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The Reliability Improvement in Irrigation Services: Application of rotational water distribution to tertiary canals in Central Asia

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Abdullaev, Iskandar; ul Hassan, Mehmood; Manthrithilake, Herath; Yakubov, Murat
Date: 2006
Agency: International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka
Series: IWMI Research Report 100
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/4238
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Former Soviet Union
Subject(s): water resources
irrigation
canals
water users' associations
participatory management
conflict
Abstract: "Land and agricultural reforms in Central Asian countries, following the collapse of the Former Soviet Union (FSU), have led to a big increase in the number of individual farm units along secondary and tertiary canals. Given the new setting, the methods for water distribution, as applied under the former large-scale collective farming system, have become irrelevant, leading to much chaos, inequity and unreliability in water supply to farmers. Thus, many farmers and water managers have had to resort, with variable success, to some alternative water distribution methods to meet these new challenges. Nevertheless, transparency and equity in local water use still remains an issue. With this in mind, an action research to study an arranged intermittent (rotational) water distribution was undertaken in a typical distributary canal in collaboration with a Water Users Association (WUA) in the Kyrgyz Republic during 2003 and 2004. The rotational water distribution method employed was performed in a truly participatory manner and allowed farmers involved to always be aware of their specific time schedules, including when to irrigate their fields and for how long. This alone has translated into huge time savings for farmers when waiting for their irrigation turns and more equitable water distribution between different canal reaches. This has also allowed those at the tail ends to increase crop yields and net incomes, resulting in better Irrigation Service Fee (ISF) collection. At the same time, there has also been a change in the nature and pattern of water disputes. The work conducted on rotational water distribution suggests that it is the needs and concerns of the end users that provide a good entry point for collective action, to pragmatically understand and analyze the situation, from where appropriate remedial strategies and methods can be further devised and employed. This is also a good starting point to initiate farmer debates and discussions on public participation, which should ultimately lead to a truly farmer-owned process and action. Legal instruments alone, though being an important factor, per se are rarely sufficient to fully enable, sustain and institutionalize required change to local communities. Unfortunately, this has mostly been the case in Central Asian economies so far, and it is this that requires major change."

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