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close this bookDesign and Operation of Smallholder Irrigation in South Asia (WB, 1995, 134 p.)
close this folderChapter 12 - Cultivator organizations
View the documentCultivator organizations in irrigation system operation
View the documentTraditional organization in village-level irrigation schemes
View the documentProjection from the village-level organization to cultivator organizations in public systems
View the documentExperience and problems with water user groups in public irrigation systems

Cultivator organizations in irrigation system operation

The degree of flexibility provided in operation of the canal supply system and the level down to which supply can be matched to demand have been discussed earlier. In schemes which have limited storage regulation, or none, variations in supply to the canal system are largely externally imposed. On the other hand where there is a high degree of storage regulation, variations in supply to the system can be largely controlled. Delivery to the tertiary in either case is generally regulated through pre-arranged schedules, subject to availability of water.

Within the tertiary command itself delivery to the individual farm can also be strictly in accordance with a established rotation, or it may be modified to suit individual needs. In a scheme in which supply to the canal system is highly regulated and predictable, and in which delivery to the individual farmer is strictly in accordance with a fixed schedule, the need for cultivator organization is minimal, other than for communal maintenance activities and general policing of the tertiary system. However, in schemes where supply is less predictable, requiring frequent changes in rotational deliveries within the tertiary or where effort is made to meet the water needs of the individual cultivator by modification of rotations, some degree of cultivator organization is necessary. Such day to day operational modifications within the tertiary command could not be effectively managed by irrigation department staff.

Whether or not cultivator organizations have a part to play outside of the tertiary command, for instance in management of operation of the secondary canal, may be debated. But within the tertiary command, such organizations are often essential. The issues are how effectively they operate, and what assistance they may need to become more effective. To date their performance in major public irrigation systems has been mixed (Sunder 1990).