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Upscaling farmer institutions for the management of large scale river basins: results from distributary level pilot projects in the Indus Basin of Pakistan




Memon, Yameen, author
ul-Hassan, Melunood, author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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Pakistan owns the large contiguous canal network for irrigating the Indus plains encompassing an area of 16 million ha. The government has now embarked upon reforms to restructure the institutional set-up of irrigation and drainage. The major thrust of these reforms is to transfer the management of secondary and tertiary irrigation and drainage systems to the Farmers' Organizations (FOs), and also involve farmers in the decision making process at the primary level of the system. Important is that the farmers themselves have to appreciate the value of the change, take the initiative to interact with the government, and begin to play a significant role in the participatory management mode. Unless the grass-root level farmers participate in the proposed FOs, there is less likelihood for the social and financial viability of the reforms. The experience to date with the farmers' institutions in Pakistan shows that there has been limited success in establishing functional farmers organizations even at the tertiary level of the irrigation system. A number of professionals are skeptical about the successful establishment and functioning of the proposed FOs as a large proportion of water users are socially vulnerable, politically unorganized and economically weak. Substantially skewed distribution of productive assets necessitates concerted efforts in social organization to ensure that the majority of water users are free to participate. Thus, best practices of organizational methodologies need to be followed to ensure that the reforms are implemented successfully. The International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI) has been involved in pilot projects for organizing farmers for Distributary management, which proved successful in organizing farmers. These organizations are now anxiously waiting for the government's response to transfer the management responsibilities to FOs. This paper synthesizes the results of the pilot efforts and suggests guidelines for organizing fanners at secondary levels of the canal system and upscaling these organizations to entire river basins in Pakistan.


Presented at the 2000 USCID international conference, Challenges facing irrigation and drainage in the new millennium on June 20-24 in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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