Intervention processes and irrigation institutions : sustainability of farmer managed irrigation systems in Nepal

D.R. Pant

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    <p>With the support from various donors, His Majesty's Government of Nepal has implemented support programmes with a view to transform water availability, improve production, and increase the institutional capabilities of farmers to develop and sustain efficient, fair and reliable irrigation management practices in irrigation systems in Nepal. In this respect, this study aimed to understand the social, administrative and political processes involved in the social and institutional changes brought about by development interventions at local level. This study focused mainly on the physical aspects of the interventions, the way they were implemented and the consequences for local institutions.</p><p>The study consists of seven chapters. The first chapter consists of the nature of the problem, research focus and research objective. The various concepts and the theoretical framework along with the various methods used in generating information are presented in the second chapter. The socio-political and administrative environment of the country along with government policies and the priority in irrigation and agriculture development in different plan periods are discussed in the third chapter. The four case studies are discussed in chapters four to six. The case studies consist of the description of the general environment along with the presentation of the cases. The presentation is followed by an analysis of the case. The final chapter includes major findings of the case studies and conclusions. The changes in the government policy at various times have resulted in differences in the intervention strategies designed for various programmes. Moreover, there was no consistency in the intervention policies for various programmes at the same time. The government policy of seeking users' participation in the decision making of project design and implementation was mixed during the 1980s, as indicated by the interventions under different programmes. For example, small-scale financial support for the improvement of the FMIS was implemented with a more or less 'participatory approach'. The processes followed in new construction projects were not based on a 'participatory approach'. However, users' participation in the decision making since the early 1990s was a precondition for the initiation of intervention processes.</p><p>The study shows that the initiation of interventions is complicated and not always very transparent due to the different objectives and hidden agendas of all the actors involved such as: the users, local leaders, local and regional institutions, government agencies, and external donors. The initiative for interventions started at the local level. The users, local leaders and VP officials formed a linking loop to obtain the resources from in which, they were successful. The VP acted as intermediary between the users and the government agencies in the initiation process of the intervention. However, the linking loop did not function well during the design of the project, as the government officials designed the interventions and great emphasis was placed on the financial and technical aspects, which were not discussed at length with the users. As a result the knowledge of the users' was not fully utilised by the agency officials. The cases indicate that the interface between the users and the other actors were not so intensive to reflect a 'participatory approach'.</p><p>The implementation of the intervention could be categorised into three types. They are the new construction, rehabilitation and improvement. The objective of the intervention determined the type and scale of financial, technical and the institutional involvement in its implementation. The cases indicate that most of the UCs formed for the purpose of the intervention acted as 'construction committees' and failed to function after the completion of the intervention. In this respect the objectives of creating institutions for the implementation were partially achieved, but they could not ensure the complete participation of the users. Thus, the linking loop formed to obtain the government resources disintegrated during the implementation of the project. However, users with the help of the VP/VDC were quick to form a linking loop to obtain resources for other interventions.</p><p>The analysis of the cases reveals that four institutions a) the <em>Ditthawal</em> system, b) DIO, c) VP/VDC and d) UC were important for the governance and the management of irrigation systems. The cases also indicate that the legitimacy of the institutions was established through the confidence of the users. The formal or informal status of the institution is secondary. The cases indicate that the fundamental reform of collective-choice rule due to the changes effected by the irrigation intervention in the governance structure contributed to increasing anarchy in 'rules in use'. Besides, there was little contribution in the design by the users due to an absence of constitutional-choice rule. The study also shows that many aspects of 'conditions for successful schemes' were violated due to changes in village administration. The study also shows that agency taking over constitutional-choice rule (policy) without adequate understanding of the village needs.</p><p>The construction of permanent headworks and the canal lining has facilitated the operations of the system and the task of the users has been made easier. As a result, less participation of the users was needed for the system development, regular repair and cleaning of the canal. The users however lost the social control of the irrigation system due to the introduction of new technology and their dependence on outside resources was increasing. The user allocation of water in the case study area is based on irrigable land. Three types of water distribution practices are prevailing in the case study area. They are rotation, field to field and unregulated allocation. The cases indicate that the contributions in the operation and maintenance of the irrigation system are not the sufficient condition for a fair access to irrigation water. The degree of social control on which the institutions would rely was an important factor for ensuring fair distribution of water resources among the members.</p><p>Three types of conflicts have been identified from the analysis of the cases. They are the conflict between the irrigation systems over the use of a single water source. However, the construction of the permanent weir did facilitate in defining the water rights between the irrigation systems. The second type of dispute is among the users due to weak institutional arrangements for the distribution of water. The third type of conflict is between the agency and the users due to lack of intensive interfaces during the planning and implementation of the intervention, which had implications on turning over the management of the irrigation system.</p><p>The nature and extent of the participation by the users reflects that the interventions were not successful in seeking the active participation of the people in decision making due to a lack of an intensive interface between the actors involved in the design and implementation of the interventions. The analysis of the cases suggests that the most common form of participation for resource mobilisation was labour, land and time. The pattern of resource mobilisation shows that the newly introduced irrigation technologies such as permanent structures of the irrigation systems make the user more dependent on the external resources. The cash contribution was almost negligible. The complexity of the technology has considerable consequences for the need for external resources and expertise. The increasing dependence on external agencies for the sustenance of the irrigation system reflects that new linking loops are emerging through interfaces between the actors involved in irrigation development. This indicates that the technical intervention is demanding new organisational control.</p><p>In all the four case studies, the maintenance of the system after the interventions depended largely on external resources when it came to cash contributions. The newly introduced UCs were only functioning during the time of the intervention but were not functional in mobilising resources for the maintenance of irrigation system. This means a greater dependence on government support. When this is not forthcoming the sustainability of the FMIS is questionable. It is therefore necessary that in the future more attention be given by the government to the institutional aspects of intervention that aims at the improvement of rehabilitation of FMIS. However it was not only the intervention and the way they were implemented that led to a diminishing participation of the users in the maintenance of their irrigation system. The changes in the local, political, and administrative institutions, the opening of the villages via new roads lessened cohesion of the rural communities and opportunities were created or made accessible what led among others to a diminished social control. The provision of all kinds of facilities (school, health-posts) led farmers to look for new roles for the government e.g. to support them with the maintenance of the irrigation system.</p>
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • van Dusseldorp, D.B.W.M., Promotor
    • Vincent, L.F., Promotor
    Award date11 Oct 2000
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789058082787
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


    • irrigation
    • water management
    • water distribution
    • development plans
    • farmers
    • nepal

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