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Designing Effective Intervention for Irrigation Management: Cases from the Indrawati Watershed in Nepal

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Lam, Wai Fung; Ostrom, Elinor; Shivakoti, Ganesh P.; Yoder, Robert
Conference: Festschrift for Elinor Ostrom
Location: Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: November 22-24, 2005
Date: 2005
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4951
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): farmer-managed irrigation
social capital
Abstract: "Prior research and assistance experiences have suggested that technological fixes alone are not likely to improve irrigation performance. An intervention project stands a chance of success only if it could help develop robust local institutions to support the operation and maintenance of engineering infrastructure, and enhance social capital that has already existed in the local community. While the principle for designing successful intervention project seems to be straightforward, turning the principle into the design of intervention projects is not as simple as some might expect. In particular, how to keep the intervention effect last and sustained in the long run poses a significant challenge. "In 1985, the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) of Nepal and the International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI) initiated an intervention project to assist 19 farmer-managed irrigation systems located in the Indrawati watershed in Nepal. The project was designed with a view to developing and testing methods for delivering assistance that could enhance farmers organizing ability for irrigation operation and maintenance at the same time as the irrigation infrastructure was improved. The project was innovative in a variety of ways: (1) the farmers could choose whether to be involved or not, (2) the project provided technical assistance but purposely did not provide full funding for engineering improvements and the farmers were expected to provide core labor and some materials, (3) the farmers examined the engineering plans and had to OK them before they were implemented, (4) participating farmers were expected to go through 'farmer-to-farmer' training offered by some of the more productive irrigation systems in Nepal, and (5) each farmer group was expected to write its own internal set of working rules that covered how future decisions would be made for the system. "The intervention was evaluated as being very successful soon after completion. In this paper, we will draw on several rounds of measurement for the systems involved in the project as so to assess and understand how the intervention has affected the operation and performance of the systems in a decade and a half after completion. By comparing the systems experiences of irrigation management, we will identify factors that help explain why there are differences in the long-term effects of this project, and discuss the implications of the experience for the design of intervention projects."

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