Cash for work: protecting reservoirs in Jordan

Project description

Title: Protecting reservoirs in Jordan through employment-intensive measures (cash for work)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Jordan
Lead executing agency: Jordan Valley Authority
Overall term: 2017 to 2019



Jordan is one of the most water-deprived countries in the world. The expanding population and economic growth are increasing the pressure on already scarce water resources, as is the large number of refugees the country has taken in, most of them from neighbouring Syria. Jordan currently has the world’s second highest proportion of refugees, with 87 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants.

The country’s infrastructure is overstretched and can no longer meet the needs of the growing population. Drinking water is in short supply and unemployment is high in many of the communities hosting refugees, as the economic situation in Jordan has deteriorated steadily since the start of the Syrian crisis. The Jordanian population is thus increasingly competing with refugees in the country for scarce resources and this in turn is threatening social cohesion.

Moreover, the King Talal, Mujib, Wala and Wadi Arab Dams are at risk of silting up in the medium term as a result of bank erosion. These dams play an important role in storing rainwater runoff.

The dams also provide water for the cultivation of farmland in the Jordan Valley. The increasing accumulation of sand and other sediments is jeopardising the supply of water for agriculture. If the reservoirs are no longer able to provide enough rainwater for irrigation, farmers will resort to using the country’s scarce groundwater reserves.


Labour-intensive measures are used to retain the reservoirs’ storage capacity and reduce erosion in the dams’ catchment areas. At the same time, temporary employment opportunities improve the living conditions of disadvantaged Jordanian families and refugees.



The project is part of the special initiative ‘Tackling the root causes of displacement, stabilising host regions, supporting refugees’ launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The measures promoted by the project benefit refugees and host communities equally. Thanks to their sustainable approach, these measures will, in the long term, mitigate structural causes of displacement such as social inequality and a lack of prospects. The project also helps to secure the water supply and provide employment to refugees and disadvantaged people from host communities. It fosters social cohesion and sustainable development in the region, and focuses on two areas of action.

The first of these comprises measures to control soil erosion, including afforestation and the creation of retention dams from special baskets, as well as terracing and dry stone walls. Registered refugees and Jordanians from disadvantaged families are paid in return for this work. Both afforestation along banks and the construction of the anti-erosion infrastructure in the catchment area of the dams reduce erosion and the quantity of sediment washed into the reservoirs when it rains. As a result, the storage capacity of the reservoirs is maintained, safeguarding irrigated agriculture in the Jordan Valley in the medium and long term. The reservoirs also provide the population with drinking water. In the second area of action, the cash workers, as they are known, work together with Universität Hamburg to support the restoration of historical water systems in the north of Jordan, including the ancient ruins in Umm Qais.

The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), World Vision International and Action Against Hunger – all of which are non-governmental associations – are the project’s implementation partners. They recruit the cash workers, plan their assignments and pay their wages. The local partners, namely the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) and the Royal Botanical Garden (RBG), are also developing and assisting with support measures. The implementation partners involve the local population in the protection of afforested areas, thus ensuring the sustainability of the measures.


From April 2017 to December 2019, 4,500 individuals will be employed as cash workers for an average of at least 40 days. Women work primarily in tree nurseries and in the provision of supplies to cash workers in the project areas.

Further Information