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PROJECT: Increasing the Resilience and Effectiveness of Small and Medium Scale Irrigation Systems in Nepal


Project Reference: RSAS-0017

Agriculture in Nepal is predominantly small-scale farming, almost half of which is dependent on rainfall. Irrigation development in Nepal is fraught with challenges such as old infrastructure, vulnerability to climatic shocks and poor efficiency. Policy frameworks for the sectors currently do not address mainstreaming climate change in sectoral plans such as irrigation.

CDKN supported the Ministry of Irrigation, Government of Nepal to increase the resilience and effectiveness of irrigation systems to address increasing climate change risk. The project provided updated technical requirements for building the resilience of small and medium scale irrigation systems to the impacts of climate change and extreme events in order to improve their effectiveness and efficiency through evidence. The research facilitated to improve the approach and methodology of the Government and other development partners towards the planning and delivery of irrigation systems. The systems analysis of irrigations conducted under this research focused on pro-poor policy analysis.

The Project aimed to achieve the following:

  • Provide a framework including updated standards to increase the resilience and effectiveness of the design of small and medium scale irrigation systems that can address increasing climate change risk.
  • Improve the approach and methodology of the Government and other development partners with regard to planning and delivery of climate irrigation systems.
  • Generate new and transferable knowledge by assessing water systems in place and identifying means to increase access for small and medium size farmers to irrigation systems also focusing on impacts of climate change to the system.
  • To conduct systems analysis of irrigation also focusing on pro-poor policy analysis.
  • To ensure that the new framework plans and standards are well understood by the relevant governing and implementing parties, to maximise their implementation.

A website was created for this project (by the consortium hired for delivering this work), which can be found here. A draft of activities, key completed activities, the results of which can be found here.  Some of the major outputs from this project can be found on the links below.

Deliverables and Introductions

The final report of the project, ‘Framework for Effectiveness and Resilience of Small and Medium Irrigation in Nepal.’ Small and medium irrigation accounts for a total of 75% of the total irrigated area and benefits about 40% of the arable land. Relevant stakeholders, including the Department of Irrigation of Nepal were kept in the loop during the study and the results were also shared with them. The complete document can be read here.

The findings of the project were presented through a policy brief which summed up the findings of the project. Taking into account the different aspects Small and Medium Scale Irrigation Systems in Nepal, the policy brief suggests and examines the Framework for Resilience, and makes some recommendations in this regard as well. The complete document can be read here.

The most important and comprehensive document to come out of this project is a research paper that was also presented from the 2nd World Irrigation Forum. This two-year study drew on field studies of representative irrigation systems as well as analysis of climatic data and future projections to understand how farmers responded to an uncertain climate. Farmer perceptions and actions were correlated with actual weather data for the recent past, and related to future projections of climate change. The study also found that catchment-level management is increasingly needed to manage water equitably, particularly as return flows from upstream systems form an important part of the inflow for downstream systems, and also that both technical and institutional improvements are needed at system level. Resilience needs to be addressed at individual farmer, community and irrigation organization levels. The complete research paper is available here.

CDKN Funding: £237,000

Image Courtesy: credit Neil Palmer/CIAT

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Project Highlights