Special Issue "Using Applied Economics to Study Participatory Irrigation Institutions and their Impact in South Asia"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Resources Management, Policy and Governance".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Lin Crase
Website
Guest Editor
Professor of Economics and Head of School of Commerce, University of South Australia, Australia
Interests: Water policy, Natural resource economics, Public policy
Dr. Bethany Cooper
Website
Guest Editor
University of South Australia, Australia
Interests: Water Policy and Management, Non-Market Valuation Techniques, Compliance
Prof. Vasant P Gandhi
Website
Guest Editor
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
Interests: Agricultural Economics, Natural Resource Management, Agricultural Marketing, Water Policy
Dr. Bashir Ahmad
Website
Guest Editor
Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Pakistan
Interests: Climate Change, Water Policy, Development Economics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

For many decades, participatory approaches, with their emphasis on farmer-centred management, have been presented as panaceas for overcoming weaknesses in irrigation systems. Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) has assumed such a high status that it is regularly mandated by donors sponsoring irrigation upgrades in poor countries. However, the success of PIM is mixed, and economic analysis can help explain why PIM might work in some settings and not in others.

This Special Issue focusses on PIM and aims to scrutinise its usefulness particularly in south Asia. The focus on south Asian irrigation is driven by the reality that smallholder agriculture is destined to be the mainstay for this most populous region, at least in the medium term, and finding solutions to raise agricultural productivity is a high priority.

Applied economics can shed light on what drives better (or worse) performance in this setting. New Institutional Economics, Game Theory, and Behavioural Economics contributions are particularly useful and welcome.

Prof. Lin Crase
Dr. Bethany Cooper
Prof. Vasant P Gandhi
Dr. Bashir Ahmad
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Participatory Irrigation Management
  • Irrigation Management Transfer
  • Water Economics
  • New Institutional economics
  • Game Theory
  • Behavioural Economics

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Farmer Cooperation in Participatory Irrigation in South Asia: Insights from Game Theory
Water 2020, 12(5), 1329; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12051329 - 08 May 2020
Abstract
Participatory irrigation, where farmers are given greater control and management responsibility, has been a topic of controversy for many years. Initially seen as a panacea for dealing with weaknesses in state-run irrigation, participatory irrigation has generated mixed results, especially in South Asia. Part [...] Read more.
Participatory irrigation, where farmers are given greater control and management responsibility, has been a topic of controversy for many years. Initially seen as a panacea for dealing with weaknesses in state-run irrigation, participatory irrigation has generated mixed results, especially in South Asia. Part of the challenge of understanding the conditions that promote and undermine participatory irrigation is that it is seldom deployed in the same way. For example, irrigation fees collected by farmers are not handled in the same manner, even within a single country. In some instances, a large portion of collected monies is retained locally and in others, only a small portion is kept for local use. In this paper, we use game theory to contemplate how the portion of irrigation fees retained locally might impact on the effectiveness of participatory irrigation. We show that there are multiple plausible equilibria, and that allowing farmers to retain more funds locally might shift behaviour from an uncooperative equilibrium to a cooperative outcome. However, we also find that it is unlikely for there to be a singular fix and we use empirical evidence to demonstrate the conundrums of making participatory irrigation sustainable. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Impact of Institutional Features on the Overall Performance Assessment of Participatory Irrigation Management: Farmers’ Response from Pakistan
Water 2020, 12(2), 497; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12020497 - 12 Feb 2020
Abstract
The basic objective of the irrigation reforms, i.e., participatory irrigation management in Pakistan, was a better economic and financial management of irrigation service delivery, equity in water distribution, and better environmental outcome. The aim of this study was to assess the optimism with [...] Read more.
The basic objective of the irrigation reforms, i.e., participatory irrigation management in Pakistan, was a better economic and financial management of irrigation service delivery, equity in water distribution, and better environmental outcome. The aim of this study was to assess the optimism with the reforms package that has actually delivered expected outcomes. For this purpose, this study used a cross-sectional dataset of 567 farmers in five selected Area Water Boards (AWBs) of Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan. Important institutional features including compliance, adaptiveness, clarity of objectives, good interaction, and appropriate scale, were modeled through structural equation modeling on the overall performance assessment of water use associations from a farmer’s perspective. Results suggested that clear objectives, adaptiveness, scale, and compliance show a strong relationship with an overall assessment of performance. While good interaction has not impacted significantly with an overall performance assessment. The impact of institutional feature on the overall performance assessment depends on the nature of performance considered, e.g., drivers of the economic performance of a farmer organization may not be the same as the drivers of its environmental performance. Besides offering insights on specific drivers that matter for a particular dimension of the institutional performance of farmer organizations, the study suggests that participatory irrigation management institutions are still in infancy even after decades of their introduction, and just creating institutions is neither mandatory nor sufficient. Furthermore, the institutional designs are considered critical for the success of participatory institutions. Therefore, there is a need to consider the conformity of the strategies with the existing norms and compliance to the on-going procedures. Full article
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Performance Behavior of Participatory Water Institutions in Eastern India: A Study through Structural Equation Modelling
Water 2020, 12(2), 485; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12020485 - 11 Feb 2020
Abstract
The paper examines the nature and performance of participatory water institutions in eastern India using structural equation modelling. There is a crisis in the management of water in India, and this is often not about having too little water but about managing it [...] Read more.
The paper examines the nature and performance of participatory water institutions in eastern India using structural equation modelling. There is a crisis in the management of water in India, and this is often not about having too little water but about managing it poorly. It is now being widely recognized that engineering structures and solutions are not enough, and having effective water institutions is critical. These are urgently needed in eastern India for helping lift the region out of low incomes and poverty. However, creating good institutions is complex, and in this context, the fundamentals of new institutional economics, and management governance theory have suggested the importance of a number of key factors including five institutional features and eight rationalities. Based on this, a study was conducted in eastern India, sampling from the states of Assam and Bihar, covering 510 farm households across 51 water institutions. In order to understand and map the relationship and pathways across these key factors, a structural equation model is hypothesized. In the model, the five institutional features are considered determinants of the eight rationalities, and the rationalities are considered determinants of four performance goals. The performance on the goals determines the overall performance/success of the institution. Besides this, the institutional features and rationalities can also directly influence performance on the goals and the overall performance. The model is tested with data from the survey and different pathways that are robust are identified. The results can provide useful insights into the interlinkages and pathways of institutional behavior and can help policy and institution design for delivering more robust performance. The results show that one of the most important factors determining overall performance/success is technical rationality, and this deserves great attention. It includes technical expertise, sound location and quality of structures and equipment, and good maintenance. However, success is also strongly linked to performance on production/income goals, equity, and environment goals. These are, in turn, strongly related to achievement of economic, social, technical, and organizational rationalities, which call for attention to economic aspects such as crop choice and marketing, besides social aspects such as inclusion of women and poorer social groups, and organizational aspects such as member involvement and regular meetings. Further, the institutional features of clear objectives, good interactions, adaptive, correct scale, and compliance are important for achievement of almost all rationalities through various pathways, and should be strongly focused on in all the institutions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Institutional Structure, Participation, and Devolution in Water Institutions of Eastern India
Water 2020, 12(2), 476; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12020476 - 11 Feb 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The paper examines the nature and development of the participatory water institutions in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plains of India, focusing on the aspects of structure, participation, and devolution. Though the physical development of irrigation has made considerable progress in India, the proper management [...] Read more.
The paper examines the nature and development of the participatory water institutions in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plains of India, focusing on the aspects of structure, participation, and devolution. Though the physical development of irrigation has made considerable progress in India, the proper management and distribution of water has poised many difficulties. The consequences of this are poor efficiency in water use, inequity in distribution, disputes, high cost, and substantial under-utilization of the potential created. On the other hand, institutional initiatives that aim to improve water management and distribution are seen in some areas/locations, and show a process of arriving at better institutional arrangements. Water institutions are crucial for eastern India and though there are a few examples of spontaneous bottom-up initiatives, much of this development is driven by external interventions including laws, policies, and government programs. Even though under the government interventions, the guidelines and policies are usually uniform and top-down, the local uptake and adoption show substantial variation and divergence and this deserves study. The research is based on review of the literature as well as on six in-depth case studies, and also responses of 510 households involved with 51 participatory water institutions in the setting of the eastern Indo-Gangetic plains states of Assam and Bihar. The paper first takes a brief look at the literature on the foundations and experiences of participatory irrigation management (PIM), and then examines through the case studies and data, the development and variation in the PIM water institution in the given setting. It examines features such as laws, membership, structure, inclusion, participation/involvement and devolution. It finds that inclusion of various groups of people in the institutions is quite good except for women and youth. However, actual involvement of different people varies substantially. The issue of devolution/decentralization versus centralization in decision-making is very important to PIM, and varies across the structure and functions. The association of involvement and devolution to performance indicates that the active involvement of some functionaries and groups is very important, and that devolution in several decisions can considerably enhance performance. The observations provide many useful insights for policy and institutional design which can help improve water resource management in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plains. Full article
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Gender Perspective in Water Management: The Involvement of Women in Participatory Water Institutions of Eastern India
Water 2020, 12(1), 196; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010196 - 10 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The paper examines the extent, nature, and factors affecting women’s involvement in participatory irrigation institutions of eastern India. Effective participatory water institutions are urgently needed to improve water management in eastern India, and a significant aspect of this is the involvement of women. [...] Read more.
The paper examines the extent, nature, and factors affecting women’s involvement in participatory irrigation institutions of eastern India. Effective participatory water institutions are urgently needed to improve water management in eastern India, and a significant aspect of this is the involvement of women. There is inadequate representation, participation, and involvement of women in most water institutions. From the participatory and social point of view, this is a significant concern. The relevant data are obtained from the states of Assam and Bihar through a focused survey administered to 109 women in 30 water institutions, and a larger farmer-institutional survey covering 510 households and 51 water institutions. The research examines the extent and nature of the involvement of women in these institutions, as well as in farm decision-making, and the factors that prevent or foster their participation. Additionally, it examines the gender congruence in views regarding water institution activities and their performance, and the perceived benefits of formal involvement of women. The results show that their inclusion is very low (except required inclusion in Bihar), and the concerns of women are usually not being taken into account. Women are involved in farming and water management decisions jointly with men but not independently. Findings indicate that the views of women and men differ on many aspects, and so their inclusion is important. Responses indicate that if women participate formally in water user associations, it would enhance their social and economic standing, achieve greater gender balance, expand their awareness of water management, and contribute to better decision-making in the water institutions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Enhancing Performance of Participatory Water Institutions in the Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains: What Can We Learn from New Institutional Economics and Governance Theories?
Water 2020, 12(1), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010070 - 23 Dec 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
The paper examines the performance of participatory water institutions in India’s Eastern Indo-Gangetic plains region using new institutional economics and management governance fundamentals. Water institutions are of great importance for water resource management in India’s Eastern Indo-Gangetic plains since the region has relatively [...] Read more.
The paper examines the performance of participatory water institutions in India’s Eastern Indo-Gangetic plains region using new institutional economics and management governance fundamentals. Water institutions are of great importance for water resource management in India’s Eastern Indo-Gangetic plains since the region has relatively abundant water but lags behind significantly in economic development and growth with a high incidence of poverty. Engineering solutions to water management have been implemented but have not given good results principally because of weak institutional development and design in the region. Effective and efficient participatory water institutions are urgently needed. The research uses concepts from new institutional economics and management governance theory to build a conceptual framework for explaining the performance of participatory water institutions. The framework identifies eight institutional rationalities: technical, environmental, economic, social, political organizational, financial and government; as well as five institutional features: clear objectives, good interaction, adaptiveness, right scale, and compliance, as linked to performance. Based on this, a survey instrument was developed and a survey conducted obtaining responses from more than 500 households across 51 such institutions in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plains states of Assam and Bihar. The data were analyzed through statistical and econometric techniques including Ordered-Probit. The results support the relevance of the concepts in explaining performance of water institutions, and a number of drivers of performance were identified through Ordered-Probit, particularly, four rationalities—technical, economic, social and organizational, (with coefficients (0.4622, 0.3803, 0.4303, 0.2457) and three institutional features—good interaction, adaptiveness and appropriate scale (with coefficients 0.4242, 0.2703, 0.6756) (based on a 5-point Likert scale), as playing a positive and significant role in enhancing performance. The results provide a number of useful insights which can help guide interventions and policy towards better design and development of the water institutions, and help improve water resource management and livelihoods in the region. Full article
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Mainstreaming Gender into Irrigation: Experiences from Pakistan
Water 2019, 11(11), 2408; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11112408 - 16 Nov 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The influence of gender in participatory irrigation management reforms has been the subject of significant research in the past. Whilst there is some understanding of what hinders women and marginalized groups from participating in irrigation management, there is limited understanding of how male [...] Read more.
The influence of gender in participatory irrigation management reforms has been the subject of significant research in the past. Whilst there is some understanding of what hinders women and marginalized groups from participating in irrigation management, there is limited understanding of how male and female farmers vary in their perceptions on the effectiveness of participation in irrigation affairs. There is also limited understanding around the interaction on gender and the overall success of participatory irrigation management programs. Based on the information obtained from 128 households surveyed through separate male and female questionnaires in Pakistan in 2018 (Sindh and Punjab provinces), we studied the country’s experience in engaging gender into its participatory irrigation management program. We found there was a significant difference in participatory irrigation management perceptions across both gender and locational jurisdiction. Overall, women generally perceive the performance and impact of farmer organizations to be significantly less effective than men. Our study emphasizes the importance of putting findings in a historical context to inform the theory, policy, and practice of mainstreaming gender into irrigation management. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
From Sharing the Burden of Scarcity to Markets: Ill-Fitting Water Property Rights and the Pressure of Economic Transition in South Asia
Water 2019, 11(6), 1294; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11061294 - 20 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
In this paper, we consider the process of transition from an equitable distribution of water to support semi-subsistence outcomes to market-oriented agriculture. We examine the stresses placed on water institutions as farmers adjust production to become more market-oriented and consider the relationship between [...] Read more.
In this paper, we consider the process of transition from an equitable distribution of water to support semi-subsistence outcomes to market-oriented agriculture. We examine the stresses placed on water institutions as farmers adjust production to become more market-oriented and consider the relationship between farmers and irrigation officials under different scenarios. The paper is used to highlight some of the challenges pertaining to property rights but also considers the dangers of simply transposing solutions from full-market agriculture in developed economies to developing nations and countries in transition. In this context the role of Participatory Irrigation Management is scrutinized. We argue that this approach can potentially accommodate greater flexibility and market orientation in agriculture but ultimately the beneficiary-benefactor relationship between irrigation officials and farmers in parts of South Asia needs to be seriously challenged. Full article
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