Improving agricultural water use efficiency to increase climate resilience in Jordan

Green Climate Fund Invests in Water Security in the Dead Sea Valley Governorates

6 Jun 2024 by The Water Diplomat

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is supporting a project in Jordan aimed at increasing agricultural water use efficiency as a means to increase climate resilience in vulnerable regions of the country. The U.S. $ 33.2 million project financed by the GCF – for which an additional U.S. $ 8 million has been provided by the government of Jordan - aims to reduce the demand for scarce groundwater among rural farming communities in four governorates in the Dead Sea Valley. These areas - Karak, Madaba, Talifah and Maan – are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Together, these governorates have a population of 840,900 people, who are vulnerable to the effects of climate change as a result of their high degree of dependency on rainfed agriculture, and the high poverty rates that are prevalent in the region. Jordan is the second most water scarce country in the world, with an annual per capita water availability below 100³m (and countries are placed in the category of ‘absolute water scarcity’ when the annual per capita water availability drops below 500m³). Groundwater sources have been overexploited for decades, and there is an urgent need to implement water harvesting and conservation techniques. The country’s vulnerability to climate risks has been aggravated over the last decade by more erratic rainfall patterns, increased temperatures and a population increase that is in part also the result of the influx of refugees from conflicts in neighbouring countries.

Rural living conditions have become more difficult: although most of the country had an average annual rainfall of only 135 mm, meteorological stations have showed a gradual decrease in this precipitation over time. In the farming sector, the evapotranspiration rates (evaporation from plants) are increasing, the dry season has increased by about 30 days, and both agricultural yields and the quality of produce are declining. 

The project, first identified in 2021, and to be fully implemented by 2029, consists of a mix of investments in infrastructure, innovative technologies, climate-smart agricultural practices and knowledge sharing. It involves the installation of rooftop rainwater harvesting systems on 7,850 rural homes as well as on 400 public buildings. This will over time reduce the need for expensive tankered water supplies in the region and ensure a supply to each household of 20,000 litres of water a year to be used both for household purposes as well as a water source for home gardens, boosting local food security. The project will also build reservoirs to store reclaimed water from wastewater treatment plants during the winter months. This water will then be distributed to farmers during the summer months when demand is at its highest.

There is also an institutional dimension to the project, which is investing in the boosting of the climate resilience of farming households through capacity building on climate change risks and the kinds of practices and technologies that can help them introduce adaptive practices. It is intended to benefit 212,000 people in the Dead Sea Basin, with a strong gender component (47% of the intended beneficiaries are women). The partner organisations for the GCF are the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Development Programme.