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Institutional Alternatives in African Smallholder Irrigation: Lessons from International Experience with Irrigation Management Transfer

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Shah, Tushaar; Van Koppen, Barbara; Merrey, Douglas J.; de Lange, Marna; Samad, Madar
Date: 2002
Agency: International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka
Series: IWMI Research Report no. 60
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4027
Sector: Agriculture
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Africa
Subject(s): irrigation
participatory management
Abstract: "This report reviews several decades of global experience in transferring management of government-run irrigation systems to farmer associations or other nongovernment agencies in an attempt to apply the lessons of success to the African smallholder irrigation context. Based on a comparative study of the experience of several countries, analysts have suggested that Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) works provided certain preconditions are met, viz., supportive legal-policy framework; secure water rights; local management capacity building; and an enabling process to facilitate management transfer. This paper reasons, however, that straightforward IMT-even with all these conditions fulfilled-is unlikely to work in the African smallholder context. It suggests that institutional alternatives most likely to work in this context are those that successfully deal with the entire complex of constraints facing African smallholders and help them move to a substantially higher trajectory of productivity and income from where they can absorb the additional cost and responsibility of managing their irrigation systems. In developing such institutional alternatives, rather than focusing only on direct transfer of irrigation management, African governments need to begin by enhancing the wealth-creating potential of smallholder irrigated farming by strengthening market access, promoting high-value crops, and improving systems for providing extension and technical support to smallholder irrigators."

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