity was owned and participated by beneficiaries themselves with cost sharing. The most important aspect was that communities of 3 villages contributed Rupees 0.9 million for establishing a community based Rod-Kohi Fund with matching grant from SLMP. |

Section 2. Problems addressed (direct and indirect causes) and objectives of the best practice

Main problems addressed by the best practice

Degradation of fertile land due to heavy flash floods in monsoon seasons. The rushing down-flow of water from Sulaiman range usually crosses the carrying capacity of current earthen bunds and hence damages the system with heavy erosion on farmlands. |Loss of valuable water resources. In this sub-tropical arid region water is the most limiting factor in all production systems. The run-off generated from rainfalls on hills and flowing down into torrents is the only source of water for agriculture. In rainy season, the system cannot accommodate heavy flows and the water is lost down to River Indus. |On the other hand, the area also faces prolonged droughts, reflecting uncertainty in climate. Due to droughts, the monsoon floods do not reach all the croplands and more and more croplands are being abandoned by farmers because of inaccessibility of flood water.|Lower technical and financial capacity of local farmers to cope with the problems specified above and hence sustainability of the problems. Farmers are generally very poor in this area and do not have access to financial resources and technical solutions available. |Lack of outreach facilities from government service providing departments and other development agencies. The area is usually ignored in the development agenda and existence of donor agencies is nil. Poor communities are forced to solve their problems with their own scarce resources.

Outline specific land degradation problems addressed by the best practice

Rushing floods in monsoon are the major cause of land degradation in this region. The floods damage stream banks, break the farmland embankments and also threaten the human habitation. As a consequence, the area is cut through by gullies, broken bunds and on-farm land degradation in form of loss of fertile soil and heavy deposits of water born sediments preventing cropping.
At the same time, more and more fertile lands are being abandoned due to inaccessibility of flood water. The on-site rains on these lands are the only source but rains are very meager.  

Specify the objectives of the best practice

Conservation of soil and water resources with the involvement of local communities in Sheikh Haider Zam area.|Promote dryland management activities on areas beyond the access of Rod-Kohi flood water.|Capacity building of local communities in improved soil and water management techniques.
|Facilitating access to financial resources for poor farmers of the area

Section 3. Activities

Brief description of main activities, by objective

1.Construction of gated structures in main earthen dikes to control flood water in heavy flood season that would prevent the breaking of dike (4 structures built).
2.Construction of water inlet structures at farm water inlet points that are used to control the flow in to farm fields when it has been filled out (30 inlets built),
3.Desiltation of water channels carrying flood water and using the sediments to strengthen the bunds for controlling down flow of flood water (6 bunds worked).|
1.The 3 villages in middle section of the Rod-Kohi area established a community level joint Rod-Kohi Management Fund to cover the future costs with matching grant from SLMP. The communities of 3 villages contributed 0.9 million rupees and SLMP provided cash grant of 0.9 million to establish the fund. The fund will be managed by a Rod-Kohi Management Fund Organization. It will provide loans to farmers to improve or re-build their damages in Rod-Kohi area after each flood season.
1.Dryland afforestation with rain water harvesting techniques. The activity ensures plantation of local tree species in dry climate with on-site harvesting of rainfall water through roaded catchments and conservation ponds (area covered 120 acres).
2.Rehabilitation of degraded dry rangelands with improved silvo-pastoral techniques. The system ensures harvesting of rainwater through hillside ditch method for plantation and sowing of fodder trees and shrubs (area covered 40 acres).
1.Master Trainers were trained in innovative soil and water conservation techniques applied under this scheme. They will provide technical guidance to on-site activities and will help in replication of activities on self-help basis 01 male and 1 female Master Trainer trained).
2.Training of the community based organizations (CBOs) in organizational management and record keeping (3 trainings held).
3.Training of the Rod-Kohi Management Organization in 3 villages in account,record keeping etc. |

Short description and technical specifications of the technology

Already Provided in Section 3 with description of activities.

Section 4. Institutions/actors involved (collaboration, participation, role of stakeholders)

Name and address of the institution developing the technology

Provincial Coordination Unit (PCU), Sustainable Land Management Project (SLMP)|Provincial Coordination Unit (PCU), Sustainable Land Management Project (SLMP), Planning & Development Department, Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Civil secretariat, Peshawar, Pakistan. Phone: 0092 91 9213012. Fax: 0092 91 9213073.
Email: sahibzada.irfanullah@slmp.org.pk

Was the technology developed in partnership?


List the partners:

Sustainable Land Management Project, Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan.|VEER Development Organization, Dera Ismail Khan.|Rod-Kohi Fund Management Organization.

Specify the framework within which the technology was promoted



Was the participation of local stakeholders, including CSOs, fostered in the development of the technology?


List local stakeholders involved:

1. Community Based Organizations (CBOs) of 10 villages in sheikh Haider Zam area.
|2. VEER Development Organization, Dera Ismail Khan.|3. Rod-Kohi Fund Management Organization (RKMFO).

For the stakeholders listed above, specify their role in the design, introduction, use and maintenance of the technology, if any.

1)Community Based Organizations (CBOs) of 10 villages in sheikh
The CBOs played a lead role in this whole activity. They identified their problems and solutions, and also contributed in cash and kind for each activity. They also took responsibility of watch and ward of the activity sites and maintenance of on-site structures. The community shared 20-25% cost in each activity either in cash or in kind and thus showed their sense of responsibility and ownership.
2)VEER Development Organization, Dera Ismail Khan
The VEER Development Organization (VDO) as implementing partner to SLMP played important role in undertaking baseline analysis, social mobilization, capacity building of CBOs and liaisoning between the community, SLMP and other service providers. The VDO used its established roots in the local community and the trust it maintains with village groups to steer a working relationship necessary for undertaking a field project.
3)Rod-Kohi Fund Management Organization (RKMFO)
The RKMFO in 3 villages was responsible for record keeping, accounts management, assessment of needs, disbursement of loans and recovery. The RKMFO played role in finalizing terms and conditions and modus operandi for the working of the Rod-Kohi Management Fund.|


Section 5. Contribution to impact

Describe on-site impacts (the major two impacts by category)

The activity saved hard earned money of the poor farmers which was spent annually before each flood season to re-construct the earthen dikes. The average amount spent by each village annually was calculated as Rs. 80-90,000.|
The activity has resulted in the saving of water resource that was usually lost to the river in form of heavy floods that could not be controlled by earthen dikes.
Because of irrigation community save their income by not migrating to other villages for labour in harvesting.
Livestock is the main source of income and compare to previous year they save their livestock because of fodder availability.
The activity benefited 580 farming families in terms of more food production and cash savings from the activity. In only one village, the farmers on average produced crops worth Rs. 250,000. |
With the construction of the permanent structure, the conflicts among communities have reduced because of availability of more water for irrigation.|
Prevention of on-farm land erosion, and soil conservation over an area of 2000 acres.|
Rehabilitation of degraded dry rangelands over an area of 660 acres. This also ensured restoration of natural dryland ecosystem and consequently the restoration of dryland ecosystem services to local community.
There is an agricultural land of 9000 acres down the point of construction of the gated control structures which was safely and sufficiently irrigated after the construction work in first flood season. This would happen each year till the structure is in place.

Impact on biodiversity and climate change

Explain the reasons:

The activity takes into account the uncertainty in rainfall. The area faces flash floods in monsoon or prolonged droughts. Many areas are being abandoned due to shortage of water. The field interventions addressed both the situations i.e. control of land degradation due to flash floods and rehabilitation of dry lands. In dry lands the interventions ensured bringing back natural ecosystem vegetation with limited water.
The area is most vulnerable to effects of climate change because of shortage of water and weak capacity of local farmers to adapt to the changed climatic patterns. The activity builds the capacity of farmers to cope with excess or scarcity of water within their limited resources. The activity thus enable the locals to strengthen their systems and thus mitigate the impacts of climate change. Whereas in shape of innovative structures for land and water management, they have adapted.

Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?

Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?


Section 6. Adoption and replicability

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?



Draban Zam and Chodwan Zam area in District Dera Ismail Khan

Can you identify the three main conditions that led to the success of the presented best practice/technology?

Low cost but huge impact
Ownership / participation of local people
Easy to implement at field


In your opinion, the best practice/technology you have proposed can be replicated, although with some level of adaptation, elsewhere?


At which level?
  • Local
  • Sub-national
  • National

Section 7. Lessons learned

Related to human resources

People are always ready to take charge of developmental activities if these are directly addressing their basic needs.|It is most important to build capacities of local people and their associations for implementation and monitoring of similar type of activities on longer term basis.

Related to technical aspects

Simple and easy-to-implement technologies have more chances of success and replicability.|for maintenance and replication, local structure of service delivery is important to cater for the needs of farmers.

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