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 4: Evaluating an Innovative Development Intervention a Decade and a Half Later

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


ANALYZING THE LONG-TERM PERFORMANCE OF AN INTERVENTION In the third chapter, we reported on and described an ingenious intervention program designed and initiated in 1985 jointly by the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) of Nepal and the International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI) for 19 irrigation systems located in the Sindhupalchok District of Nepal (Yoder, 1986, 1994; P. Pradhan, 1989a, 1989b). Instead of following the then established ‘best practices’ that focused on spending large funds for engineering works and imposing a topdown planning process, the project extensively involved farmers in deciding what should be done, and built in learning mechanisms that allowed farmers to adapt to the changing environment. In this chapter, we will report on our efforts to evaluate the performance of this innovative effort over time using both conventional statistical analysis as well as Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) (Ragin, 1987). The purpose of this evaluation is not to try to provide another piece of evidence to show that engineering works alone do not work. That is well established (see Chapter 1). Prior studies of engineering solutions, however, have tended to be either in-depth historical analysis of a small number of irrigation systems or statistical analysis of variables measured at one time for a larger number of systems. While these studies offer important insights, their static, descriptive orientation has not enabled their authors to decipher the mechanisms through which improved engineering infrastructure impacts on irrigation performance and unfolds across time depending on other causal processes. Instead of looking at...

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