Governing Farmer-Managed Irrigation Systems in a Rapidly Changing World

- Jagadish Parajuli

Discussion Type: Research Seminar Series | Date: 12 May 2024 | Time: 03:00 PM


12 May 2024/३० वैशाख २०८१ (आइतबार, दिउँसो ३ बजे)
Research Seminar Series
Governing Farmer-Managed Irrigation Systems in a Rapidly Changing World
Jagadish Parajuli, PhD, Climate Public Finance Specialist, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center

Farmer-Managed Irrigation Systems (FMIS) are community managed and operated irrigation systems, celebrated for their successful governance of water resources for many decades and in several countries. Nevertheless, in the face of climatic, political, and social change, their future is uncertain. This study utilizes household adaptive capacity, socio-ecological system (SES) robustness, and the Institutional Analysis and Development framework to structure a multi-scalar and multi-stressor analysis of changes experienced in Nepal’s FMIS. The study documents irrigators’ perception of environmental change, impacts, and response; diagnoses the multiple disturbances impacting the robustness of the FMIS; and analyzes changes in the FMIS as an institution over time, in an effort to understand the major drivers of SES change. Fifteen FMIS from five districts of Nepal were selected for the study. Data were collected through field observations, household surveys, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions. The status of the existing rules was compared with the data collected three decades ago in the Nepal Irrigation Institutions and Systems database. 

This study finds that FMIS’s robustness is threatened by uncertain water supply, inefficient infrastructure, scarcity of farm labor, weakening collective action, and natural disasters. Farm households, whose actions are necessary to sustain the management of FMIS, perceive environmental change differently according to their ecological region and position along the irrigation canal, leading to different adaptation strategies. Despite livelihood diversification, irrigators rely primarily on irrigation infrastructure management to respond to the impacts of environmental change. Institutional analysis demonstrates the evolution of FMIS in terms of working rules in the face of multiple stressors. In this study, payoff, information, and position rules have exhibited the most substantive change. However, boundary, choice, aggregation, and scope rules are less likely to change. 
The findings of this study point to the need for geographically differentiated adaptation support policies, and a need for closer attention to the dynamics of labor, environmental change, and institutional persistence in agriculture and irrigation sectors. FMIS being an exemplary institutional arrangement for the study of a SES, the research findings benefit similar institutions globally facing challenges to the sustainable governance of common pool resources. 

About the Speaker:
Jagadish Parajuli is a climate change adaptation, climate finance, sustainability, and natural resources management professional with more than a decade of experience in research and project management on climate change, natural resource management, community development, governance, and policy analysis. He was a contributing author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report working group II water chapter. Mr. Parajuli completed PhD in Sustainability from the College of Global Futures at Arizona State University. He works with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center as a Climate Public Finance Specialist. 

- Jagadish Parajuli

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