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 6: Synthesis and Conclusion

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


THE CHALLENGE OF OVERCOMING BEST PRACTICES As discussed in Chapter 1, many international donors have searched over the past three decades for the ‘best practices’ related to improving irrigation performance. Two practices stand out as overly influential on the design of irrigation interventions around the world. Hiring external water engineers to design and construct up-to-date engineering infrastructure to replace the primitive structures that farmers have already constructed would be one of the two best practices. The second is developing an institutional template for how governmental agencies and farmers should be organized. Even though both of these templates have repeatedly been challenged (Yudelman, 1985; Chambers, 1988; Lam, 1996b), they still dominate international assistance to irrigation systems. The WECS/IIMI intervention described in Chapter 3 tried hard to overcome these supposed panaceas. While engineers were charged with the responsibility of developing the specific blueprints for the remodeling of the systems in the Indrawati River basin, the farmers were initially charged with developing a list of the most important improvements. Then, the farmers were charged with contributing their own labor and if they were able to reduce the costs of improving the highest priority change, it was possible to move down the list of projects so as to achieve far more than would normally have been accomplished. Further, when the farmers themselves began to work in applying the initial engineering blueprints to their own systems, they were able to suggest various improvements that did not raise costs but made the systems potentially far more...

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