|FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 40 Organization, operation and manintenance of irrigation schemes (1986)|
|Part II - The services of a water management organization|
|7. - Irrigation assistance service|
|7.5 Tertiary canal system improvement|
In this alternative, the basic philosophy is that the farmers become responsible for the execution of the improvements and rehabilitation work, with some technical guidance and financial incentives provided by the public administration.
i. Promoting participation
Promoting the farmers' participation is the most difficult part of this approach. In areas where farmers are familiar with irrigation, the task is somewhat easier because they are already convinced of the benefits that equitable water distribution can bring them, although former government action may have accustomed them to the paternalistic approach.
The promotional efforts require considerable time and staff. Experience in the Philippines indicates that 6 to 9 months are needed before actual construction of new works or improvement to existing ones can commence. The method followed there is to send a community organizer or institutional officer to the village to identify the needs of the farmers through discussion with individuals, groups and local leaders. The officer is generally a young graduate from the area, familiar with the local situation and speaking the local language or dialect. He assists in the establishment of the Irrigation Association (IA) and in its legalization. Once it is established, he continues to guide and assist it for some time.
In Central Java (Indonesia), the irrigation associations, locally caled Dharma Tirta, are promoted by an extension worker at the village level, initially with small groups, until the different groups become conscious of the need for change. At this stage, visits are made to other successful Dharma Tirta in the region to help them visualize the benefits. The extension worker is of key importance in awakening a desire for change, and persuading the community that, by their own efforts, they can achieve a dramatic improvement in the productivity of their village lands. The extension worker sustains the self-confidence of the farmers 'by giving advice and, where necessary, by obtaining the help of skilled technicians and craftsmen from the public agencies concerned who assist the villagers to plan and implement the desired improvements to the tertiary irrigation system. During the construction period, the extension worker is at hand to provide any advice or supervision needed.
The village irrigation competition is another key factor in the success of the Dharma Tirta in Central Java. Very great popular interest is generated by this province-wide competition and the village associations are encouraged to draw on the technical support of extension staff for more improvements. About 30 villages enter this biennial event. The two best from each district go forward to the provincial level and the best two from each province then join a group of about 12 finalists. Criteria are judged as objectively as possible. Marks are awarded for:
a. organization and management,
particularly the level of self help;
b. technical quality of the irrigation system;
c. operation and maintenance;
d. financial management and level of investment;
e. crop husbandry.
The winning village is entitled to a grant of about Rp 100000 per year (runners up Rp 90000) subject to ongoing improvements. The actual monetary value of the prize (US$ 170) is small beside the prestige enjoyed by the winning village which receives its award from the Province Governor.
ii. Establishment of the association
One typical problem that arises in the establishment of irrigation associations around the tertiary canals is whether the basis of the association is the command area of the tertiary canal or the villages that are under its command.
Where social ties among the people of one village are very strong or relations between villages not particularly good, there is little point in putting them together in the same association. In such cases, it would be advisable to have two, or more, irrigation associations (with some mechanism for exchange of information and coordination) within the tertiary canal area rather than a single association. Alternatively, when the tertiary canal layout is redesigned, consideration should be given to the possibility of serving each village's area with a tertiary canal.
The problem is particularly important in the 'participatory approach' since much of the promotional work is done through the village administrative and social structure, but the problem is also relevant to the so-called 'public sector approach' where the associations are established according to a fixed pattern without any possibility of deviating from existing rules.
However, particular care should be taken when establishing an association to preserve as far as possible the traditional social habits of the rural communities, if they are beneficial to the new situation. They should be carefully identified during the promotional period.
Chapter 3 and Annex I give some guidelines as to the establishment and functioning of the associations.
iii. Technical improvements
The basic idea is that farmers must finance most of the irrigation improvement works themselves and, where possible, participate in actual execution of the work. Lack of experience, combined with the technical difficulties occasionally lead to contracting part of the work to local small contractors. In certain cases, the government may provide some specialized machinery and material (e.g. in the Philippines) but the farmer has to reimburse the corresponding cost. Technical assistance from the concerned government agency is desirable. Quality control is sometimes done very effectively by farmers' committees.
Since the improvements are to be financed primarily by the beneficiaries, no work should be commenced until the new layout and respective cost are approved by the farmers' association. Successive improvements can be made as funds become available.
It is a good practice to give first priority to the construction of the association's physical premises because this helps to consolidate the concept of the association as an operative entity. In the case of the Dharma Tirta of Indonesia, high priority is given to the construction of a separate village turn out and the internal system is then rationalized. This may involve the consolidation of holdings, the construction of access roads, tertiary, quarternary canals, land levelling and the provision of farm turn outs.
As said earlier, it is sometimes difficult to separate on-farm improvements and those connected with the tertiary canals. In practice, this work is often carried out simultaneously in either of the approaches mentioned.
Promotion of the participatory approach and the execution of the work requires a considerable effort in terms of government staff, who must work at the local level. This is another argument in favour of establishing IAs at the project level or, if the projects are too small, at the district/province level.