Community learning and empowerment through participatory irrigation management: case studies from Thailand

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Kumnerdpet, Wachiraporn
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Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) was adopted in Thailand in 2004 to encourage the efficient use of water in the agricultural sector. PIM refers to the participation of water users at all phases of irrigation management such as planning, operation, maintenance, monitoring, and evaluation. The purpose of this research was to understand the relationships between public participation, learning, and the implementation of more sustainable water practices through PIM in Thailand. Two integrated water user groups (IWUGs) were selected from the Krasiew Reservoir, Suphanburi Province. Data collection included document review, semi-structured telephone interviews, semi-structured face-to-face interviews, observation, and informal meetings. Case study data showed that after the water allocation and delivery schedule were developed and agreed on by the Joint Management Committee for Irrigation members, the final water delivery pattern at each canal was made by a majority vote among members at an IWUG general meeting. The final water allocation strategy at each canal was based on a discussion among IWUG committee members. Water user group (WUG) chiefs and WUG members were responsible for designing their own water allocation pattern and schedule for ditches. Results showed that participating in PIM activities fostered both instrumental and communicative learning among PIM participants. The instrumental learning outcomes included: new skills and information; the development of political, legal, economic, social, or administrative procedures; a determination of the cause-effect relationships; and task-oriented problem solving. The communicative learning outcomes involved: a better understanding of the issue at hand; a more critical understanding of themselves or situations; insight into the interests of others; communication strategies and methods; and comparative reflection. Findings also revealed that local farmers had begun implementing more sustainable water practices after receiving comprehensive water information through PIM. This helped develop an understanding of a reservoir as a finite water resource. As a result, water saving awareness was fostered among farmers in order to maintain a water supply for all crop seasons. In addition, communicating compassionately through participating in PIM activities could foster further social action. The 2005 water crisis in the irrigation area was another factor which triggered a sense of urgency about the need for water conservation.
Public participation, Learning, Participatory irrigation management, Water user organization
Kumnerdpet, W., & Sinclair, J. (2010). Implementing participatory irrigation management in Thailand. Water Policy, in press.