Collective Action as a First Step Toward Scaling Inclusive Farmer-Led Irrigation Development (FLID) Sustainably

July 9, 2020 – 2030 WRG participated in Session II of the Farmer-Led Irrigation Development (FLID) webinar series hosted by the International Water Management Institute together with the World Bank, the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, and the Global Water Partnership. The session focused on sustainably accelerating inclusive FLID as a key to recovery from COVID-19. A video recording of the session can be accessed here or watched below.

Issuing the closing remarks of the session, 2030 WRG Senior Water Resources Management Specialist, Joy Busolo, outlined three key take-aways from the session, drawing on lessons learned from 2030 WRG programs across Asia and Africa.

  1. Technical tools are important but must be accompanied by incentives for behavioral change toward more efficient water-use behavior and local norms.

Enforcing rules based on community coordination and a participatory approach can be effective at inducing efficient behavior among water users as opposed to traditional top-down approaches. To this end, social learning interventions and other low-cost support mechanisms for improved water resources management can be effectively leveraged, even on a large scale. Developing and providing such incentives will require a combination of public and private actors coming together for such provision as well as the availability of reliable data.

  1. Data measurement and collection is critical.

Addressing information asymmetry on the sustainable use of water resources and of productive services is critical to scaling inclusive FLID sustainably and reducing risks. For example, it is still necessary to further test assumptions on water users’ efficient behavior in order to determine whether models can be scaled up. Likewise, more comparative data in terms of volumes of water saved by different models and incentives is needed. Additionally, a greater understanding is required of how such models and incentives affect water markets and choice of crops as well as the impact of such choices on the availability of water resources. Improving the collection and harmonization of local data and information underlines the need for collaboration and coordination among sector stakeholders.

  1. Scaling inclusive FLID sustainably requires collective action and an integrated, multi-scale approach.

Many water users sharing the resource remain unknown to each other, resulting in issues of representation and voice – whether in terms of engaging with farmer associations or women. There is a clear need for different sectors and stakeholders to learn from each other. This in turn fosters an inclusive ecosystem that enables and is conducive to the formulation and implementation of policies, plans, and interventions for the sustainable scaling of FLID. Strengthening private sector engagement in the FLID space can help fill gaps especially in innovative financing and creative technology solutions as well as data collection.

2030 WRG and the way forward

This last idea offers a starting point for moving forward. Strengthening collective action among sectors and stakeholders helps incentivize necessary behavior changes and facilitates the harmonization of information required for sustainable water resources management.

In the Indian province of Karnataka, the 2030 WRG Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) facilitated the Drip-to-Market Agri-Corridor (DMAC) in Ramthal, which is one of the world’s largest automated community drip irrigation projects and the first of its kind in India. The project has helped reduce the water used for agriculture by up to 40 percent and is being scaled and replicated in other districts in the province. Meanwhile in Eastern Africa (e.g., the irrigation financing facilities of Kenya* and Tanzania), several partners across different sectors including governments, financial institutions, and equipment providers have come together and continue to innovate in irrigation financing for small-scale farmers, leveraging market linkages and partnership models to increase access to finance for irrigation.

Working to unite diverse groups with a common interest in the sustainable management of water resources is at the core of 2030 WRG. While collective action is not an end in itself, it offers a valuable mechanism for scaling inclusive FLID sustainably.

* For the Kenya Irrigation Financing Facility, please refer to p. 88 of the hyperlinked document, particularly the paragraphs on Farmer-Led Irrigation Assessment and Advisory Support.