Water Champion

Water Champions initiate or implement water reforms in their chosen field, and are directly involved in improving the water situation in their respective countries.

Minanto: Pushing for Greater Farmer Participation in Irrigation Management
October 2009

By Cezar Tigno Web Writer ABOUT THE CHAMPION
Minanto has over 25 years experience in Indonesia’s irrigation sector. He started as an Operations and Maintenance (O&M) specialist working on provincial institutional capacity building, O&M procedures, and integrated O&M approaches to sustain irrigation systems. He held various positions in important irrigation projects before eventually moving on to specializing in participatory irrigation management (PIM). After graduating from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta in 1978 with a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Engineering, Minanto worked for 7 years as Government staff for the Bengawan Solo River Project in Central Java, where he was involved in feasibility studies on the development of irrigation schemes and preparation of O&M plans for irrigation systems. From 1985 to 1987, he took a break from irrigation work to study at the Wageningen University in The Netherlands, graduating with a Master of Science degree in Water Management. Since 1988, Minanto was fortunate to have been engaged in various irrigation projects across Indonesia, including the Third Irrigation Sector Project (TISP) in Aceh province from 1988–1994, the Northern Sumatra Irrigated Agriculture Sector Project (NSIASP) from 2002– 2005, and the Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Support Project (ETESP) from 2006–2008 again in Aceh. Minanto’s career as an irrigation expert began with his stint in TISP, a multi-stakeholder irrigation development project in Aceh. During the 6-year TISP, he struggled to convince project managers and the provincial government to take O&M actions parallel with construction works. Although significant progress was made under the project, Minanto realized that the shifting of paradigms from a "construction focus" to one of "participatory irrigation development and management" still needed more time. In his work in the Northern Sumatra project, Minanto introduced and implemented a participatory framework for Farmers’ Plenary Meetings, which served as a guide to farmers’ engagement in the planning, design, and construction stages of irrigation systems. He also helped implement the same framework in Aceh, and has since pushed for greater participation of farmers and communities in managing Indonesia’s irrigation systems.

What are the biggest challenges that Indonesia’s irrigation sector faces today? Indonesia’s irrigation sector has a host of interrelated problems, among them the lack of an annual O&M budget, lack of coordination among stakeholders, depleting water resources and pollution due to poor land and urban planning, and inequitable water allocation between downstream and upstream water users— not to mention the devastation brought by the occasional earthquake and tsunami. Another challenge is land use change, particularly in Java, which was one of the world’s largest exporters of rice in the 1980s; now it’s fast becoming the world’s greatest importer. Its vast agricultural lands have been encroached by residential and industrial areas. This also impacts on increasing crop production to maintain food security in Indonesia. How is the government addressing these challenges? I believe the irrigation sector has entered a new paradigm for reforms, particularly after national political reforms took place in 1997. Presidential decree No.3/1999

(subsequently Government Regulation No.7/2001 on Irrigation) provided for the transfer of the management of irrigation systems to water users association (WUAs) that are often farmer communities, while the government takes on a more regulatory role. Participatory approaches to irrigation management have been introduced, involving farmer communities in planning and decision making processes. After issuance of Law No.7/2004 on Water Resources, Government Regulation No.7/2001 was replaced by Government Regulation No.20/2006 on Irrigation, and the Minister of Public Work issued Ministerial Decrees Nos. 30, 31, 32, and 33 in 2007, which set the guidelines to support participatory irrigation management (PIM). However, effective implementation of these policies on a national scale remains a big challenge. How did you help introduce PIM in Indonesia’s irrigation sector? For the irrigation project in Sumatra, I helped develop and introduce a flow chart for Farmers’ Plenary Meetings to serve as guide for farmers’ engagement in every stage of the irrigation project. The flow chart functions as a PIM framework that aims to generate frequent communication among project staff, local government, and farmer communities to establish better partnerships towards the sustainability of irrigation schemes.

The first Farmers’ Plenary Meeting under the flow chart calls for a “farmers’ walkthrough” of the existing irrigation scheme and surveying the fields to determine infrastructural work the irrigation system needs. This is then followed by a step-by-step consultative process on how to go about the work, including decision making on irrigation service fees, tendering of contracts and subcontracts, establishing WUAs and WUA federations, among others, that require farmers’ inputs. After the Sumatra ended in 2005, I immediately went to Aceh to work on the post tsunami reconstruction project where I proposed to use the same PIM framework. Farmers’ Plenary Meetings were conducted throughout the project. What has your PIM framework accomplished? In the Sumatra, the framework helped initiate participatory rehabilitation of about 165 small and medium scale irrigation schemes scattered in 13 districts (kabupaten), involving some 120 WUAs. It also helped establish an irrigation fee collection system in 13 medium scale irrigation schemes in 7 districts. Conditions under the Aceh reconstruction project were different. Construction contracts were both awarded to contractors through competitive bidding and to WUAs, and government project staffs were apprehensive about WUAs’ capacity for construction work. Provincial and district government officials had to facilitate Farmers’ Plenary Meetings themselves, while working groups at provincial and district levels and field guidance teams were formed to facilitate field implementation, including resolving disputes. At the end of 2006, after long discussions and many meetings, some 75 contract packages spread out over 17 irrigation schemes in 8 districts were awarded to WUAs, while 23 contract packages went to contractors spread out over 23 irrigation schemes in 10 districts. From 2006 to 2008, progress of WUA-managed constructions became evident, with 88 and 155 more packages awarded in 2007 and 156 packages in 2008. Furthermore, most contractors’ works, about 98 packages, were reportedly substandard, and some of them were transferred to WUAs to finish the work. What problems did you encounter in implementing PIM? For sure, there were many problems during the implementation of the framework for Farmers’ Plenary Meetings. Among the major challenges was getting farmer communities to participate in the meetings and other activities such as social, economic, and technical profiling. Another is the general skepticism of farmers, WUA officials, and project staff towards each other, especially during discussions about the budget and other financial issues.

In fact, in the first year (2006) of the Aceh reconstruction project, the Project Manager’s staff did not participate in the walkthrough and in discussions on how to implement participatory construction work. Has PIM been fully implemented in Indonesia? If not, what steps need to be done for its implementation? PIM has just been recently introduced. Although we had made significant progress, shifting from construction focused irrigation to PIM was not to be achieved in a day. The old mindset of “construction project” needs to be changed. PIM thrives in a decentralized environment, characterized by democracy, transparency, and good governance. Both the government and farmers need to understand this. I strongly support community empowerment to encourage farmers to become actively involved in the project activities, to be participants at the main irrigation canal system, owners at the tertiary system and beneficiaries of the irrigation scheme. While we have the PIM Law No.7/2004 and Government Regulation No.20/2006, it would take the willingness and strong spirit of both government and farmer communities to have them fully implemented. Does the country’s irrigation sector have adequate financing sources to implement PIM? How much does the sector need? Currently, the country’s irrigation sector relies highly on loans and grants from international financing institutions like ADB and the World Bank. About Rp3,500,000 per hectare is still needed for the rehabilitation of irrigation systems. Indonesia’s total irrigation area is about 6,135,000 hectares, so we are looking at a Rp25 trillion (about US$2.6 billion) investment. If you can highlight 3 lessons from pursuing irrigation reforms in Indonesia, what would they be? First is to let farmer communities determine by themselves their real irrigation needs. The government, on the other hand should offer alternatives, outlining the benefits and risks of each, and make clear the responsibilities of each stakeholder in the irrigation system. Secondly, government staff should uphold spirit of civil service, build capacity on settling disputes, and move away from top-down approaches that hinder farmers’ participation. Lastly, local parliament should be closely and frequently informed to be more actively involved in legislating a policy providing for an annual O&M budget to help sustain irrigation systems. RELATED LINKS
Farmers’ Plenary Meetings Third Irrigation Sector Project Northern Sumatra Irrigated Agriculture Sector Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Sector Project

_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in October 2009: http://www.adb.org/Water/Champions/2009/Minanto.asp. The Water Champions series was developed to showcase individual leadership and initiative in implementing water sector reforms and good practices in Asia and the Pacific. The champions, representing ADB’s developing member countries, are directly involved in improving the water situation in their respective countries or communities. The series is regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.