| Design and operation of smallholder irrigation in South Asia |
Most of the problems of smallholder irrigation involve not only technology but also sociological and economic factors. It is particularly unfortunate that practitioners in these specialties generally have a communication problem, even within the same agency. The answer to the frequently expressed plea for a more multi-disciplinary approach (usually aimed at irrigation engineers) is a better understanding by each specialty of the constraints which the others face in this area. The irrigation engineer needs to be familiar with the basic socio-economic problems of smallholder development, and the agro-economist and sociologist need to be better acquainted with the technical constraints on water distribution in circumstances of varying supply and demand.
In the following pages the principal factors entering into the design and operation of smallholder irrigation are discussed, with main emphasis on problems. Where the subject is contentious, which is often the case in this field, issues and options are presented. The targeted audience includes those working in the areas of irrigation engineering, agricultural economics, sociology, and development planning. As is appropriate to such a range of interest, the degree of technical detail has been kept to a minimum, with references added for those who wish further reading on particular subjects.
The aim is to define the problems, without necessarily acknowledging any obligation to present solutions. As yet, there are no entirely satisfactory solutions to many of the problems of smallholder irrigation. However, the available expedients are described, and the possible direction of further development is suggested.
The text draws upon two decades of experience in project development in South Asia, notably in India, in the service of international organizations. It is emphasized that the comments and opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect the policies of any particular institution.