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Water and Climate

Efficient participatory irrigation institutions to support productive and sustainable agriculture in South Asia

Project Code: ADP/2014/045
Budget:
A$1,309,715
Research Program Manager: Dr. Robyn Johnston
Project Leader: Lin Crase - University of South Australia
Duration:
SEP 2016
2019
OCT 2019
Project Status: Legally Committed/Active
Key partners
Council on Energy
Environment and Water
Indian Institute of Management
Mehran University of Engineering and Technology
Pakistan Agricultural Research Council
Pakistan Institute of Development Economics
Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority
Sind Irrigation and Drainage Authority
University of Adelaide
University of Agriculture
University of Karachi

Overview

This project focussed on irrigation in Bihar and Assam, east India, and Sindh and Punjab provinces, Pakistan. It aimed to improve how policy makers and irrigation officials implemented Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM), also known as Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT).

In south Asia, institutional weaknesses make irrigation less efficient by allowing scarce resources to be used unproductively. PIM / IMT, a policy that simply devolves decisions to farmers, has yielded mixed results, especially in east India and Pakistan.

Since vast sums of money are spent on devolving responsibilities and irrigation, the potential gains from PIM/IMT should be determined in advance and the forms of participation that make irrigation most efficient identified. This would offer a buffer against bio-physical challenges, make agriculture more intensive and profitable, and reduce poverty.

This project compared the efficiency of types of devolved decision-making to farmers in different settings. It developed new methods to estimate the magnitude of improvements from PIM/IMT, and linked this information to factors that can be observed beforehand.

Ultimately, this work could benefit the poor. For instance, striking a better balance between centralised and decentralised decision-making could make water delivery more reliable, thereby intensifying production by smallholders, while creating jobs for the landless.