Any serious problem regarding institutions and culture should be well studied and analysed. Generally speaking, cultural problems can only be solved over a long time period. In many cases, a project may need to go along with rather than against cultural barriers at the initial stages and gradually influence or change them later.
Institutional problems, on the other hand, can often be solved in a relatively short time period if the government has the political will and firm commitment. The main institutional problems in developing countries often include the following:
- inadequate support from the higher authorities in terms of policy, funding and administration;
- insufficient numbers of trained personnel to carry out planning, design, implementation, field supervision, monitoring and evaluation;
- weak planning and appraisal activities resulting in waste and ineffectiveness in many areas;
- lack of incentives for technicians working in the field;
- poor coordination among related organizations;
- weak field operations due to a lack of efficiency in supervision, reporting and monitoring;
- poor mobility due to lack of vehicles and public transportation;
- lack of research data for continuous improvement.
The above list can be greatly expanded. During planning, such problems should be pinpointed and possible solutions suggested.
If there is a well defined government policy on watershed management, it is worth careful study. If such a policy is yet to be formulated, planners should either collect policy statements from related fields such as forestry, agriculture, conservation and water resources, etc., or ask the appropriate authorities to give policy guidance.
Any legislation in watershed management or soil conservation should receive close review. Since watershed management involves resources of many kinds, the planners and managers should review other related legislation as well, including:
- agricultural and related land use laws and acts;
- forest (and rangeland) laws or acts;
- legislation concerning water resource development and use;
- legislation on mining activities and control;
- environmental protection laws and acts;
- recreation and wildlife legislation;
- other related legislation, e.g. on rural development, roads, marketing, etc.
Attention should be given to major conflicts of these legislations toward watershed conservation. In some countries, it may be desirable to propose new legislation or slightly revise existing ones in order to ensure a better institutional set up, or to improve coordination and implementation. For example, in some developing countries, special legislation coordinating forestry, water resources, agricultural and conservations in overall watershed activities has proven very effective. This kind of legislation which changes no basic laws but bridges institutional gaps will usually meet with prompt approval by government authorities.
Legislation regarding the allocation of funds from various sources for watershed conservation use will also be very helpful (see 10.2).
The structure and functions of related organizations in watershed management should be analysed. Special attention should be given to those with similar functions or overlapping responsibilities. Any weak organization should be identified by the survey and suggestions for improvement be brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
Coordination among related organizations is an important factor and should be subjected to careful study. This should include: history, forms and mechanisms of coordination; successes and failures in the past, etc. From this study a better coordination strategy can be devised.
This is also a very important subject. Much can be learned from the problems and experiences of present or past projects. Errors must not be repeated. Successful projects merit special attention. Their backgrounds, administration, support services, and field operations need to be analysed.
Since much watershed work relies on local people for implementation, the importance of farmers' education, training and active participation cannot be over-emphasized. Therefore, the managers or planners should first look at the farmers' needs. For instance, how many extension agents are needed in the watershed to do an effective job? How many farm leaders or contact farmers should be identified and trained, and for what subjects? When should an intensive training programme be initiated and for how long? What kinds of demonstration plots should be established and where and how many?
The planners should also examine the existing quantity and quality of the officers both in specialized agencies and extension service. If their services need to be improved, how many senior and junior officers should be hired? And what type of skill training is needed for both new and old officers?
Sometimes mechanisms and techniques in extension may need to be entirely overhauled in order to deal effectively with the large numbers of small farmers living mostly at less accessible areas. Small farmers will not be easily convinced or motivated by meetings and slide shows alone. Most land conservation measures, for example, require technical assistance and close supervision. Therefore, a thorough review of the existing extension set up, including capabilities, strategies and problems, is absolutely necessary.
Another important issue is the division of labour between specialized field officers and general agricultural extension agents. The extension officers should be geared to do their normal extension duties while technical work is handled by these specially trained professionals or sub-professionals. Fig. 5 shows an example of coordination or division of labour between extension and soil conservation agencies in pursuing conservation farming activities.
AN EXAMPLE OF COORDINATION OR DIVISION OF LABOUR BETWEEN EXTENSION AND SOIL CONSERVATION AGENCIES
For Conservation Farming Work
|(1) Overall planning & budgeting||Joint efforts|
|(2) Farmer's meeting & Extension||Joint efforts|
|(3) Farmer's interviewing & farm planning||Extension officers supported by soil conservation staff|
|(4) Surveying & staking||Soil conservation staff|
|(5) Supervision construction||Soil conservation staff|
|(6) Mapping & recording||Soil conservation staff|
|(7) Soil conservation subsidy distribution||Joint efforts|
|(8) Follow-up activities (i.e. cropping, credit and marketing)||Extension officers|
|(9) Maintenance inspection||Soil conservation staff|
|(10) Farmer's training in soil conservation||Joint efforts|
Source: Soil Conservation Division, Jamaica
Local communities are important to any watershed project. Assisting in developing local communities will, in turn, benefit the people as well as the watershed. Community development work is always a worthwhile investment in a watershed management project.
Many community development or improvement efforts are relatively inexpensive, yet can mean much to the local community and the well-being of the inhabitants. From the survey of farmers' needs, the planners should be able to work out realistic development plans to cater for community needs within the scope and resources of the project.
Farmers' organizations such as farmers' associations, irrigation districts and various bodies which are vital to watershed activities should not be overlooked by the planners. Many farmers' organizations may have their own extension staff and funds to assist various activities in the watershed. Even if they do not have available funds, at least they can represent the view of farmers in the area. Care, however, should be taken when approaching those organizations having narrow interests and strong political views. Involvement of one of these groups may cause the non-cooperation of others.
Community-level organizations such as county and village councils are essential in many watershed activities. They should be contacted and involved in planning and implementation as appropriate.
Special interest groups such as environmental protection or conservation societies, 4-H clubs, women's groups or youth clubs and private aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO) in the area should be contacted and consulted. Some of these groups should be involved in spreading messages, disseminating technical information and supplementing extension activities.
Some watershed conservation projects may not aim directly at production increases. But, farmers will not be convinced to adopt new conservation measures unless these will result in increasing crop production and income. Otherwise, they will not even maintain existing measures.
Producing more and better crops without appropriate markets is also futile. Even subsistence farmers need cash to buy farm tools and to pay their bills. Yet marketing is often neglected in many watershed conservation projects. The marketing arrangement is mainly an institutional arrangement. It includes crop outlets to factories, agro-industries, purchasing stations, etc. It may also include price support, transport and storage arrangements. All these information should be collected and analysed.
Other institutional information such as land registration, cadastral surveys, and institutions for credit and mortgage arrangements, seedling and fertilizer supplies, etc., are also needed.
To consider local culture in planning is to minimize possible resistance in future implementation. Farmers are relatively conservative. Any improvement which is compatible with the local culture and with a gradual path will have better potential for success. For instance, bench terracing in upland areas is easily accepted in the Far East, where rice paddies are common. Planners must carefully collect and study cultural information before making any recommendations for drastic change. A mild and slow change at the beginning, followed with continuing extension efforts is often the best path to pursue.
Traditional practices have their roots in culture and society. Slash and burn shifting cultivation, for example, has been widely practised in many parts of the developing world. Unless the farmers are provided with alternatives, i.e. lands, farm inputs and technical know-how, this practice will not easily be changed just by passing a law. The subject needs a profound study before alternatives are suggested.
Other traditional practices such as uncontrolled grazing, use of fire to clear fields, and up-and-down tillage may have their reasons. Any substitution or improvement should stem from study or research and must be acceptable and beneficial both to those who apply it and to the environment.
Religious beliefs may affect the behaviour and daily life of the local people in rural watersheds. Churches or temples in many countries exert great influence upon local communities. The best policy may lie in close collaboration with religious organizations. In Thailand, for instance, many educational campaigns and development activities are being done through Buddhist temples.
Besides economic activities, the information of the people's cultural activities should also be collected and analysed. Sports, music, movies, reading, gambling or other leisure activities may have implications for the planned watershed effort. Sometimes, a watershed or rural development project needs to provide a recreation centre or sports events to pursue better public relations and communication, especially for youth.
For watersheds in developing countries, urban and rural relationships are usually equivalent to downstream and upstream relationships. Because of the wide cultural gaps, these relationships often present difficulties. For example, youth in rural areas are willing to take almost any job in towns or cities, whereas urban youth, even when unemployed, seldom can be attracted by farm work. However, the physical relationship between upstream and downstream areas of a watershed cannot be separated. Information and consideration should be given to methods for establishing closer links between the populations of the two areas.
Many upland watersheds suffer labour shortages on a permanent or seasonal basis. Group action has the following advantages:
- many watershed management activities, such as gully control, streambank protection, reforestation and community pasture improvement, etc., can be better carried out by group actions;
- on private farms, group action facilitates mutual drainage systems, better terracing work, especially for broad-based terraces on gently slopes, and farm roads where farm boundaries can be used as sites to serve two or more farms;
- with group action in a sub-watershed, planning, design, implementation and supervision of activities can be much easier, more concentrated, timesaving and effective.
However, the attitudes toward group action may differ from one place to another. During survey, this subject should be carefully studied.
After studying various institutional settings and their problems, suggestions should be made as to which organizations should be involved in implementation and how the work can be carred out effectively:
- not all the agencies which participate in the planning of a multi-disciplinary watershed project should be designated as implementing agencies. Only those with major responsibilities should co-sponsor the project. Others may remain as cooperating agencies;
- institutional strengthening should be spelled out for the major responsible organization(s);
- coordination mechanisms should be stipulated in details;
- an evaluation body should be established and should include the steering committee or the liaison unit mentioned previously, and representatives of the local communities.
The report of this section should also include suggestions on a reasonable course of action after studying and analysing various cultural aspects mentioned previously. These may include the following subjects:
- a long-term strategy to overcome cultural difficulties;
- a pilot or a test area to obtain local reactions;
- a gradually expanded project;
- an intensive education program.