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Water NEWS: the MASSCOTE approach
a new methodology to ignite irrigation systems modernizationn

masscote in indiaEasier, cost-effective, better perfoming irrigation systems for the farmers, environmentally frendlier and economically sound for all water users. This is MASSCOTTE: "MApping System and Services for Canal Operation TEchniques."


The MASSCOTE is a step-wise methodology to evaluate and analyze different components of an irrigation system and then develop a modernization plan. The modernization plan consists of physical, institutional, and managerial improvements in different components to improve water delivery service and cost effectiveness of operation and management.

While the overall goal of MASSCOTE is modernization of management with the users as central actors, canal operation is the focus and entry point: modern design and management concepts are based on the definition of an operation plan to achieve specific service and performance objectives. Users are central to this Service Oriented Management (SOM) approach.

What do we mean by modernization of irrigation systems?

masscote in indiaFAO defines the modernization as following: A process of technical and managerial upgrading (as opposed to mere rehabilitation) of irrigation schemes with the objective to improve resource utilization (labor, water, economics, environmental) and water delivery service to farms.

Why the focus on canal operation?

As we often say “Canals don’t lie”: they reflect the existing performance and express the constraints, limits and opportunities of the management. Thus the entry point of MASSCOTE is canal operation but the scope is modernization and the goal is to promote Service Oriented Management (SOM) with specific targets that are explicit in terms of cost, water and other resources use effectiveness, and for the environment.

Canal operation is a critical entry point because: (i) it is the activity that puts management decisions into tangible outputs; and (ii) it is there thatmasscote in india the current management performance is sanctioned and expressed in the most obvious manner (its symptoms). MASSCOTE evolves from canaloperation to management options (institutional partitioning, organization, and SOM). A longer-term plan will address more systematically other issues related to management such as incentive structure, governance, and financing in a full-fletched asset management plan

How does MASSCOTE work?

MASSCOTE methodology consists of 11 steps (click here to view steps) which are grouped into two main parts

• Baseline Information and analysis
• A vision of water services and modernization plan for canal operation

masscote in indiaThe steps in the first part deal with evaluation and analysis of the current situation, practices and processes. In the second part a vision for the irrigation system is developed and targets are established. The modernization improvements are then planned to achieve these targets.

An important feature of the methodology concerns the revolving nature of MASSCOTE. This might imply iterative circles before reaching a consolidated stage of analysis and project – several rounds of MASSCOTE at different levels of the system (main supply, subunits) before integrating at the main supply and subunit level.

Is Modernization a one shot process?

Certainly not, successful modernization programs show that modernization is a continuing process that also needs a lot of maturation period before stakeholders converge towards a common understanding and tangibles interventions. Using RAP and MASSCOTE appears to be a good approach in investing in the initial stages of the process and insufflate a good momentum

The different time frames of the interventions:

  • RAP (see box) = week;
  • MASSCOTE = month to run the initial kick.

  • Short-term modernization project = year.

  • Medium and long term vision and modernization plan: 2-3 and 5 to 15-30 years. These may require more fundamental restructuring and mobilization of substantial additional resources.

Target audience

The MASSCOTE aims to assist technical experts, irrigation managers and masscote in chinamore broadly irrigation professionals, in seriously addressing modern needs, issues and challenges, analyzing all the associated details, and embarking upon the difficult road of modernization or re-engineering of irrigation management of medium to large irrigation canal systems, with practical and detailed objectives, plans and solutions.

Who can conduct MASSCOTE for modernization

masscote in chinaMASSCOTE methodology can be applied by any skilled professionals, however FAO recommends whenever possible to associate MASSCOTE with a training that allows participants to be familiarized with the various steps of the process as well as with some modern techniques of canal control.

Whose benefits?

Modernization focuses in on making it easier, simpler and more economical to achieve improved overall economic, water-related and environmental performance through improved service delivery to all users especially the farmers, thanks to improved irrigation management. masscote in indiaIt pays particular attention to buy-in from irrigation service provider staff (in agencies and water users associations that employ them) in terms of benefits that accrue to them, in addition to the core objective of improving performance and service to farmers. Those who provide funding (agencies, tax payers and farmers) are also intended as critical beneficiaries together with:

  • Farmers, from improved service at the most economical cost, and from management processes that empower them to participate in strategic decisions on system management objectives;

  • Other water users, including the environment, through recognition of their service requirements or improved allocation;

  • Irrigation staff and managers, masscote in indiathrough making it simpler and easier to achieve improved performance and improved incentives for performance, in return for greater demand for professionalism and accountability for performance;

  • Decision makers at State and other levels, through greater performance of and investment in the sector, workable and adapted strategies and policies having the support of key constituencies.

MASSCOTE is already used in:

masscote in china

  • China
  • India
  • Moroco
  • Nepal
  • Moreover

  • The Shanxi Provincial Department of Water Resources, China has indicated that all system managers in the province requiring provincial funds to upgrade their systems will need to carry out a MASSCOTE of their system to prepare their proposals

  • The Karnataka irrigation corporation (KNNL), India is developing since 2006 a reengineering approach of irrigation management which is based on a set of applications of Masscote on 4 systems, the development of the capacity within KNNL on modern management techniques together with policy changes at state level.

...and who is interested in adopting it:

  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Pakistan
  • Thailand
  • Utter Pradesh, India
  • Vietnam

What is RAP?

The Rapid Appraisal Procedure (RAP), is a systematic set of procedures for diagnosing the bottlenecks and performance and service levels within an irrigation system. The RAP assessment provides qualified personnel with a clear picture of where conditions must be improved and assists in prioritizing the steps for improvement. Furthermore, it also provides initial indicators that can be used as benchmarks in order to compare improvements in performance once modernization plans are implemented. That is why it is the first step of MASSCOTE methodology

The Rapid Appraisal Procedure (RAP) was originally developed by the Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC) of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in the mid 1990s for a research program financed by the World Bank on the evaluation of the impact on performance of the introduction of modern control and management practices in irrigation. ITRC developed for FAO a more user-friendly version of the RAP, where water balance tools are also expanded. Since its introduction, the RAP has successfully been used by FAO, the World Bank and other irrigation professionals for appraising projects in Asia, Latin America, and North Africa.