Assessment of Participatory Management of Irrigation Schemes in Sri Lanka: Partial Reforms, Partial Benefits


"The worldwide interest in, and support for, transferring the management of irrigation schemes from public agencies to water user groups and other non-governmental organizations, has prompted considerable research on various aspects of irrigation management reforms and their impacts. This has resulted in a wide range of opinion on the subject. The need for strong political support for the program, clear policy direction, alternate strategies for irrigation management, well defined water rights and clarity about the process of creating farmer organizations and conditions for successful management transfer are some of the major issues discussed in the literature (Johnson III et al, 1995; Giejer et al, 1995; Meinzen-Dick et al, 1997; Vermillion, 1997). Yet, there is little systematic, comparative evidence to date on the impact of reforms on irrigation management performance, government finances, and the farming community (Vermillion, 1997). With some exceptions (e.g. Svendson and Vermillion, 1994; Vermillion and Garces-Restrepo, 1996) most studies that deal with impacts of irrigation management reform refer to short-term and immediate results. "To support systematic documentation of international experience with irrigation management reforms and their impact on the performance of irrigated agriculture, the International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI) developed a standard methodology to assess and compare irrigation management transfer (IMT) in a variety of settings. This paper reports the results of application of the methodology to assess the impact of irrigation management reforms in Sri Lanka. The study was designed and implemented with two objectives in mind: first, to field test the proposed methodology and second, to determine what effects management reforms had on the performance of irrigation management and irrigated agriculture in Sri Lanka. "The paper begins with overview of irrigation management reform programs in Sri Lanka. We then outline the methodology. The next section presents the results of applying the methodology in Sri Lanka. The final section reviews the methodology and concludes with some general comments on the Sri Lankan case-study."



IASC, common pool resources--case studies, farmer-managed irrigation, water users' associations, participatory management, property rights