Agricultural Infrastructure Adaptation Through Irrigation

Emma Brown, Sarah House, Nam Nguyen

Sector: Agriculture and Rural Development

Adaptation Type: This low regret program addresses current water access issues, while also preparing for potential future challenges and building capacity in this area.

Executive Summary:  The Irrigation and Water Resource Management Project aims to more effectively and efficiently utilize and manage water in order to increase quality of life in Nepal, which is heavily dependent on agriculture. In four components, the World Bank and  aims to combine improvements to infrastructure with policy reform and education of best management practices to achieve better outcomes in water use and agricultural outputs. While the timeline has doubled from its initial goal of five years, the program has seen great success in increased crop yield for farmers which has led to higher incomes and better quality of life. Additionally, increased water access as a result of this project will allow rural communities to adapt to climate changes in the future.

Actors: The main actors in this program are the World Bank, the Government of Nepal, and the Nepali Department of Irrigation, who designed and run the projects. Also involved are the Department of Agriculture and the Water Users Associations.

Stakeholders: The various stakeholders include the World Bank, the Government of Nepal, the Department of Irrigation, Water Users Associations, farmers, and rural communities. As financiers of the project, the World Bank, the government, and the WUA have a monetary stake in the success of the project. The farmers and rural communities involved in the project are invested as the direct beneficiaries of its success.

Project Details:
Agriculture is a major component of Nepal’s economy, as it contributes to 38% of the country’s GDP (World Bank). However, farmers do not have access to adequate irrigation systems and still depend largely on monsoon rains. According to the World Bank, less than one-fifth of total cultivated land in Nepal receives year-round irrigation. Addressing this problem, The Irrigation and Water Resource Management Project (IWRMP), funded by the World Bank, aims to fund infrastructural development and improve the governing institutions relating to agriculture and irrigation. The project originally started in 2008 and was proposed to end in 2014, but due delays in implementation and additional resources needs, the deadline was extended 2018. The project is divided into four main components:
(A)  Irrigation infrastructure development and improvement
(B)  Irrigation management transfer reforms
(C)  Institutional and policy support and
(D)  Integrated crop and water management program (ICWMP)
Enhancing irrigation systems is one of the most effective ways to improve rural livelihoods and enhance climate resilience, especially for the case of Nepal. Cultivated lands will have increased water access, which will enable farmers to enhance their food production. A more productive agricultural system will increase demand for employment. As a result, income for the rural poor will rise. Additionally, as climate change will alter the Indian monsoon, rainfall patterns will become more unpredictable. Farmers will need irrigation systems to ensure a reliable water supply and diversion system.
To ensure that the project is achieving its goals, indicators to measure the progress will include (1) increase in agricultural productivity and cropping intensity; (2) satisfaction from water-user groups; (3) the creation of water user associations and management policies; (4) increase in irrigated areas.

Component A: Irrigation Infrastructure Development and Improvement
This component aims to increase irrigation services from existing systems and develop new systems in three Western Regions, the Mountains, Hills and the Terai. In total, the project plans to improve irrigation water delivery to about 29,000 ha, support groundwater irrigation in 20,500 ha. Specific implementations plans will involve: (1) Improving existing small and medium surface irrigation systems in the proposed project areas; (2) Develop and improve ground water irrigation in the Terai; (3) Support on-demand local irrigation and water supply infrastructures; (4) Investments in non-conventional irrigation technologies, such as drip/sprinkler irrigation, rain-water harvest tanks and treadle pumps. Additionally, the project aims to ensure that all groups will benefit equitably from the project. Disadvantaged groups, such as the landless and dalits, will benefit from special income generating programs and focused investment on non-conventional irrigation technologies.

Component B: Irrigation Management Transfer Reforms
This component aims to reform the current operation and management of irrigation schemes in Nepal by establishing and strengthening Water User’s Associations (WUAs). The WUA will consolidate the governance, management and maintenance of 11 sub-systems of existing five Agency-managed Irrigation systems, including the Koshi West Gravity Scheme, Narayani Irrigation System, Mahakali Irrigation System, Kankai Irrigation System, and Sunsari Morang Irrigation System. These five systems currently covers an area of about 72,500 ha. The establishment of WUA will be complicated as it requires multiple steps to consolidate control of the five systems. These will include: (1) improving the management schemes of the systems to be transferred; (2) conducting field-trainings for WUAs from regional to local levels to increase efficiency; (3) working with the Department of Irrigation to share responsibilities with WUAs; (4) improving the Department of Irrigation’s ability to efficiently invest in the rehabilitation and arrangements of irrigation systems.

Component C: Institutional and Policy Support for Better Water Management
This component aims to build-up relevant institutions through multi-tiered interventions to provide more effective water-management and irrigation-related services. At the national level: (1) A monitoring committee and information center will be established within the Water and Energy Commission to oversee, collect and disseminate data related to water management (2) Policies and regulations related to water management will be amended (3) A system of assessing water availability and allocation to support the operation of water allocation for irrigation systems during periods of drought or floods will be established (4) a platform of communication among different stakeholders, such as civil societies, governments and the media will be created to initiate cooperation of transboundary management of water and energy. In selected river basins, studies will be conducted and legal and technical instruments will be established to address water issues for future hydropower developments and their impact on irrigations. At the level of regional irrigation systems, a census of water users will be conducted and specific regulations to ensure equitable access to water resources will be established.

Component D: Integrated Crop and Water Management
This component aims to incorporate the irrigation infrastructure plans mentioned in Component A and B with downstream agricultural activities to ensure that farmers benefit from the development. The Department of Irrigation (DOI) and WUA will cooperate to (1) promote water-use and management practices (2) introduce agronomic practices to farmers; (3) support agricultural production activities throughout the supply, storage, handling and marketing process.

Resources Needed
The Government of Nepal values this project at US $65 million. The World Bank identified the best source of funding to be a specific investment loan, a type of loan intended to support the development of infrastructure (World Bank Debt Servicing Handbook 9), along with an International Development Association grant. These were viable options because the intended use of funding was clearly laid out and could be completed within five years , although the project timeline has now been extended to ten years. The World Bank granted USD $50 million, the Government of Nepal contributed $10 million, and the WUAs collectively contributed another $5 million. However, the Government of Nepal needs additional funding to complete the River Basin Management Plan, a significant part of the project, whose completion the World Bank will not be involved in.
The Government of Nepal applied to the World Bank for funds for most of the construction projects through National Competitive Bidding. Applying through this pathway (as opposed to International Competitive Bidding) exempted it from competition with other nations. The Nepali government also had to delegate small construction tasks to WUAs, which would require “specialized equipment for MIS, office equipment, vehicles” and other items. Independent parties were also needed to perform research, create a database to track Nepal’s water resources, and provide training (“Project Appraisal” 18). This information and training was needed to help fill in gaps for project teams and government officials previously unfamiliar with the project and associated policies (“Project Appraisal” 19).

To promote climate change adaptation, this project should improve the livelihoods of farmers who use these services and their ability to withstand future challenges. The World Bank sets three main criteria to measure the success of the program: service delivery performance, the amount of water collected and the effectiveness of its use, and increases in yield and diversity which bring in greater income for farmers. (“Project Information Document”). Improvements in all of these criteria can help those with access to irrigation to manage current environmental challenges. Better irrigation services provide greater control over how much water crops receive when natural rain is inadequate. Farmers can then grow crops more effectively and make greater profits, and in turn have more economic resources , which boosts their capacity to cope with other challenges.
The project has made progress in all three of the World Bank’s criteria. More than half of the planned irrigation improvements have been completed, and the others are underway. Several training programs have helped farmers to learn new farming practices, which will help them to use the improved irrigation to their greatest advantage. Crop yields have also been successful: The World Bank reports that “The yield of rice, wheat, maize and potato have increased in a range of 39 to 92 percent over the baseline with corresponding increase in cropping intensity from 180 to 242 percent” (“Implementation Status” 2). In the World Bank’s terms, the project made considerable advancement. However, progress has been slower than planned: the deadline has now been extended from 2013 to 2015 (“Implentation  Status” 1). Technical and financial shortages have also held back progress on the River Basin Management Plan, which the Government of Nepal will have to complete on its own after the project deadline (“Implementation Status” 2).
The project’s effectiveness also depends on who benefits and for how long. It should benefit those most vulnerable to climate change risks and therefore most in need of adaptation.The inclusion of a “vulnerable group development strategy” ensures that marginalized populations are involved in decision-making processes and enjoy the benefits of the program. Support is also provided to encourage women’s participation in WUAs (“Appraisal” 20). These measures help to ensure that traditionally disadvantaged groups have a voice in the project, and have the opportunity to meet their needs for adaptation. In order to effectively promote adaptation, the project must enable people to meet both current and future environmental challenges. This project is a low regret option because it meets this goal, addressing current needs without creating new environmental problems. Environmental disturbances from construction are expected to be minimal, and actions to mitigate any damage are also built into the plan. The plan also takes future resource use into account. It includes an evaluation of which structural improvements could improve efficiency. An investigation of future prospects for exploiting groundwater will also promote sustainable use of that resource. This increased efficiency should improve farmers’ ability to grow crops when weather patterns they traditionally depend on are disrupted. Overall, the project has been successful in improving the irrigation system in Nepal, effectively increasing farmer’s livelihoods.

Information Sources:

Guidelines: Procurement Under IBRD Loans and IDA Credits. The World Bank, May 2004, Accessed 3 October 2017.

“Implementation Status and Results Report.” The World Bank, 1 Aug. 2017, Accessed 3 October, 2017.

“Integrated water resources management in Nepal: key stakeholders’ perceptions and lessons learned.” Taylor and Francis Online, ” Accessed 3 October, 2017.

“Nepal: Irrigation and Water Resource Management.” The World Bank, 11 Apr. 2014, Accessed 2 October, 2017.

“NP Irrigation and Water Resources Management Project.” The World Bank, Accessed 1 October, 2017.

“Project Appraisal Document.” The World Bank, 1 Aug. 2017, Accessed 2 October, 2017.

““Project Information Document (PID): Concept Stage.” The World Bank, 26 Sept. 2007, Accessed 3 October 2017.

“Welcome to Irrigation Water Resource Management Project.” Department of Irrigation, Accessed 3 October, 2017.

World Bank Debt Servicing Handbook. The World Bank, June 2009, Accessed 4 October 2017.


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