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Improving Irrigation in Asia

Sustainable Performance of an Innovative Intervention in Nepal
The late Elinor Ostrom, formerly Senior Research Director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Professor of Political Science, Indiana University, US and 2009 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for research on economic governance, Wai Fung Lam, Professor of Politics and Public Administration, The University of Hong Kong, Prachanda Pradhan, Patron, Farmer Managed Irrigation Systems (FMIS) Promotion Trust, Nepal and Ganesh P. Shivakoti, Professor of Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand
Improving Irrigation in Asia is based on a longitudinal study over two decades on innovative intervention for sustained performance of irrigation systems. The work identifies key factors that can help explain the performance of interventions, and explicates lessons for resource management and the management of development assistance.
Extent: 160 pp
Hardback Price: £70.00 Online: £63.00
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 978 1 84980 144 7
Availability: In Stock
Paperback Price: £22.00 Online: £17.60
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 978 0 85793 826 8
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  • Asian Studies
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Improving Irrigation in Asia is based on a longitudinal study over two decades on innovative intervention for sustained performance of irrigation systems. The work identifies key factors that can help explain the performance of interventions, and explicates lessons for resource management and the management of development assistance.

In 1985, the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat of Nepal and the International Irrigation Management Institute developed an ingenious intervention program for nineteen irrigation systems located in the middle hills of Nepal in an attempt to overcome the prevailing ‘best-practices’ traps, in regard to assisting irrigation systems. This book highlights the innovativeness of the project lay in its provision of ample opportunities for farmers to make decisions regarding the operation of the irrigation system based on their local knowledge and creativity. The authors of this work, Elinor Ostrom, Wai Fung Lam, Prachanda Pradhan and Ganesh P. Shivakoti provide detailed analysis of these interventions and support the conclusion that farmers can build on an innovative intervention that not only provides physical improvements but also enhances farmers’ problem-solving capacity. They argue that to achieve sustainable improvements in performance, the farmers themselves need to engage in collective action over time and support local entrepreneurs who provide leadership and stimulate adjustments to change.

Providing practical policy solutions, this study will prove a fascinating and invaluable read for academics and scholars of development studies, resource management, and irrigation studies, as well as development specialists in international agencies, policymakers in governments and international donor agencies.
‘A unique and significant longitudinal study of irrigation intervention in FMIS in Nepal that revives important debates on how irrigation management evolves and how this can be investigated. This concise and accessible book can inform and challenge agencies and donors to reflect on policies and researchers to argue further the study of collective action and political theory in irrigation management.’
– Linden Vincent, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

‘Improving Irrigation in Asia by Elinor Ostrom and colleagues is grounded in intimate detail on water management experience in Nepal while being informed by broadly-applicable concepts and behavioral theories. It greatly advances our understanding of management options and effects. As the water resources available for agriculture become more limited and unreliable, the efficiency and productivity with which irrigation water is used must be increased. While better technology can assist in this quest, the greatest potential gains lie in the social and organizational domains.’
– Norman Uphoff, Cornell University, US

‘Governance of irrigation systems is complex, needing social, technical and financial actions that support farming. Few people have as much knowledge of self-governing irrigation systems as these authors, and few countries have as many of these systems as Nepal. Lessons from these small irrigation systems can be adapted to much larger units, and to other kinds of activity. External assistance on a modest scale could generate practical benefit, by encouraging self-reliance in communities.’
– Charles Abernethy, International Irrigation Management Institute, Colombo (1987–94) and Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand (1996–99)
Contents: Foreword by Gilbert Levine Preface by Robert Yoder 1. The Challenge of Achieving Successful Development Interventions 2. Effects of Different Modes of Assistance on the Performance of Farmer-managed Irrigation Systems in Nepal 3. Processes and Procedures of an Innovative Development Intervention Initiated in 1985 in the Middle Hills of Nepal 4. Evaluating an Innovative Development Intervention a Decade and a Half Later 5. Post-intervention Dynamics in 2008: Focusing on Two Success and Two Failure Cases 6. Synthesis and Conclusion References Index