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Japanese model of participatory irrigation management and its implication

According to the University of Tsukuba, Japan, followings are the Japanese model of participatory irrigation management and its implication:

To achieve the goal of irrigation projects, governments need to carry out desired operation and maintenance.   However, the experiences in water management by governments, especially in small scale farming systems in Asia, showed that they couldn’t control everything by themselves. They need to invite farmers to Participate in water management.

 But in practice, few governments are successful in this participatory irrigation management. One of the major reasons for the failure may lie in the lack of methodology on how to make beneficiary farmers be willing to cooperate towards the government goal after recognizing that farmers are conflicting with each other due to their nature.

Construction/rehabilitation projects for irrigation in Japan are conducted by the central and local governments, as in most of other countries.

A special feature of Japanese projects is that the completed facilities are wholly transferred to the beneficiaries including major structures such as diversion dams in the source rivers and main canals with major control facilities.

Irrigation associations or Land Improvement District (LID), autonomous organization of farmers, that are established specifically for each project will operate and maintain the facilities by collecting membership fees from farmers to cover the O&M cost.

During water shortage times, the available water is equitably allocated among the farmers, thus minimizing the drought damage.

This successful P-IM in Japan has been developed by a national policy to promote farmer cooperation with the recognition of conflicts among farmers as follows;

  1. the beneficiary farmers are involved in irrigation projects from initiation stage based on the government policy to start only irrigation projects for which most of the beneficiary farmers have formed consensus on cooperative management to make project application to the government,
  2. the farmers are to shoulder a part of the project cost including that for major facilities,
  3. the government provides a high ratio of subsidy to overcome difficulties created by different willingness to pay among the farmers,
  4. Land Improvement Act(l949) provides a democratic frame work and procedures for project formation and LID management,
  5. The LIDs are inspected by the government every other year.

The implications of participatory Japanese model are:

  1. The governments should hold interests and indirectly intervene in the water management at the terminal level to achieve stable and high crop yields.
  2. Farmers  have regional conflict at every  level  of water  management, thus having possibility

to cooperate each other in a hydraulic unit to compete with the other units. The cooperation,

is possible where the farmers are given the power to decide with disclosed information.

  • The governments  let the farmers discuss and decide the water management and monitor the

results by themselves while guiding the discussions to be rational. Building ability of self-governance is the core part of capacity development of farmers

  • Through this policy, the governments are able to achieve the government goals with the minimum expenditure on O&M.

The Japanese model might be transferable to other countries because of its commonness in principle.

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