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Results of Management Turnover in Two Irrigation Districts in Colombia

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Vermillion, Douglas L.; Garces-Restrepo, Carlos
Date: 1996
Agency: International Irrigation Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Series: Research Report, 4
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/5063
Sector: Agriculture
Water Resource & Irrigation
Subject(s): irrigation
farmer-managed irrigation
farmers' associations
Abstract: "In 1975, farmers in the Coello and Saldaña irrigation districts in the Tolima Valley, Colombia, petitioned the government for the right to take over management of the districts. They based their argument on the fact that, over the previous 20 years, they had already repaid their agreed 90 percent share of the cost of construction. They were also paying water fees to the government and were dissatisfied with the cost and quality of management that the government was providing. They argued that they could manage the systems more cost-effectively than the government. In 1976, the government agreed to the farmers’ demands, expecting that turnover would save money for the government. This paper assesses the extent to which turnover of irrigation management to farmers in the Coello and Saldaña irrigation districts in Colombia has had an impact on the cost of irrigation to farmers and the government, the sustainability of irrigation, and the quality of water distribution. The sustainability of irrigation is assessed relative to both the financial viability of the districts and the physical condition of irrigation infrastructure 19 years after turnover. The quality of water distribution is assessed relative to efficiency and equity of distribution and to productivity of water. The study found that turnover did achieve the government’s main objective of discontinuing government financing for operations and maintenance. However, since the government retained partial control over the irrigation districts after turnover, staff levels declined slowly and the cost of irrigation to farmers changed little. A detailed inventory of irrigation infrastructure found that the vast majority of structures and canal lengths were in good functional condition. The districts were able to continue to expand the irrigated area modestly and sustain high levels of production after turnover, partly due to a policy to limit rice production and deliver lower volumes of water per hectare. Perhaps the finding that would be of most concern to farmers was that while the cost of irrigation did not increase after turnover, the gross economic value of production per hectare and per unit of water grew dramatically. After turnover, irrigation constituted a relatively small and declining proportion of the total cost and value of agricultural production."

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