Title: Improvement of collective water management in the Office du Niger irrigation scheme (Mali) : development of decision support tools
Authors: Vandersypen, Klaartje
Issue Date: 22-Jun-2007
Abstract: In the context of structural adjustment, international donors have pushed Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) in state-led irrigation schemes all over the developing world. It was assumed that, having a direct stake in the success of their irrigation scheme, farmers would be better managers than the inefficient bureaucracies that they replaced had been. However, insufficient understanding of these irrigation schemes often led to poor implementation of IMT. The reform process proved complex and fraught with difficulties, and usually did not result in improved water management as expected. This research aims to acquire a thorough comprehension of farmers’ water management after IMT through a case study of the Office du Niger, an irrigation scheme of 80,000 ha in Mali with rice as the major crop.
Comprehensive institutional and economic reforms conducted in the 1980s and 1990s boosted the profitability of rice production in the Office du Niger, with yields increasing threefold. In view of this success and the large untapped agricultural potential, the irrigation scheme is expanding rapidly. Because of growing pressure on water resources, the expansion has to be realized without a significant increase in total water consumption. This is possible if irrigation efficiency, currently at barely 25 %, improves. The largest potential for increasing efficiency lies at the tertiary level, where since IMT, farmers are collectively in charge of managing water and the infrastructure. In the view of international donors and the central management, poor water management practices by farmers are to blame for the current water losses. Therefore, several interventions were set up to increase farmers’ efforts for water management.
As they have no stake in the expansion of the irrigation scheme, farmers are however not interested in increasing irrigation efficiency. Their strategy is to maximize returns to labor, which is valuable to them as it comes at the price of time available for other income generating activities. The presently unrestricted and demand-driven water delivery allows them to combine a minimal labor input with easy irrigation by maintaining a constant over-supply. For farmers with a disadvantageous plot location, collective action for regulating water allocation would be useful in times of temporary supply disruptions, but it requires sufficient social capital. This divergence of interests with respect to water management lies at the heart of the conflicts among farmers and between farmers and the central management. Through a field study, relations between collective action, labor input, and irrigation efficiency are investigated in the light of the practical and social constraints that shape water management and determine its potential for improvement.
Results from the field study revealed that thanks to the physical rehabilitation of the irrigation infrastructure and a demand-driven water supply, water delivery to the tertiary level is adequate. As a result, irrigation problems are rare, even though they exist on some tertiary blocks with an uneven topography. It was furthermore shown that collective action for water allocation could effectively solve these problems. Lacking the social capital, some farmer groups, however, do not succeed in establishing collective action. Irrigation efficiency at the tertiary level, on average about 60%, remains low, but collective action at the inlet of the tertiary block can improve it with 14 %.
The field study furthermore confirmed that water losses caused by the low irrigation efficiency fill up the drainage system and are an important source of the drainage problems currently affecting a third of the surface at harvest. Because the drainage system consists of communicating vessels, the impact of an individual farmer’s effort dissipates throughout the irrigation scheme. Avoiding drainage problems can therefore not provide the necessary incentives to save water. Other incentives to increase the value of water to farmers should therefore be considered if the expansion of the irrigation scheme is to be realized.
Water User Associations (WUAs) currently being set up in the irrigation scheme could provide a much-needed platform to institutionalize collective action, but are not yet effective. Taking into account existing informal patterns of decision-making could enhance their impact. The current trend of farmers diversifying their sources of income results in the increased employment of wage laborers, who should therefore be involved in the WUAs.
In order to enable farmers to respond to incentives and make full use of the structures and procedures offered by the WUAs, training and decision support on water management will be necessary. In the frame of this research, tools have been developed for this purpose. A first tool consists of training material that shows how farmers can save water and avoid irrigation problems under a limited water supply by adopting the right water management practices. A second tool is a simulation model, which can be used to find the optimal mix of measures to increase irrigation efficiency to a certain level while preserving farmers’ interests. The search for appropriate policies, measures and tools will probably require an iterative process of trial and error with regular meetings among stakeholders to evaluate lessons learnt. Providing a neutral and unbiased view, researchers could play a beneficial role in accompanying this process.
Table of Contents: Preface 1
Table of content 5
Samenvatting 9
Résumé 11
Summary 13
The context of farmers’ water management 17
Chapter 1 Enhancing the prospects of farmers’ water management 21
1.1 Problem setting and objectives 21
1.2 Research approach 23
1.2.1 Justification of a case study and the selected case 23
1.2.2 The analytical framework 24
1.2.3 Developing tools for improved farmers’ water management 28
1.3 Outline of the dissertation 28
Chapter 2 Presenting the case study: The Office du Niger irrigation scheme in Mali 31
2.1 Problem setting 31
2.2 Description of the study area 36
2.2.1 The physical environment 36
2.2.2 The crop 40
2.2.3 The institutional environment 41
2.2.4 The social environment 42
2.3 Stakeholder analysis of water management 44
Summary 49
Chapter 3 Irrigation performance at the tertiary level: Adequate water delivery through over-supply 51
Abstract 51
3.1 Introduction 52
3.2 Materials and methods 53
3.3 Results and discussion 57
3.3.1 Irrigation performance 57
3.3.2 Evolution of performance between 1995 and 2004 62
3.3.3 Irrigation performance for different types of infrastructure 63
3.3.4 Improving irrigation performance 63
3.4 Conclusions 65
Chapter 4 Sustainability of farmers’ organization of water management 67
Abstract 67
4.1 Introduction 68
4.2 Reform of water supply and canal maintenance 69
4.3 Materials and methods 69
4.4 Results and discussion 71
4.5 Conclusions and perspectives 77

Chapter 5 Performance, prejudice and collective action 79
Abstract 79
5.1 Introduction 79
5.2 Materials and methods 80
5.3 Results and discussion 84
5.3.1 Results from the field study 84
5.3.2 Recommendations for solving the conflict between stakeholders 88
5.4 Conclusions 89
Chapter 6 Drainage problems in relation to water management 93
Abstract 93
6.1 Introduction 93
6.2 Materials and methods 96
6.3 Results and discussion 102
6.4 Conclusion 107
Summary 109
Chapter 7 Formal and informal decision-making on water management at village level 111
Abstract 111
7.1 Introduction 112
7.2 Fieldwork methodology and data analysis 113
7.3 Centers of decision-making in the Office du Niger 115
7.4 Decision-making on water management 118
7.4.1 Water Users Associations at the village level 118
7.4.2 Water Users Associations at the tertiary level 121
7.4.3 Informal patterns of water management 122
7.5 Recommendations to improve the success of WUAs in the Office du Niger 127
7.6 Conclusions 128
Chapter 8 The prospects for farmers’ water management: motivation for collective action 131
Abstract 131
8.1 Introduction 131
8.2 Methods 133
8.3 Socio-economic variables 135
8.4 Results from the statistical models 138
8.4.1 Interest in rice farming 138
8.4.2 Interest in water management 139
8.4.3 Motivation for collective action for water management 141
8.4.4 Employment of seasonal wage laborers 142
8.4.5 Farmers’ versus wage laborers’ motivation for collective action 144
8.5 Conclusion and policy recommendations 144
Summary 149
Chapter 9 Didactic tools for supporting farmers’ water management in collective irrigation schemes 151
Abstract 151
9.1 Introduction 151
9.2 Approach 153
9.3 Results 154
9.3.1 Setting the training agenda 154
9.3.2 Selecting the fixed and variable parameters 155
9.3.3 Targeting the audience for training 157
9.3.4 Designing the training material 158
9.3.5 Presenting the training material to local stakeholders 159
9.4 Conclusions 161
Chapter 10 Adapting irrigation strategies to water scarcity: A modeling approach 163
Abstract 163
10.1 Introduction 163
10.2 Materials and methods 165
10.2.1 Data collection 165
10.2.2 Model framework 165
10.2.3 Choice of scenarios to be simulated 169
10.3 Reliability of the model 171
10.4 Results and discussion 174
10.5 Conclusion 176
Conclusions of the case study 179
Lessons learnt for scaling-up the case study to other irrigation schemes 184
Interest of the research approach 186
Perspectives for further research 186
References 189
Appendix 1 Calculation procedures of the simulation model 201
Appendix 2 Closed question survey 215
Appendix 3 Semi-structured questionnaire surveys 223
Publications 227
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Division Soil and Water Management
Land Management and Economics - miscellaneous

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