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2012 AIF D2S6b Supporting Adoption of New Tools, Techniques and Innovations for Improved Agricultural Water Management by Hans Woldring

2012 AIF D2S6b Supporting Adoption of New Tools, Techniques and Innovations for Improved Agricultural Water Management by Hans Woldring

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2012 AIF D2S6b Supporting Adoption of New Tools, Techniques and Innovations for Improved Agricultural Water Management by Hans Woldring
2012 AIF D2S6b Supporting Adoption of New Tools, Techniques and Innovations for Improved Agricultural Water Management by Hans Woldring

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Published by: adbwaterforall on Apr 09, 2012
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Supporting Adoption of New Tools, Techniquesand Innovations for Improved Agricultural WaterManagement
Hans Woldring
Session 6b: Tools, Techniques, Innovations
In our lifetime we can expect (i) climate change to reduce river flows and / or flowsto become more variable in many Asian river basins, (ii) competition for waterresources between users to significantly increase, (iii) unsustainable ground waterextraction practices in areas of south and east Asia (which presently supports 600million people) to reach crisis levels, and (iv) demand for the products of irrigatedagriculture to rise at an average of at least 2.0% per annum.Adequate output from irrigated agriculture is fundamental to ensure food security.However, improved agricultural water management and production practices willbe required to ensure the calorific and nutritional productivity of water (WP) risesto meet demand. The Asian urban poor, swelling in number by millions every year,depend on sustained access to affordable food. Irrigated agriculture will provide alarge proportion of the increased food production required.What are the options and tools to improve agricultural water management and WP,and in what way can ADB facilitate the change and investment process required tomeet real needs that are facing Asian irrigated agriculture?
Key Issues and Challenges
Adoption of new tools and innovations for improved agricultural WP frequentlyinvolves investment decisions by farmers and agricultural service providers. Inthe Asian context, these are frequently relatively small business owners. Whatconstrains these small business owners from making investments into technologiessuch as micro irrigation, laser leveling, minimum tillage, low energy center pivotirrigation systems and the like? And what leads to crop management decisionsleading to suboptimal yields?
Some key issues and challenges to improved agricultural WP are:Water Policy:
The policy environment should pass the test of whether each andevery policy setting, and its supporting regulations and actual implementation,encourages sound agricultural water management. The list of those which don’tis long. At policy level, water reform is a complex task, especially when trans-
boundary issues are added to the list of problems that need resolution. It is easyfor reform gridlock to overtake the process. In Australia, the current reform processwas initiated in at least 1994/95, and although progress has been substantial, itis not complete. High level leadership is essential, and a major crisis may berequired to initiate change. Vested interests can be a useful group to drive change,as the outcomes can be beneficial to them, though this is not widely recognized.Policy settings have typically meant that water scarcity and price have not drivenimproved water management, a dismal policy failure. Governments should leadwith an openness and honesty in disclosure to users of the gravity of the watercrisis and its true cost. The use of free or heavily subsidized irrigation water to gainpolitical advantage should no longer be acceptable.
Land tenure
issues are a perennial social and political issue, but are solvable.Farmers will hesitate to invest in improved technologies when they do not haveadequate security. This can be in the form of a lease; however lease rights mustbe secure, respected and ideally inheritable and tradable. Inheritance practicesleading to small and fragmented farms constrain agricultural and irrigationefficiency.
Farmer profitability:
The importance of a profitable agricultural sector,particularly at the farmer level, is frequently not well recognized or understoodby politicians. Farm profitability is essential to allow investment in human capital,care of the land, technologies to improve labor productivity and farm managementchanges which involve risk. Low profitability farming businesses, be they largeor small, struggle to retain the next generation in the business. In some Asiancountries and sub-sectors, smallholder agriculture is profitable, in some it is not.But the problem is manifest, while many farmer households can rely on externalincome sources to make ends meet, a lack of profitability in the farming businessstill discourages further investment.
Water reliability:
Access to water also needs to be secure, with a surety ofsupply. Millions of hectares of irrigated agriculture in Asia rely on governmentmanaged irrigation schemes as the only supply of water. Unfortunately the farmerscannot rely on water to be delivered as needed in both timing and volume terms.The development of millions of (unlicensed) tube wells was in part a responseby farmers to unreliable surface water delivery. On a range of key performanceindicators—technical and financial—government run surface water irrigationschemes are often poorly managed. The challenge is how to move these systemsinto more modern management and possibly ownership structures when the statusquo is entrenched in government departments. Fiscal pressures may drive theministry of finance in many Asian countries to be the catalyst for change.
small business owners, especially farmers and people with few assets, arerisk averse. Reducing the risk associated with production and change will enabletechnologies to be more rapidly adopted.
Business environment hurdles
can prevent new technologies being adopted.For example: high customs duties on imported micro irrigation products, businessenvironment difficulties for entrepreneurs to offer contracting services to farmers,or fertilizer subsidies which make non-chemical fertilizer inputs less attractive forfarmers.The
availability of finance
for soft and hard investments may or may not be aconstraint. Development partners can provide catalytic finance, however financeshould become self-sustaining from a within country basis. While higher risk inagriculture results in high interest rates, high interest rates from both formal andinformal finance sources also results in high risk for agriculture, and is a cause ofunmanageable indebtedness for many Indian small farmers.
Fortunately there are many opportunities to bring solutions for improved watermanagement and WP. I will focus on opportunities where ADB can add value.
Water Policy:
Through technical assistance operations, ADB, with otherdevelopment partners, can provide support to governments to examine existingpolicy, legislative and regulatory arrangements and sensible ways forward. Tworecent examples include “Preparation of the Nepal Agricultural DevelopmentStrategy” and “The Report of the Water Sector Task Force of the Friends of DemocraticPakistan: Infrastructure and Institutions for a Productive and water-secure Pakistan.”The highest economic and financial return on effort and investment comes fromhaving the correct policy, regulatory and legislative settings. Governments andADB need to recognize that developing and implementing a water reform agenda isa long term process, and real commitment from both sides is essential.
Land tenure and business environment
issues and challenges are largelypolicy, regulatory and legislative in nature, however also require investment whenthe direction has been set. ADB provides both advisory assistance and investmentto developing member countries (DMCs).
Water reliability:
Many irrigation farmers and irrigation districts in Asia face issuesrelating to irrigation reliability—timeliness of delivery, water shortages, variableand often decreasing annual allocations, absence of property rights, ground waterover-extraction and declining water tables. While some of these issues are policyrelated, at the operational level most Asian irrigation schemes are still governmentowned and managed. Corporatization of electricity and urban water and sanitationservices has worked well in many DMCs, and of bulk water in many developedcountries, so why can’t corporatization of state run irrigation systems work wellin DMCs as a first step to improved performance (as demonstrated in Viet Nam)?Passing management and financial responsibility to the irrigators is also a sensibleand viable step. More sophisticated ownership and management arrangements

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