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Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Asia: Study Uncovers What Makes Irrigation Initiatives Pro-Poor
BANISHING RURAL POVERTY Agriculture in developing Asia has progressed remarkably over the past three decades. Between 1970 and 2000, annual cereal production in Asia more than doubled to nearly 800 million tons. Most countries achieved self-sufficiency in the staple food grains. The Green Revolution in Asia could not have happened without massive flows of water, irrigation water, to bring the best out of the new crop varieties and other inputs made available to farmers. Massive flows of investment capital also built new irrigation schemes and expanded existing ones, as well as funded other infrastructure and services to rural areas, including research and extension. So why have we not yet fully succeeded in banishing rural poverty? Irrigation, then, is an essential part of the package of technologies, institutions and policies that underpins increased agricultural output in Asia. In the context of the UN millennium goal of halving world poverty by the year 2015, are there ways of making the package more pro-poor for the future? A PRO-POOR STUDY In 2001, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), in collaboration with national partners, launched a major study to answer why heavy investments in irrigation had done little to affect rural poverty. Funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the study explored the links between irrigation and poverty alleviation in six Asian countries. The objective was to determine realistic options for increasing returns to poor farmers in the low-productivity irrigated areas, within the context of improving overall performance and sustainability of established irrigation schemes. The study examined the effects of irrigation, particularly its interaction with other components of the package. The study intended to form a basis for lessons to offer policymakers, donor agencies and researchers.
WHAT THIS STUDY OFFERS The study provides a model for the design of future propoor projects. The following information is provided in easy to scan, easy to read formats in the report: Key questions and steps in identifying and designing pro-poor interventions Typology of irrigation costs and benefits and their examples Suggestions for minimizing or avoiding negative impacts from irrigation, including displacement of people Statistical pictures of poverty in irrigated and nonirrigated settings, and land and water related factors across select countries Examples of initiatives with pro-poor and pro-gender focus Examples of good practices in resource distribution, equity, rights, service delivery and incentives for improved system performance Summary of pro-poor options for improving access of the poor to and security of rights to land and water Summary of new knowledge-what was known before the study and what is known now Options and good practices for designing and implementing irrigation schemes that improve cost recovery and benefits to the poor Indicators and formulas for estimating a variety of irrigation benefits to the poor UNPRECEDENTED SCOPE The IWMI-ADB study is one of the most thorough of its kind. The study is based on: Primary data and a review of global literature covering more than 200 studies More than 5,400 households in 26 irrigation systems took part in surveys during 2001 and 2002 The 227 professionals who worked on the study interviewed a cross section of irrigation stakeholders, from farmers to local and national policymakers and practitioners Fourteen workshops with more than 800 participants were held to plan the research and discuss its findings
COUNTRIES STUDIED The six countries included in the IWMI-ADB study were deliberately selected to encompass different policy, social and economic settings: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh represent the rapidly growing but inequitable South Asia. China and Viet Nam offer experiences where economic development has proceeded more fairly. Indonesia has a large government-funded transmigration scheme for its irrigation development. These countries together account for over 51 percent of the global net irrigated area and over 73 percent of the net irrigated area in Asia, with most of this area located in China, India and Pakistan. The six countries also present contrasting models of transferring irrigation management from public agencies to farmer groups or private hands. Agricultural development and poverty-alleviation performance, however, have varied greatly in these countries over the past three decades. Southeast Asia and China have lifted a large proportion of their population out of poverty. South Asia continues to be home to the largest number of the world's poor, estimated at 44 percent of the world's poor. KEY MESSAGES The IWMI-ADB study attempts to fill the existing gap in knowledge for developing effective pro-poor interventions in irrigated agriculture. From its research activities, the study asserts the following key messages. The general perception of a trade-off between inequity and productivity is false. High inequities in land and water are bad for both productivity and poverty. Irrigation will reduce poverty faster and more comprehensively if land and water are more equitably distributed. Crop productivity is only one benefit of effective irrigation. Other direct and indirect benefits include employment, wages, prices, consumption, food security, incomes, benefits from multiple uses of water, etc. It is often assumed that targeting of poverty and support to the poor in canal systems is difficult. The study findings suggest that targeting can be done. There is significant, identifiable variance in poverty levels across systems and locations within systems, particularly in South Asia.
The study findings challenge the notion that low service charges are good for the poor. Where inequities in land and water distribution are great, such as South Asia, low irrigation charges hurt the poor because funds are insufficient to cover operation and maintenance, which compromises the performance and reliability of irrigation systems. KEY SUGGESTIONS It is possible to assure that irrigation investments and interventions are pro-poor. To make irrigation work propoor in fact, and not just in theory, the study offers the following suggestions. Irrigation interventions can be designed to redistribute benefits in favor of the poor. The criteria for irrigation investments should not be limited to the number of hectares developed or rehabilitated. Pro-poor investments should target a specific number of households, farms or persons, identify the types of benefits and the share of poor receiving total benefits. In making new irrigation investments and in designing irrigation interventions and evaluations, it is important to incorporate (a) poverty alleviation criteria, (b) a generic typology of direct and indirect costs and benefits, (c) a typology of beneficiaries and/or affected people, (d) a tri-level framework for identifying constraints and opportunities for enhancing benefits of investments and interventions to the poor. The study goes even further to assist readers with applying the report's new knowledge. To operationalize the above suggestions, the study provides a menu of pro-poor intervention options and a detailed set of specific actions and guidelines. FULL REPORT Download the full report of the study. Read the following sections: Executive Summary Table of Contents Study Partners and Contact Persons RELATED LINK http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/propoor/
_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in July 2005: http://www.adb.org/Water/Actions/REG/irrigation-initiatives.asp. The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.
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