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close this bookIrrigation Training Manual: Planning, Design, Operation and Management of Small-Scale Irrigation Systems (Peace Corps, 1994, 151 p.)
close this folderIntroduction to the irrigation manual
View the documentPurpose of this manual
View the documentThe training sessions
View the documentThe irrigation reference manual
View the documentOverview of the training sessions
View the documentIrrigation principles and practices
View the documentThe experiential learning approach
View the documentThe trainer's role in experiential learning
View the documentTiming, location, and trainee preparedness
View the documentImplementing the irrigation training sessions

Purpose of this manual

The Irrigation Manual is designed to serve as a reference resource for trainers involved in irrigated agriculture training for Peace Corps. The Irrigation Manual consists of two parts: (1) the Irrigation Training Manual, and (2) the Irrigation Reference Manual. Individual sections of the manual can be used to supplement a wide variety of technical training programs, or the entire manual can be implemented as a specific irrigation training course. The complete training course should fully prepare Volunteers who will serve as irrigation specialists to plan, implement, evaluate, and manage small-scale irrigation projects in arid, semi-arid, or sub-humid tropical and subtropical climates. The manual is also designed to serve as a technical reference for trainers, Volunteers, or other professionals who may be seeking solutions to specific irrigation questions or problems.

The manual is designed to support trainers carrying out pre-service or in-service training courses for Peace Corps Volunteers who will apply irrigation practices in some part of their work service. The manual is also designed to provide continued support to Volunteers during the course of their service through the technical reference sections. The technical reference will replace several manuals that Volunteers who work in irrigation commonly use. In addition, the technical reference sections focus on small-scale projects, in contrast to most other irrigation references that are available. The manual is structured to cover the following materials:

The training sessions

Session plans are included to provide a comprehensive background in irrigation principles and practices. Each session plan includes the goals and objectives for the session, an overview of the purpose of the session, a description of activities which can be performed to fulfill the objectives, a list of tools and materials required, and location of additional technical information in the Irrigation Reference Manual. The session plans are grouped in the manual according to topic areas. The session groupings do not necessarily reflect the order in which the sessions should be presented in a training. It is assumed that the training staff will prepare a session schedule that is unique to each training and that reflects collaboration with other Peace Corps training needs, such as language and availability of work sites.

Section 1 Introduction to Irrigation Principles and Practices

The Role and Purpose of Irrigation
Assessing Trainee Math Skills
Tool Use and Safety

These introductory sessions are intended to enable Trainees to understand the need for irrigation in tropical dry and sub-humid ecosystems and to define their own objectives for the training and beyond.

Section 2 Community Organization and Mobilization

Conducting a Community Needs Assessment
Community Organization and Mobilization
Communication Techniques
Problem Solving
Working with a Community Water Users Association
Construction of Projects in a Community

These sessions provide Trainees with opportunities to develop and test skills in working with small groups in rural communities to define problems, identify solutions, and develop and implement projects.

Section 3 Inventorying the Physical and Biological Resource Base

Watershed Hydrology
Water Flow Measurements
Surveying and Field Measurements
Soil -Plant -Water Relationships
Conducting Environmental Assessments

Trainees must acquire skills enabling them to evaluate and monitor soil, water, and ecological attributes of the areas in which irrigation projects will be developed. These sessions provide learning exercises enabling Trainees to identify and quantify water sources, conduct measurements of field and watershed conditions, analyze physical and chemical soil properties, and identify environmental concerns to make certain that irrigation projects are carried out in a manner that sustains ecological processes.

Section 4 Developing Water Sources

Diversion Dams
Designing Spring Boxes
Selecting Pumps
Design and Use of Pumps
Installing, Operating and Developing Maintenance Plans for
Wells: Hand Dug and Drilled
Storage Pond Design, Construction, and Management

Trainees learn hands on techniques that will enable them to capture and divert water from springs, seeps, or streams; dig, drill or rehabilitate shallow wells; use and repair hand and power-driven pumps; and build and maintain small ponds for storing water supplies.

Section 5 Assessing Irrigation Water Requirements

Estimating Net Crop Water Needs
Estimating the Efficiency of Irrigation Systems
Estimating Gross Daily Irrigation Requirements and Design Capacity

These sessions provide Trainees with opportunities to estimate the amount of water available and required to sustain an irrigation system. Trainees will also acquire managerial skills enabling them to evaluate the most efficient irrigation designs that can make the best use of available soil and water resources.

Section 6 Farm Water Delivery Systems

Components of Farm Irrigation Systems
Canal Design, Construction, and Maintenance
Control Structures: Checks, Diversions, and Drops
Pipe System Design, Construction, and Maintenance
Land Leveling or Smoothing
Surface Irrigation Systems
Sprinkler Systems
Trickle or Drip Systems

In these sessions Trainees learn the basic skills necessary to design and construct small irrigation systems using gravity, sprinklers, or drip methods to deliver water. Sessions also require Trainees to work in the field constructing and rehabilitating actual operating systems.

Section 7 Farm Water Management

Basic Concepts in Farm Water Management
Basic Soil and Water Conservation Practices
Developing Irrigation Schedules
Evaluation, Operation, and Maintenance

Sustainable use of irrigation systems requires precise management of soil and water resources. Trainees will construct soil conservation measures to minimize soil loss and promote high nutrient content in soils. They will also conduct evaluations and prepare water application schedules and operation and maintenance plans for existing irrigation systems.

Section 8 Waterlogging and Salinity

Basic Concepts of Waterlogging and Salinity
Control of Drainage and Salinity Problems

Trainees will work in the field constructing measures to minimize or avoid problems with waterlogging or high salt content in soils. Sessions will also provide the conceptual background to enable Trainees to anticipate problems and solutions in a variety of physical and social settings.

Section 9 Project Planning and Development

Conducting Economic Analyses
Proposal Writing

Trainees will acquire the technical skills to determine if projects are financially or economically feasible, learn how to develop project budgets and procurement plans, and write proposals to solicit financial support.

The amount of actual technical training time required to complete all 40 training sessions is estimated to be between 147-172 hours. The discrepancy in estimated time requirements is due to the fact that some training sites may have immediate access to field practice sites while others must factor in travel time. Also, the skill levels of Trainees will influence the amount of time needed to complete each session.

Time requirements by training topic section are estimated as follows:


1 Introduction to Irrigation Principles and Practices

3 Hours

2 Community Organization and Mobilization

12 Hours

3 Inventorying the Physical and Biological Resource Base

12 Hours

4 Developing Water Sources

32-37 Hours

5 Assessing Irrigation Water Requirements

5 Hours

6 Farm Water Delivery Systems

54-74 Hours

7 Farm Water Management

13 Hours

8 Waterlogging and Salinity

10 Hours

9 Project Planning and Development

6 Hours


147-172 Hours

Assuming that a minimum of six hours per day can be dedicated to technical training activities, and that training can proceed for a minimum of 5.5 days per week, then approximately five weeks will be required to complete the training.

In-service trainings will likely be constrained by time limitations, which will require trainers to pick and choose among specific topic areas and field activities that will meet Volunteer defined needs.

The irrigation reference manual

This companion manual to the Irrigation Training Manual provides detailed technical information to support the topics covered in the training sessions. This technical reference material is intended to provide trainers with sufficient background information to prepare for each training session. In some cases, the reference sections include prepared materials that trainers can simply photocopy and distribute to complete some sessions. The environmental assessment exercise is an example of these prepared materials. In addition to providing a comprehensive background in the basic technical skills necessary to plan, prepare, construct, manage, and evaluate irrigation systems, the manual also emphasizes skills to ensure that irrigation practices will respect broader ecological and social concerns.

The technical reference materials should be distributed or photocopied and distributed to Trainees for use during their Volunteer service. The collected materials in the reference section can adequately serve as a comprehensive technical manual on irrigation practices and water resource management covering most problems that Volunteers are likely to encounter.

The reference section concludes with an annotated bibliography of related texts and publications that trainers and Volunteers may also want to reference for technical support.

Overview of the training sessions

While short-term, intensive training in irrigation principles and practices cannot be expected to produce professional irrigation specialists, it can provide Volunteers with sufficient background and confidence to serve well as irrigation technicians. After completing the activities included in the training sessions, Volunteers should be capable of confronting and successfully solving a wide variety of problems related to the application of irrigation practices. They should also be fully aware of the complexity of applying and managing irrigation systems and be prepared to continue their learning efforts throughout their Peace Corps service.

Irrigation principles and practices

Irrigation systems are primarily used to supplement the water requirements of growing plants, which sounds like a simple enough task on first consideration. Accomplishing this task in a manner that is socially and environmentally sound, however, requires skills that bring together information and experience from a wide variety of technical fields, including hydrology, soil science, hydraulics, agronomy, plant science, watershed management, engineering, and economics.

Peace Corps Volunteers working with irrigation practices as part of their service may encounter many diverse problems and situations that will require them to apply techniques or concepts that cut across these various technical disciplines. This training manual is designed to provide these Volunteers with enough interdisciplinary skills to address diverse problems and situations. Volunteers who complete the training may not know precise answers to all the irrigation problems they will encounter. They should know enough, however, to identify the information they need to solve a problem and where or how to find it.

The experiential learning approach

Irrigation is a very practical art and science. It requires skills that are grounded in field experience. As a result, the training sessions in this manual largely emphasize exercises that require Trainees to participate in hands-on work assignments. The overall curriculum consists of approximately 70 percent field sessions and 30 percent classroom sessions. Even in the classroom sessions, however, Trainees are expected to play a strong participatory role and complete assignments that require self-motivation, communication skills, and cooperative problem solving. Each Trainee will have a participatory, leadership, or independent role to fulfill in designing, constructing, or rehabilitating various components of an actual irrigation system in the field. This physical work forms the foundation of the experiential learning methodology emphasized throughout the training sessions.

Experiential learning is exactly what the name implies people learning by doing. Experiential learning occurs when a person engages in an activity, reviews this activity critically, identifies useful information from this analysis, and then applies the results of the process in subsequent practical situations. The experiential process follows the following theoretical circle:


Experiencing: Each training session should include one or more activities that the Trainees will do. Requiring Trainees to experience the content of sessions will increase their opportunity for becoming aware of how they currently handle related situations and skill areas that they need to develop or strengthen. Trainers must be careful to avoid putting Trainees in situations in which the skills being tested cannot be accomplished given the entry skill level of the group. Experiences can be developed in classroom settings, using role plays, games, small group discussions, case studies, videos or slides, sharing of personal experiences, or training of Trainees by one another.

Processing: The Trainees must follow each activity by immediately analyzing the experience. It is very helpful for the trainer to provide some guidance questions for Trainees to answer, such as: "How did time management become a problem in completing the pump repair?" "What went wrong in this role play?" "What else could you have done?'' With carefully worded questions such as these, Trainees can do an effective analysis with minimal interference from the trainers.

During this processing phase, individuals share with others the specific experiences they had during the activity. This can be done through group discussions, written reports, generating and analyzing data, one on one dialogues, or interviews. Individuals share both their cognitive and emotional reactions to the activities in which they were engaged and then try to link these thoughts and feelings together to derive some meaning from the experience. Putting their responses into language is the critical link in enabling Trainees to develop generalizations that they can then apply to new situations in the future.

Generalizing: As a conclusion to this analysis process, Trainees need to individually or collectively draw generalizations or inferences. A generalization is a rule or concept, based on facts, that a person can accept and act on. An inference is a generalization that a person can accept tentatively but which needs to be tested before the person is willing to incorporate it into his or her behavior. An example might be the following:

In conducting interviews of government officials, the Trainee group may draw as a generalization or inference that better information can be obtained when open-ended questions are asked rather than when leading questions are asked.

Activities that can facilitate this generalizing process include:

- summarizing the generalizations or inferences into concise statements or concepts,

- establishing agreement on definitions, concepts, key terms, and statements, and

- relating the activity and generalizations or inferences to past experiences, thoughts or feelings.

These activities can be done individually or in a group setting.

Applying: After generalizations or inferences have been drawn, Trainees need opportunities to practice using these generalizations or to further test their inferences. These practice or trial efforts should be directly related to the work the Trainees will be doing after they complete the training. For example, if Trainees have acquired basic generalizations or inferences about how to plan small surface irrigation systems, they now need an opportunity to work with a small system. Useful techniques and activities to facilitate this process include having Trainees develop plans of action, personal goals, and strategies for modifying personal behavior.

The trainer's role in experiential learning

The primary responsibility of the trainer is to provide the Trainees with an effective and appropriate learning environment and to facilitate an active process by which Trainees determine and act on their individual learning needs. This can be best accomplished by trainers who:

- encourage the active involvement of all Trainees,

- promote an atmosphere of cooperation and open dialogue,

- enable Trainees to work at a pace and skill development level most appropriate to their own capabilities and ambitions,

- assist Trainees in identifying the linkages between each training session,

- provide Trainees with opportunities and incentives to constantly relate training experiences to "real life" situations,

- guide Trainees toward materials and people that may expand their learning experiences, and

- make themselves available to serve as resources without establishing themselves as all-knowing experts who merely dispense answers.

Timing, location, and trainee preparedness

The training sessions have been designed to support Trainees who have already had some training in language and cross-cultural skills. It is assumed that the Trainees will have already completed a basic Peace Corps Pre-Service Training (PST) before beginning the Irrigation Principles and Practices skills training.

Developing irrigation skills to apply as a Peace Corps Volunteer in developing country situations is not strictly a technical exercise. The "irrigation" that Volunteers will practice is a very obvious blend of cross-cultural communication skills and technical concepts involving water, soils, and plant science. The session plans in this training manual reflect this fact. The training sessions have been designed so that technical concepts are presented and acquired through cross-cultural experience. The benefits and skills development that Trainees will experience from the irrigation training will be dramatically enhanced if they have had, at a minimum, sufficient language training to allow them to take on very basic communication tasks with farmers and in a market.

If Trainees have not participated in a PST or had some language skills development, then it is recommended that the training be done in a stateside (U.S.) location where Trainees will have access to rural or cross-cultural experiences. In-country training locations should include access to farm and market conditions typical of most Volunteer assignments. Trainers should review the list of work sites required to fulfill the training sessions, and then identify a suitable training location that will provide reasonably quick access to a host of sites that meet these needs. Reducing the travel time from the classroom to potential work sites provides the Trainees with more opportunity to complete their tasks without panic. Given the tremendous time constraint that is already built into the training, this quick field access becomes very important.

Trainees should be prepared to work long hours with minimal supervision. While irrigation field work can require a great deal of physical exertion, any reasonably healthy person can perform the tasks required. Irrigation training should be accessible to any man or woman who can wield a shovel or connect a pipe. It is recommended, however, that potential Trainees be screened to indicate any previous experience or capabilities working with basic math. Irrigation system designs or repairs frequently involve the use of skills in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and statistics. Trainees who have not had some exposure to these concepts in the past, or who do not feel they will be capable of bringing these skills up to speed quickly, may find the training a bit overwhelming at times.

Implementing the irrigation training sessions

Conducting a pre-service or in-service training in irrigation principles and practices will involve the following steps:

1. Establish host country and Peace Corps program goals and objectives.

2. Conduct a staff development workshop that enables staff to define roles and responsibilities.

3. Prepare a schedule of training sessions and activities.

4. Identify suitable work sites for conducting all field activities.

5. Assemble written materials, visual aids, and supplies.

6. Prepare the work sites.

Establish Program Goals and Objectives:

The training staff need to work with the in-country Peace Corps program officers to define the entry level skills that are expected of irrigation Volunteers. These skill levels will greatly influence the level of detail and material content in many training sessions.

Trainers also need basic information about country agricultural and irrigation practices. This will enable the training sessions to be modified so that the information is site specific and not generic. Specific information that should be obtained includes:

- climatic data,

- typical crops cultivated and total crop acreage,

- typical farm sizes and approximate yields by crop for various farm size classes,

- crop planting seasons,

- types of irrigation systems in use and acreage irrigated,

- types of farm equipment typically used by small or medium sized farms (e.g., pumps, generators, tractors),

- soil conservation practices in accepted use by farmers, and

- components of in-country extension systems.

Ideally, the technical trainers will have time to meet with government or private sector officials working with small and medium-scale irrigation programs in country and to visit actual irrigation systems and interview farmers. Trainers should allocate at least one week, depending upon the size of the country, diversity of systems in use, and ease of travel, to interview officials and farmers and visit as many different farms as possible.

If interviews and field trips will not be possible, then the trainers should have the Associate Peace Corps Director (APCD) bring together current or recent in-country irrigation Volunteers for a group meeting. These Volunteers, along with the APCD, can help orient the trainers as quickly as possible. Trainers must remember, however, that the experiences and skill levels of these Volunteers may be limited and may not provide the trainers with all the background information they may want.

Conduct a Staff Development Workshop:

The work load during the training will, at times, seem to be increasing exponentially on a daily basis. The best way for the training staff to maintain some sense of efficiency through all of this is for the staff members to mutually define each person's role and responsibilities. Some people will have limited training experience and will benefit from some introductory training-of-trainers sessions. The APCD facilitating the trainer should work with the Training Director to prepare a minimum of a three-day Staff Development Workshop. This workshop should include sessions that:

- allow the trainers to learn about each other's backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, and specific areas of interest;

- develop experiential learning skills and get trainers to build experiential learning practices into the sessions they will be conducting;

- build communication skills and result in some agreed upon mechanisms for working out problems, disagreements, or misunderstandings that may arise among the staff during the training;

- enable the staff to plan a daily schedule for the entire training and define the roles that each member of the training will fulfill every day in the schedule; and

- enable the staff to prepare materials and organize for the training. Technical staff will be able to use this time to modify and assemble materials for each lesson plan and make the necessary contacts for work sites to be used by Trainees.

If language training will be incorporated into the technical training, then the technical trainers should work with the language trainers to enable them to build technical terms and concepts into their language lesson plans.

Prepare a Schedule of Sessions and Activities:

The design of the training should always be location specific and influenced by the types of Peace Corps programs being implemented, host country program objectives, and actual site conditions. These factors will determine the sequence of training sessions, priority of session topics to be covered, level of detail needed in each session, and entry level skills that should result from the training. A schedule of sessions and activities for a training should be an output of the Staff Development Workshop. In developing this schedule, the staff should consider the following:

- host country program goals, farming practices, typical skill levels for sites in which Volunteers will be working;

- number of Trainees and trainers involved;

- physical, ecological, and social conditions in the countries for which training is being carried out;

- apparent skill levels of the Trainees (if known);

- total number of hours available for each training component: technical, cross-cultural, generic Peace Corps program sessions, and language (remember, too, to factor in "slack time" to account for breaks between sessions and travel time to and from work sites, for example);

- length of training and its relationship to the tasks that will be attempted in Trainee field projects;

- training site conditions; and

- topics and level of detail covered in other Peace Corps trainings in which Trainees may also participate.

With this information in mind, the staff can proceed through the following steps:

1. Prioritize the skills that must be emphasized in the training and define the level of detail required for each.

2. Draw up a list of sessions to be carried out along with their approximate time requirements. Aim for a training schedule that will have about 65-75% in-the-field activities and 25-35% classroom sessions. Be critical about what must be included in the training and what is optional. Overloading Trainees with information will not yield good results. Determine with some level of precision how much time will be required for Trainees to complete field projects, including after-session repair and maintenance work.

3. Map out a list of sessions to be covered during each week of the training. The daily schedule can be built from this initial rough outline. In mapping each week, consider (a) the field tasks that must be done first and which can be plugged into the training on an as-fits basis, (b) the total amount of time and probable training periods that will need to be devoted to field project maintenance and repair, (c) weekly themes to be emphasized, (d) ways to link classroom activities directly to field work so that they reinforce one another, and (e) a pace that can be upheld by both the training staff and the Trainees. Training staff should also be prepared to limit the amount of material covered in the first few days, since Trainees will need this period to orient themselves and develop necessary work attitudes.

Identify Suitable Work Sites:

An irrigation training will require a great deal of practical, hands-on field experience, mostly to give Trainees an opportunity to learn directly their own skill levels. The field activities that are likely to be carried out in a typical irrigation training would include the following:

- Collecting baseline data about a representative community's needs and problems related to irrigation and water resources.

- Meeting with representatives from a community water users association.

- Delineating a small watershed and assessing watershed conditions in terms of soil and water resources.

- Measuring flow rates in small channels.

- Calculating the slope and total area from a water source to a potential irrigated field site.

- Evaluating the movement of water and plant growth characteristics in several different soil types.

- Constructing earthen or rock dams to divert water from small channels.

- Developing the flow from a spring as a water supply and evaluating completed spring boxes.

- Rehabilitating an existing well and evaluating work in progress on a hand dug and drilled well.

- Evaluating a variety of pumps used to lift water and repairing a simple pump.

- Constructing a small pond to store water for field irrigation.

- Evaluating the soils and irrigation practices being used on a farm to grow crops.

- Constructing irrigation canals to transport water to a field.

- Installing pipe-works to convey water from a source to a field.

- Smoothing the ground surface in a small field.

- Installing sprinklers to apply water in a field.

- Installing perforated pipe to apply water through a drip fashion in a field.

- Constructing a terrace, planning a contour row of crops, and constructing check dams in a gully.

- Evaluating soils that have been subject to waterlogging or high salt content and applying amendments or procedures to reduce the damage to these soils.

Trainers need to have identified suitable sites to complete all of these activities. Contact should have been made with local farmers to inform them of the purpose and duration of the training and solicit their participation and support. Again, it is most advisable to locate a physical training site that provides close access to field conditions that will fulfill all of these training needs.

Assemble Materials Aids and Supplies:

Trainers should have all handouts, visual aids, and other teaching tools completed and organized before the training begins. The session plans include reference to materials in the appendices or other texts that can be photocopied directly or modified and typed to serve as handouts, tests, or exercises for the Trainees. Each session plan includes a list of materials that will be needed to complete the activities included. The session plans also describe video support that can supplement each topic.

It will be essential for the trainers to build a strong reference library available to the Trainees throughout the training. The bibliography in the technical reference component of this manual includes an annotated list of books and documents many of which should be available at any training site. Most of these materials should be available through the Peace Corps Information Collection and Exchange (ICE) service.

Trainers must also assemble a complete set of tools to enable Trainees to complete their field projects. Every Trainee must be provided with tools that they are to keep throughout their service. Tools and equipment (indicated in Appendix A of the Irrigation Reference Manual) must be at the training site and made available on a loan basis to Trainees throughout the duration of the training.