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Participatory Irrigation Management
How can participation contribute to the sustainable management of irrigation and drainage systems for agriculture?
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has recognized the importance of irrigation systems for increasing agricultural productivity and food security, alleviating poverty, and promoting inclusive economic growth among its developing member countries. It has also identified infrastructure as one of its core areas of operations; specifically, it will continue to support rural infrastructure development, particularly in irrigation and water management. ADB’s support to irrigation and water management is also guided and strengthened by its Water for All Policy, which calls for an integrated, crosssectoral, and participatory approach to water management. This policy highlights participation as the centerpiece of any water service endeavors—excluding people who consume water from participation has tended to make solutions to sustainability elusive. Participation is defined as a process through which stakeholders influence and
share control of development initiatives and of decisions and resources that affect them. Thus, participation requires more than just disseminating information and giving farmers governmentspecified roles in projects. Participation in irrigation management involves a larger role for farmers, water groups, and other stakeholders. It may range from offering information and opinions during consultations, to fully enabling farmers to act as principal decision makers in all or most project activities. There have been increasing efforts to use participation in various forms to improve the quality, effectiveness, and sustainability of irrigation systems. This makes it important to learn what has and has not been achieved in efforts to improve participation in irrigation management. This synthesis highlights lessons from evaluations of ADB-supported irrigation and drainage projects, with a focus on participatory irrigation management.
Asia’s population is expected to reach 5 billion by 2050, with an estimated 1.5 billion more people to share its land, water, and food resources. Meeting the region’s food demands will therefore require more efficient use of resources, including irrigation systems, to boost agricultural productivity. Looming climate change effects and declining water resources only complicate the task.
Highlights of Lessons
Policies promote participation. Many countries have aimed to establish appropriate and requisite policy frameworks for enhancing agricultural productivity through participatory irrigation management. In Viet Nam, for example, the 1998 decree on grassroots democratization provides strong underpinning for participatory planning and development, while in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), the transfer of irrigation management to farmers is prescribed by a national policy. In India, the government in Gujarat State declared a policy on participatory irrigation management calling for the participation of farmers in the planning, implementation, and management of medium and minor irrigation projects. Many other countries, such as Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines, have national water policies adopting the same or similar principles of participatory irrigation management. Satisfactory outcomes are more likely to be attained when an implementing agency has a well-established participatory culture and when the agency’s general policy and legal environment support participation. Participation is central to good governance. Good governance of community organizations is important in ensuring the participation of beneficiaries and affected groups and in preventing any dominant authority from taking
which will facilitate participatory monitoring and meeting project targets. implementation. . possibly because farmers better appreciate the value of the properly constructed works and participation in construction gives the farmers a sense of pride and ownership. The Rajapur Irrigation Rehabilitation Project in Nepal successfully demonstrated that farmers’ participation can be easily solicited and augmented if the project and its components are planned and designed in response to farmers’ needs. The participatory process takes time. as a matter of principle. During implementation. Although the project met its first-year targets. In the Community Managed Irrigation Project. rather than in a residual activity after physical facilities are completed. advantages. The transparency and accountability that participation requires are likely to suffer in this situation. A democratically functioning WUA is necessary in socio-political environments characterized by caste and ethnic divisions and hierarchy. situations where large landowners and certain ethnic groups dominate water users associations (WUA) to their advantage may not be conducive to participation. a participatory Stakeholder identiﬁcation and assessment are a key foundation for participation. farmers should be required to contribute to construction costs and that this requirement should be clearly stated at the outset and applied as a precondition for the selection of subprojects. as in the case of the Farmers Managed Irrigation Systems Project in Indonesia. because the appraisal identified both potential direct and indirect beneficiaries. Yet implementation delays are sometimes attributed to a lack of participation. Illustration courtesy of Nadia Kondratiev. problematic issues can surface during implementation. The continuous involvement and participation of local communities resulted in agreement on scheme rehabilitation and reconstruction requirements.and medium-scale irrigation systems. farmers’ existing structures and traditional practices must be closely studied while designing irrigation facilities. although detailed design of the project was participatory. With the recent emphasis on small. stakeholder analysis was done using a participatory rural appraisal method. In Viet Nam’s Central Region Water Resources Sector Project. as in the Decentralized Irrigation Development and Management Sector Project in the Lao PDR. In addition. Irrigation development through farmers’ participation is demanding and time-consuming. compromising implementation and operation. it did not achieve the desired level of participatory development due to the late mobilization of community development consultants. higher caste Brahmins and Chetri and landlords dominated WUA executive committees. It covered identification of all social groups (included or excluded) from planning. such that the functioning of the WUAs resulted in uneven access to information and resources and disproportionate benefits in favor of large landholders and ethnic groups. The participatory approach to operations and maintenance (O&M) is a viable and effective option for sustaining irrigation projects. Stakeholders have to be involved as early as possible. Participation promotes ownership and responsibility. Stakeholder analysis is fundamental to participation work at any level and provides an understanding of the interests of individuals. Key lessons from the Farmers Managed Irrigation Systems Project in Indonesia identified that. and institutions that have something to win or lose from a project. The quality of construction work undertaken by the farmers is considered better than works built by contractors. and maintenance of water resources management projects. In the Second Irrigation Sector Project in Nepal. joint walkthroughs and field inspections with the affected communities formed the basis for identification and selection of the main rehabilitation and reconstruction options. Stakeholder identification and assessment are a key foundation for participation. and constraints of all stakeholder groups were identified and assessed and information from the community profiling ensured that project design was fully inclusive. needs. and projects should consider such practices as much as possible. also in the Lao PDR. For example. The expected outputs of each stakeholder should be clearly identified and linked to the outputs of other stakeholders.In the irrigation component of the Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Support Project in Indonesia.Learning Lessons control of water resources. ownership is enhanced when farmers provide in-kind and voluntary labor support and co-share the cost of irrigation improvements. groups. When stakeholder interests are not addressed before making a commitment to a development project. Participation enhances careful and appropriate planning. Stakeholder ownership is one of the factors that spell the difference between project success and failure. The interests. the level of participation was constrained by farmers’ low education and inability to read plans.
Aside from collecting water user fees for routine O&M. In Indonesia’s Central Java Groundwater Irrigation Development Project. or a nongovernment organization. In the Rajapur Irrigation Rehabilitation Project in Nepal. and continue relationships for follow-up services. such as land and water distribution structures. Having clear and specific procedures for policy implementation and establishing effective enforcement mechanisms is fundamentally important. Conditions vary across irrigation systems. a farmers’ company. In the Irrigation Management Transfer Project in Nepal. Understanding these conditions in the various contexts and identifying key features of successful participatory irrigation management is essential to the success of future irrigation and drainage projects. Participatory irrigation management may generate more benefits. the private sector was involved in the repair and maintenance of irrigation equipment. This appears to have caused the misuse and mishandling of the constructed facilities by ordinary farmers. these involve finding a viable ‘third party’ between farmers and governments. and O&M to create a sense of ownership of and consequent commitment to the project. perform better. Country experiences in Mali and New Zealand also support the idea that the private sector can efficiently manage irrigation systems and collect water charges. project implementing agencies. support to newly created water organizations.approach to O&M through farmer-managed irrigation schemes has been considered a viable and effective option in countries such as the Philippines and Nepal. the private sector was involved in agricultural extension services. even in the absence of formal WUAs. One alternative to participatory irrigation management is to involve the private sector in publicly managed irrigation and drainage schemes. Illustration courtesy of Nadia Kondratiev. A part of the PPP. Policies that promote participation in irrigation projects are likely to have satisfactory outcomes. Learning Lessons . and line department staff is essential to participation. with key structures rehabilitated and the canal network intact. Private sector participation can help improve water delivery. could involve unbundling management of large irrigation canal systems into reservoirs. It could be a contracting firm or WUA turned into a private corporation. implementing investment programs. farmer groups were able to contact drillers and shallow tubewell suppliers. which included technology transfer and advisory work on farming and irrigation best practices. PPPs could also be useful in mobilizing financing. repair and maintenance. for example. farmers managed procurement. Farmer managed irrigation schemes are considered more sustainable because they are generally small and they can have cohesive links with farmer beneficiaries. This requires that project planning allows time for beneficiaries to participate in planning and influence decisions affecting their future. Irrigation leaders and ordinary farmers both need training on the O&M of newly built structures. commitment of the leadership. Often called public-private partnerships (PPP). WUA roles can be broadened for social mobilization. for example. implementation. After being given orientation on and exposure to service providers and suppliers. but improving the skills and awareness of ordinary farmers is even more important because they are directly involved in O&M of the canal systems. Water user associations play a signiﬁcant role in the eﬀective implementation and sustainability of irrigation projects. and improving the water delivery service. systems should be functional and able to deliver irrigation water to farmer’s fields. Before WUAs take over responsibility for O&M. WUAs can play a significant role in the effective project implementation and sustainability of irrigation projects. and distribution networks. and so on. In the Community Groundwater Irrigation Sector Project in Nepal. Good governance in the context of transparency and accountability within community organizations. This approach to O&M should be considered in the project design and appropriate resources provided to enhance and promote participation. farmers’ dependence on agriculture for household income. and village-level agriculture extension services. and management of shallow tubewells on their own. main canals. installation. this need was not realized and only the irrigation leaders were offered training. install shallow tubewells under their own direct supervision. This would also ensure the collection of irrigation service fees and the undertaking of routine O&M through local resource mobilization. or generate greater positive impacts than other approaches under certain conditions. Conclusion Successful irrigation and drainage projects require participation by all stakeholders in planning.
adb.org/about/policies-and-strategies ADB. 47 and 49) ADB. Available at www2.pdf ADB. Contact Us Independent Evaluation Department Asian Development Bank 6 ADB Avenue. operations. Manila. 2009. Available at www. 2006.org/Water/PDA/VIE/Midterm-report-VIE-Rural-WaterActions-CARE. Available at www.adb. Manila: ADB. org/publications/revitalizing-asias-irrigation-sustainably-meettomorrows-food-needs Independent Evaluation Department. Project Completion Report: Farmer Managed Irrigation Systems in Indonesia (Loan 1378-SF). Available at www2. Project Completion Report: Community Groundwater Irrigation Sector Project in Nepal (Loan 1609). Available at www2. Independent Evaluation. Manila: ADB. Manila. Disclaimer The views and assessments contained herein do not necessarily reﬂect the views of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or its Board of Directors or the governments they represent. strategies. Available at www.org/Documents/PCRs/NEP/23410-NEP-PCR. Available at www2. 2008.pdf (para 60–61) ADB. and thematic conditions. Manila. Manila. Manila.adb. Project Completion Report: Central Java Groundwater Irrigation Development Project in Indonesia (Loan 1126).References ADB.pdf (para 38) ADB. sector. Available at www2. Presentation on Water User Association Empowerment under the Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Support Project. Manila.pdf (para 62–63. Manila. Manila. Sector Synthesis of Postevaluation Findings in the Irrigation and Rural Development Sector.org/Documents/PCRs/LAO/28103LAO-PCR. Director General. Special Evaluation Study on Participatory Approaches in Forest and Water Resources Operations in Selected Developing Member Countries. Project Completion Report: Rajapur Irrigation Rehabilitation Project in Nepal (Loan 1113(SF)).org/ documents/participatory-approches-forest-and-water-resourceoperations-selected-developing-member-co (para 58. It contributes to development eﬀectiveness by providing feedback on performance and through evaluation lessons. Lessons presented in this brief are not prescriptive.org/Documents/PCRs/NEP/pcr_nep_22126.org/evaluation email@example.com/Documents/PCRs/INO/pcr-ino-28064. Mid-term Progress Report: Central Region Water Resources Sector Project (TA -6031-REG).pdf. Available at www. Learning Lessons is a synthesis of key evaluative lessons drawn from the experience of ADB operations and non-ADB sources. Philippines Tel +63 2 632 4100 Fax +63 2 636 2161 www. Project Completion Report: Community Managed Irrigation Sector Project in Lao People’s Democratic Republic.adb. 2001.org/documents/sectorsynthesis-postevaluation-findings-irrigation-and-rural-developmentsector (para 41) IED.adb. adb. 2006. Available at www2.adb. Manila.org/thematicdirs/events/2007/10/ sev840013 (accessed 11 August 2011) Written by Michael Diza and George Bestari under the guidance of Vinod Thomas. Available at www2.pdf ADB.pdf (para 44. 2004. 2009. Available at http:// beta. 2009. 1995. 2008.pdf (para 55) ADB.pdf (para 55) ADB. Strategy 2020: The Long-Term Strategic Framework of the Asian Development Bank 2008–2020.org . 2007. 2003. 2008.pdf ADB. Revitalizing Asia’s Irrigation: To Sustainably Meet Tomorrow’s Food Needs.org/sectors/ water/adb-water-policy-plan ADB. Available at www2.adb. Mandaluyong City 1550 Metro Manila.emwis.adb. Manila. 2005. adb.org/documents/pcrs/ino/IN31_02. Manila. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. About the Independent Evaluation at Asian Development Bank The Independent Evaluation Department evaluates the policies. Available at www.org/Documents/guidelines/strengthening-participationfor-dev/strengthening-participation.adb. Available at www2.adb. Project Completion Report: Second Irrigation Sector Project in Nepal (Loan 1437-SF). 74) IED. 72) International Network on Participatory Irrigation Management. and special concerns of the Asian Development Bank relating to organizational and operational eﬀectiveness. Available at www.adb. Available at http://beta.org/documents/sector-synthesis-irrigationand-drainage (para 67–68. 2003. Project Completion Report: Irrigation Management Transfer Project in Nepal (Loan 1311).adb.adb. page 2 ADB. Manila (adopted in 2001). Water for All: The Water Policy of the Asian Development Bank. 65) ADB. Strengthening Participation for Development Results: A Staff Guide to Consultation and Participation.org/Documents/PCRs/NEP/29236-NEP-PCR. Manila.org/ Documents/PCRs/NEP/26015-NEP-PCR. Manila: ADB. Sector Synthesis of in Irrigation and Drainage. and users are advised to carefully review these lessons in the context of country.org/Documents/Presentations/ ETESP/water-user-assoc. 2003.adb.
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