Participatory Irrigation Management and WUAs

What is PIM?
The term Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) refers to the participation of water users –the farmers—in the management of the irrigation systems based on surface water as well as ground water.  The Handbook on PIM defines Participatory Irrigation Management as the involvement of irrigation users in all aspects of irrigation management, and at all levels.  All aspects include policy, planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, financing, governance and monitoring and evaluation of the irrigation system.  All levels include the primary, secondary and tertiary levels (from water diversion source to the fields of the farmer).  A more comprehensive variant of PIM is Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT).  IMT is the full or partial transfer of responsibility and authority for the governance, management and financing of irrigation systems from the Government to Water User Associations (Vermillion 2003).  PIM usually refers to the level, mode, or intensity of user participation and encompasses every form of interaction between the water user and the water provider.
Need and rationale for PIM
Publicly managed irrigation schemes are largely under-performing, due to a rigid, top-down, bureaucratic approach, lack of maintenance and upgrading of irrigation schemes, poor water service delivery, and lack of transparency and accountability. 
Participatory Irrigation Management and Irrigation Management Transfer have emerged as important approaches over the past 30 years for improving the performance of the irrigated agricultural sector, including both productivity and financial and physical sustainability.
The underlying rationale for participation in irrigation is that users have a direct interest in the water delivery function because of its influence on the profitability of their agricultural operations. There is near consensus now that promoting community participation through Water User Associations (WUAs) can be the best strategy for long term sustainability of irrigated agriculture. WUAs have proven, in the best cases, to be efficient, accountable and responsive.
Other reasons for promoting PIM include the following (adapted from FAO, 2007),
- PIM is expected to reduce the burden of costs, staff requirements and technical or management problems faced by governments
- PIM will lead to improvements in the agricultural productivity and economic profitability of irrigation systems because this is the core concern of farmers, whereas it may not be an essential concern of bureaucracies. Farmers will be inclined to manage irrigation systems so as to increase the area irrigated, cropping intensities and/or crop diversity, yields and economic returns.
- It will motivate farmers to pay more for their irrigation system because they will be empowered to take over the authority to define what their irrigation services will be, who will provide them, and how and at what costs these will be provided.
- Because of farmer interest in results, governance by farmers organizations will improve the accountability of irrigation system management to farmers, and this will produce more efficient and equitable water delivery, canal maintenance and settlement of disputes.
- Collective organization for irrigation management forms a strong basis for collective action in related areas, such as adoption of modern agricultural practices and input management. A major concern in irrigation schemes is the large, often increasing, number of marginal land holdings where traditional agriculture is not economically viable.   
- PIM processes will build social capital locally, through establishment of WUAs, skills building, leadership and capacity for action.
Vision, Mission, Objective for WUAs
Community involvement in irrigation management is generally implemented through the formation and operationalization of Water User Associations (WUAs). WUAs comprise all farmers sharing water from the same source (tertiary canal or groundwater). They are responsible for managing and maintaining the irrigation and drainage system at their level. They also contribute to higher level irrigation and water resources management.
WUAs elect leaders, contribute to irrigation modernization, collect fees, carry out maintenance, and handle disputes internally.
The objective is two fold:
(i) with greater participation of the farmers, the investments in the canal infrastructure and other irrigated agriculture related services will be need based and hence more effective and
(ii) optimal use of water and land resources will lead to better agricultural productivity and raised income levels of the farmers
WUAs in the long run shall be autonomous, cost-efficient, financially self-sufficient, transparent, well-managed, accountable, and user oriented to deliver efficient and reliable services.

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This website has been prepared under the Technical Assistance Programme on "Capacity Building for Integrated Water Resources Development and Management in India". The Trust Fund is funded by UKaid from the Department for International Development and managed by the World Bank. The website is managed and maintained by IndiaNPIM.

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