Improving Irrigation in Asia
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Improving Irrigation in Asia

Sustainable Performance of an Innovative Intervention in Nepal

Elinor Ostrom, Wai Fung Lam, Prachanda Pradhan and Ganesh P. Shivakoti

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.
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Chapter 1: The Challenge of Achieving Successful Development Interventions

Elinor Ostrom, Wai Fung Lam, Prachanda Pradhan and Ganesh P. Shivakoti


THE PUZZLE: HOW TO HELP FARMERMANAGED IRRIGATION SYSTEMS According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projections, the world’s food demand between 2000 and 2030 is expected to increase by 55 percent (FAO, 2003). To meet the increased demand, world food production has to increase at an annual rate of 1.4 percent (UNDP, 2006). Much of this growth would need to occur in developing countries. Given the limited potential for increasing the amount of cultivable land, much of the increased food demand would have to be met through improved agricultural productivity and increased cropping intensity (UNESCO-WWAP, 2006; Molden, 2007). Improving irrigation systems’ performance is thus a key production factor that could help lift the constraint on agricultural productivity in developing countries in Asia and elsewhere. In fact, cross-country comparisons have found that irrigation is strongly associated with the level of the risk of poverty and economic inequality (UNDP, 2006). It has been a high priority for the allocation of international aid to generate and maintain irrigation robustness in Asian countries. An irrigation system is robust if it is able to keep water at target levels within the system under uncertain environmental disturbances for long periods of time. The engineering aspect of an irrigation system can be threatened by two disturbances coming from the broader environment. One is the threat of flooding due to excessive rainfall. The second is the result of too little rainfall and the consequent inadequate supply of water for the farmers. The way engineering works try to...

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