The Irrigation Modernization Process

An in-depth analysis of the irrigation modernization process that took place under each case study needs to be centered around four main questions:
i) What were the CAUSES that led to the modernization of the irrigation system ?
ii) What type or kind of INTERVENTIONS took place as part of that process ?
iii) What were the IMPACTS derived from the interventions ?, and
iv) What LESSONS were derived or learned ?
The procedure through which the first question can be analyzed is addressed in this note. How to go about on the last three will be discussed in subsequent notes; as time permits.

These questions can then be cross-referenced with a number of parameters pertaining to the irrigation systems, such as geographical location, size, type, water source, type of infrastructure, O&M characteristics, etc. Furthermore, the analysis would then seek to relate some of these variables to their hydraulic levels: on-farm, main system and headworks and above, including watershed conditions, in an attempt to determine how far comparisons between system can be safely accomplished. In some cases, the comparison may include just two systems over a particular point or between several on a number of issues.

Identification of Causes for the Modernization

In order to address the causes for modernization, as presented in the case studies, it was decided beforehand to initially group these causes into four main types, as related to the following broad areas of concern: Technical, Socio-institutional, Economic/Financial and Environmental. The idea behind this approach was to eventually generate a causes of modernization " 4-branch tree" that would include all different kinds of causes mentioned as leading to the modernization process. While it should have been a straightforward exercise to decide under which particular area of concern a mentioned cause would fall under, in some cases it was found that a particular reasons could very well straddle more than one area. This diffuse limits can be obvious to the reader from the following paragraphs. In addition, and for purposes of facilitating the analysis effort, three irrigation system related levels were considered: on-farm, system proper and watershed. Whether these latter categories would be mantained after final analysis was completed would be determined by the importance and consequence that such a distinction could have on the final outcome of the evaluation of the cuases. A third and final analysis approach was taken into consideration: the regional location fo the system. As before, the depth and importance of this approach was to be dictated by the results emerging from the analysis itself, on this basis.

With respect to technical causes, four main sub-types were found, and related to:
i) water availability, that is all situations leading to limitations to water use for agriculture, in the context of the particular irrigation system being evaluated. These included, among others, climate-related factors, physical scarcity, policy or legal issues restricting the amount of water available, obvious design deficiencies in the capture or conveyance network leading to flows restrictions, etc.;
ii) infrastructure, those issues directly constraining water available to the system due to faulty design and/or construction of the irrigation and drainage network, and those derived from the lack of appropriate infrastructure impeding water delivery to potential irrigable areas;
iii) water management, restrictions derived from deficient managerial performance of the system, such as poor planning on water allocation and deliveries, irrigation scheduling, and the actual failures concerning equitable, timeliness and adequacy of the water service, and
iv) agronomic-related causes, as those related to appropriate cropping patterns, deficient soil-plant-water relationships and unsuitable cultural practices, including proper use of farm equipment.

Concerning the social-institutional causes, again four main sub-types were found, and treated as follows:
i) governance, as related to the existence or lack of both governmental and farmers organizations, the role of WUA including participation, decision making, representation, etc. Likewise, those issues concerning public entities, their role and their performance, etc.;
ii) conflict management, intimately linked to the previous sub-type and related to relations among and between farmers and government entities, the non-existance of rules, sanctions and enforcement mechanisms to deal with water stealing or ilegal trading, structures tampering, vandalism and other such performance hampering behavior.
iii) unskilled human resources, again obviously tied to the previous two divisions, and dealing with low or unsuitable expertise of intervening actors: government staff, system administrators, farmers associations and individual farmers, impacting negatively on system sustainability; and
iv) policies and legal-related issues, creating impediments to enhancing food security, fostering rural employment or in seeking to minimize the widening rural-urban livelyhoods gap, and therefore rendering void the desired social role of the system.

Under the third type, Financial/Economic causes, not unexpectedly they were somewhat more complex in nature, and an array of sub-types were identified. However, some of the cuases would appear only once under a particular circumstance. Eventually, these were summarized under five types, three corresponding to financial sustainability aspects and two under economic-related ones; as follows:
i) water fee structure, concerning under- or over estimations, unclear composition or inadequate cost recovery mechanisms and directly affecting financial stability;
ii) O&M costs, causes related to operability and maintenance of the system as derived from excessive cost levels of O&M activities or lack of transparency or not compatible to the level of service received impinging on financial sustainability; and
iii) subsidies or funds movilization, those causes emerging from lack of or low levels of financial support, including outside investments or deficient fund movilization mechanisms.

With respect to economic causes, two main ones were identified:
i) agricultural profitability, or rather the lack of, leading to the need for reassessment of agricultural cost effectiveness, benefits and costs, farm income levels, and the irrigation system profitability in general, and
ii) land value, in a number of cases the issue of land value has played a determinant role in the need for reassessment of the existing conditions of the irrigation system.

Finally, Environmental causes have played an important role in the definition of irrigation modernization. These have been grouped as follows:
i) ecosystem conservation, dealing with the need to protect natural resources, with water at the forefront, to assure the ever increasing demands for pristine natural environments;
ii) soil degradation, with direct negative impact on the environment, including, among others, issues related to salinity, alkalinity, erosion, physical deterioration, chemical imbalances and special soils problems etc.; and
iii) water degradation, as causes complementary or associated with the previous and also in detriment to the environment such as water quality, pollution, contamination, water logging, runoff, sedimentation etc.

As a summary, in the figure, a causes for modernization tree is presented, this format has been utilized to guide the identification and subsequent analysis on the reasons leading to modernization, as presented by the case studies. In the following paragraphs, some specific examples will be provided and discussed.

Figure: Causes for modernization.