|FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 52 Reforming water resources policy A guide to methods, processes and practices (1995)|
|Chapter 3 - Principles|
Sustainable agricultural development depends on sustainable water use. Governments today recognize that the search for sustainable economic growth requires, in part, both economy-wide and sector-specific policy reforms. Economy-wide policies attempt to create a favourable macro-economic environment, while water sector policies, for example, seek to encourage resource efficiency among water users.
The current emphasis on macro-economic policy reforms and economic liberalization has several important implications for irrigation. Recognition of the value of water (and the high cost of turning a water source into a service delivered to a farm) makes the water sector a prime target for further policy reforms. Nonetheless, irrigation remains a resource-hungry sector in this transitional period. Even successful irrigation consumes large quantities of capital and foreign exchange and ties up scarce skilled personnel.
Like many public sector personnel, irrigation managers must walk a fine line between a tighter control of finance, the need for more positive active leadership and better planning of resource allocations, on the one hand, and the contradictory need for more ideas from below (farmer customers) on the other hand. Financial pressures are likely to be the dominant influence. Irrigation as a public-sector agency still relies on budget allocations to obtain financing. Many argue that this gives little incentive to save money and may, in fact, have the reverse effect.
As private-sector disciplines are applied in irrigation, and more user participation occurs, policy-makers are finding that:
· agencies become more supportive of farmers' own efforts and less inclined to make all key decisions before informing farmers accordingly;
· management seeks more consensus on priorities, more information about the basis of decisions, and a common view of external factors affecting management;
· irrigation schemes seek and receive more autonomy;
· the financial responsibilities and accountability of managers increases; and
· managers shift focus from their ministries and governments, depending on the amount of finance generated by service fees. (FAO, 1993a)