Gully treatment [Afghanistan]

Check dam

technologies_542 - Afghanistan

Completeness: 88%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

land user:

Mohammad Azim Habibullah

Natural Resources Management Comittee (NRMC)

Sari Joy Village, Takhar Province


SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Potential and limitations for improved natural resource management (NRM) in mountain communities in the Rustaq district, Afghanistan (Rustaq NRM Study)
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar, Afghanistan (LIPT)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Terre des Hommes (Terre des Hommes) - Switzerland
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (DEZA / COSUDE / DDC / SDC) - Switzerland
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
CDE Centre for Development and Environment (CDE Centre for Development and Environment) - Switzerland
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) - Switzerland

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?



SLM practices documented in the frame of the Rustaq NRM study were established only recently (1-3 years ago). It is too early for a final judgment on the sustainability of these technologies within the human and natural environment of Chokar watershed.

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Small check dams made of stone, together with planting of trees, slow water flow and reduce further erosion in a gully, leading to its restoration.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Project supported implementation of gully treatment has taken place in the villages Sari Joy and Jawaz Khana, located in Chokar watershed of Rustaq District in Northern Afghanistan. The Chokar watershed is a mountainous area situated between 600 m and 2,500 m above sea level. The climate is semi-arid with harsh and cold weather in winter and hot and dry summers. The annual precipitation in average years is 580 mm. Land degradation affects all forms of land use and includes sparse vegetation cover, severe topsoil erosion from water, and poor soil fertility. Unsustainable agricultural practices, together with over-exploitation and high pressure on the natural resources, are adversely impacting the socio-economic well-being of local communities, as well as contributing to the risk of being adversely affected by drought, and also leading to landslides and flash foods triggered by heavy rainfall. The data used for the documentation of the technology are based on field research conducted in Chokar watershed, namely in the villages of Sari Joy and Jawaz Khana. These villages represent the upper and the middle zone of Chokar watershed, respectively. They differ considerably in access to services and infrastructure, but in general are poorly served. The communities depend on land resources for sustaining their livelihoods. In a good year with high yields, wheat self-sufficiency lasts about 5 months. The villages are home to ethnic Qarluq communities. Since 2012 the Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar (LIPT) implemented by Terre des hommes (Tdh) Switzerland has initiated a range of NRM interventions.

The Livelihood Improvement Project in Takhar supported Natural Resources Management Committees to rehabilitate two gullies with check dams and trees in Sari Joy and Jawaz Khana. The check dams are made of stone walls built across the widest section of the gully. Jute bags filled with soil are used in the narrower sections of the gully to form a solid barrier for soil to accumulate. Tree seedlings and cuttings of Russian willow and acacia are planted between the check dams to stabilize the soil. During the first 2-3 years, the trees need to be protected from grazing, and from cutting for fuelwood. Watering of the trees may also be required during the dry season, especially in Jawaz Khana, to support their survival. Such methods of gully rehabilitation are feasible in the area, since the construction and planting materials are locally available. However, the costs for establishing the check dams remain relatively high and the local villages have contributed mainly with labour inputs, while the costs for construction material were provided by the project.

Check dams inside the gully slow the water flow and help its infiltration into the soil. The structures also collect sediment and reduce further erosion of the gully bed, and prevent its expansion in the area. Well managed check dams, after several years, can produce trees for fuelwood and grass for animal fodder.

Rehabilitation of gullies is an innovative practice for the local land users, but it is supported by the local communities for its visible impact on preventing further erosion and loss of community land used for crop cultivation, forest and orchards. After taking part in the design and implementation of rehabilitation activities, the local land users expressed that they had acquired useful skills and will be able to conduct these works independently if the material resources are available.

Women support the work by preparing and bringing food to the workers in the field. Women are also occasionally involved in filling the jute bags with soil and bring the bags to the gully. This requires significant inputs, bearing in mind that gullies are often formed in very steep areas where there are no roads - and thus the food and other material can be delivered only by foot or with a donkey.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Takhar Province, Rustaq District

Further specification of location:

Sari Joy and Jawaz Khana Villages


This documentation is based on the experiences of SLM implementers from Sari Joy (1 treated gully) and Jawaz Khana (1 treated gully).

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions
Comments (type of project, etc.):

Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar (LIPT) supported by Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) from 2012-17.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • protect a watershed/ downstream areas – in combination with other Technologies
  • reduce risk of disasters

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
Mixed (crops/ grazing/ trees), incl. agroforestry

Mixed (crops/ grazing/ trees), incl. agroforestry

  • Agroforestry
  • Silvo-pastoralism

3.3 Further information about land use

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • mixed rainfed-irrigated
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

3.4 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • cross-slope measure
  • surface water management (spring, river, lakes, sea)

3.5 Spread of the Technology

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • applied at specific points/ concentrated on a small area

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V1: Tree and shrub cover
structural measures

structural measures

  • S6: Walls, barriers, palisades, fences

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
  • Wg: gully erosion/ gullying
  • Wm: mass movements/ landslides

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation
  • restore/ rehabilitate severely degraded land

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology


Aslam Qadamov; Roziya Kirgizbekova



4.2 Technical specifications/ explanations of technical drawing

A check dam is a permanent structure across a gully. The size of the check dam and the spacing of check dams depends on the steepness of the slope and length of the gully. To rehabilitate a gully on a slope of 6 - 15 % steepness and 30 meters in length there are 10 check dams built inside the gully at a distance of 3 meters apart. The measurements of the check dam are: 1.2 m x 2 m x 0.6 m. The dam is built from stones or boulders either available locally or transported to the gully site. The upper part of the gully is planted with rows of tree cuttings (7 pieces) and saplings (3 pieces).

4.3 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology unit
Specify unit:


Specify volume, length, etc. (if relevant):

30 meter length, 1,5 meter depth, 6-15% slope

Specify currency used for cost calculations:
  • US Dollars
Indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (if relevant): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:

5.2-5.3 USD

4.4 Establishment activities

Activity Type of measure Timing
1. Design of the check dam Structural Winter
2. Digging the gully for preparation of construction work Structural Spring
3. Construction of the stone wall accross the gully Structural Spring
4. Filling the upper part of the stone wall with soil Structural Spring
5. Planting of tree seedlings and cuttings on upper part of the wall Vegetative Spring

4.5 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Design of the check dam person-day 2.0 5.3 10.6
Labour Digging the gully for preparation of construction work person-day 8.0 5.3 42.4
Labour Construction of stone wall person-day 12.0 5.3 63.6
Labour Planting of tree seedlings and cuttings person-day 2.0 5.3 10.6 100.0
Equipment Meter piece 1.0 2.2 2.2
Equipment Shovel piece 2.0 3.8 7.6
Equipment Axe piece 1.0 2.2 2.2
Equipment Wheelbarrow piece 1.0 38.0 38.0
Equipment Rope meter 100.0 0.07 7.0
Equipment Pick axe piece 1.0 3.0 3.0
Equipment Hammer piece 1.0 2.2 2.2
Plant material Cuttings piece 100.0 0.37 37.0 50.0
Plant material Seedlings piece 10.0 0.6 6.0 50.0
Construction material Stone cubic meter 6.0 7.49 44.94
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 277.34
If land user bore less than 100% of costs, indicate who covered the remaining costs:

Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar (LIPT) implemented by Terre des hommes (Tdh) Switzerland

4.6 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Type of measure Timing/ frequency
1. Protecting the trees from animals Management Continious
2. Watering the trees Vegetative During dry season

4.7 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Protecting the trees from animals person day 45.0 1.3 58.5 100.0
Labour Watering the trees person day 10.0 5.3 53.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 111.5

4.8 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Due to the remoteness of the villages where the technology has been implemented, all the inputs for establishment, such as agricultural equipment, plant material, fertilizers, construction material, etc., are purchased in Rustaq town. The expenses for traveling and delivering the inputs affect the establishment costs.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Average annual precipitation for the area is 564 mm, with minimum in dry years (e.g. 2000 and 2001) of 270 mm and maximum in wet years (e.g. 2009 and 2010) of 830 mm. The data set shows an absolute maximum for annual rainfall for 1986, 1024 mm, and the absolute minimum for 2001, 269 mm. The data series covers the period from 1979 to 2014.

Indicate the name of the reference meteorological station considered:

Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR),

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Derived from the publicly available dataset on length of growing period (LGP) (Fischer 2009 / IIASA-FAO). Internet link:

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Local land users differentiate between the following soil types where gully rehabilitation is implemented:
- Red: shallow; texture medium, coarse; low organic matter
- Light: moderately deep; texture medium; medium, low organic matter

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?




Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Floods occur mainly during the rainy seasons in spring and autumn. Availability of surface water differs for the study villages Sari Joy and Jawaz Khana. Sari Joy has sources and good surface water availability. Jawaz Khana has poor water availability as water has to be fetched from a lower stream.

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low
Habitat diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • subsistence (self-supply)
  • mixed (subsistence/ commercial
Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
  • > 50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • poor
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • groups/ community
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • animal traction
  • women
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged
  • elderly
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

The land users in the area where the Technology is applied belong to the Uzbek ethnic minority group Qarluq.
Although the men are generally the main land users, however, women and children also take active part in the related work. The functions of men and women are clearly distinguished within the Afghan society. At the same time within the family this division of work and functions also results in men and women working hand-in-hand. An improvement of the family’s livelihood situation is expected to positively affect all family members. While, it is recognized that the involvement of women is key in order to secure basic human rights for everyone, to achieve good governance, sustainable development, and to efficiently contribute to poverty reduction (SDC 2004), it is also clear that a context sensitive approach is of high importance.
Women in rural Afghanistan are involved in many production and income generating activities that contribute to the overall household income, however, very few women own resources such as land and livestock, and their income generating options are fewer in comparison to that of men.

5.7 Average area of land owned or leased by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • communal/ village
Land use rights:
  • communal (organized)

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Comments/ specify:

Treatment of gullies on cropland, forest (mixed) land and grazing land protects the land from further erosion and protects the crop.

fodder production


animal production


product diversity


production area

Comments/ specify:

Through implementation of gully treatment the area that was lost to gully formation can be used for production purposes again.

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff


soil loss

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

downstream flooding


downstream siltation


buffering/ filtering capacity

Comments regarding impact assessment:

Based on the Land User Protocols: Individual SLM implementers were asked to rate the benefits for their Technology. They were asked to indicate production increase of crops; fodder; animals; wood; non-wood forest products; increase in product diversity; or production area. The most important increase they rated with 3, the second most with 2, others with 1 point. Averages of the points given by all SLM implementers are reflected here.
Based on the Land User Protocols: Individual SLM implementers were asked to rate the on-site and off-site impacts of the Technology on water; soil; and vegetation. They were asked to indicate the strength of impacts with three, two or one points. Averages of the points given by all implementers are reflected here.

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm very well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well

SLM implementers from three villages were asked to jointly discuss and rate how much the SLM technology reduced the lands vulnerability to drought and local rainstorms. Only vulnerability to the most prevalent climate extremes (drought and local rainstorms) was discussed. SLM technologies were rated as reducing vulnerability poorly , well, or very well. The average points reflected here are from multi-criteria matrices compiled in three villages where the SLM technology had been implemented.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

very positive

Long-term returns:

very positive


SLM implementers from three villages were asked to jointly discuss and rate the SLM technologies short term (1-3 years) and long-term (10 years) return. As most of the technologies have only been implemented 1-2 years ago, it is too early to compare benefits to maintenance costs. Farmers have little experience so far on the actual benefits of the SLM technologies. The ratings are mostly based on expected benefits and not on actual benefits.

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 1-10%
If available, quantify (no. of households and/ or area covered):

2 households

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many have did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 0-10%

2 land users replicated the technology without receiving financial support.

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Through the technology implementation expansion of the gully is halted and loss of land is prevented.
The land is less vulnerable to heavy rainfall. Agricultural land, houses and local infrastructure are protected from flood damage during the rainy season.
The grass which grows on the rehabilitated gullies can be used for livestock fodder.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Expansion of the production area to be used for cultivation or reforestation in a long-term perspective

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Requires significant resources to cover all the costs for establishment
Establishment of check dams is highly labour intensive
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Requires continuous maintenance to prevent damage to the constructed check dams. Protection of the trees from grazing and illegal logging is needed.
Technical knowledge and support is required to design and construct the gullies in accordance with local conditions and available material

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys

No field visits were conducted.

  • interviews with land users

Focus group discussions (FGD) were organized by the CDE team to collect information from SLM implementers. 3 land users who have implemented the technology participated in the FGDs held in Sari Joy and Jawaz Khana.
Interviews were conducted by the HAFL team to collect information from persons representing the study villages. Very detailed interviews were conducted with 40 persons interested in terrace implementation, of which 17 persons are from households that already have implemented terraces.

  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts

Close collaboration took place during the compilation of this material with the technical staff of the LIPT project in Rustaq.

  • compilation from reports and other existing documentation

Information provided in the reports of the LIPT project in Rustaq served as an initial source of information during the preparatory phase and also solidifying the description of the technology and area of implementation. Other background papers on Afghanistan were referred to for general information on agriculture and natural resource management in Afghanistan.

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Guidelines for Focus Groups Discussions

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Methods section of the Rustaq NRM study

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