Rule Compliance in Participatory Watershed Management: Is it a Sufficient Guarantee of Sustainable Rural Livelihoods?

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"In recent years, decentralised development approaches have been promoted to realise the goal of poverty reduction. In the agriculture sector, declining budgetary support and deteriorating quality of service provision by state parastatals the world over has prompted an interest in Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) and Joint Forest Management (JFM) policies. Donor-supported JFM and IMT projects have encouraged co-management between state parastatals and farmer groups or the private sector to undertake tasks of catchment protection, water allocation, collection of irrigation service fees (ISFs), and routine maintenance of irrigation infrastructure in a watershed context. Some evaluations of participatory watershed management projects assume that compliance with institutional rules would facilitate greater cost recovery, enhance agricultural productivity, and reduce dependence on government budgets, and may, therefore, be viewed as indicators of institutional success. But, based on an extensive survey and a detailed case study of participatory watershed management organisations in the Haryana Shiwaliks, we argue instead that institutional success may be evaluated on the basis of how much rule compliance has contributed towards an improvement in transparency of programme implementation, pro-poor benefit distribution, and condition of environmental resources. We also examine the prospects for participatory watershed management in the context of changes in the wider regional and macro economy."
watersheds, livelihoods, rules, compliance, participatory management, sustainability, decentralization, rural affairs