The Importance of, and challenges for, Farmer Managed Irrigation Schemes(FMIS)

The FMIS occupy a special status in the national economy and food security system. It is estimated that of the total irrigated area in Nepal of 1.28 million ha, 70% or this area is covered by FMIS and 40% of food production comes from 15,000 FMIS in hill areas and 1700 systems in the Terai. In the FMISs, farmers are responsible for all management activities, encompassing water acquisition from the source to delivery to the plant in the field and management of the system including the resource mobilization and management of resources for O&M. In most of the systems, the extent of the need for resource mobilization for O&M of the irrigation systems has influenced the structure of the organization.

FMIS are now facing many challenges such as, competition on the use of water, the need for use of industrialized construction materials due to the depletion of the local construction materials, under-funding of agriculture development and a stagnated rural economy. Most FMIS face seasonal water deficit, which is getting more and more severe as Nepal has been experiencing a high rate of warming (annual rate of 0.04-0.06°C). This warming has resulted in erratic weather patterns with increased frequency of extreme precipitation and prolonged dry spells as well as rapid melting of snow and glaciers thus changing the availability of water in the river during the dry season flow.

FMIS require regular repair and maintenance previously, the repair materials would be used from the forest products. Depletion of forest resources and unavailability of these local materials, the farmers have to depend on industrialized materials like gabion wire, cement, reinforcement steel etc. which make these systems dependent on external resources and government assistance. Stagnation rural economic development has fueled a large scale outmigration of the economic active male population an increasing impact on agricultural production. Every year around 500,000 people enter the labour market, of which around 2/3 find employment opportunities outside the country. It is believed that around 2 million Nepalese are currently living outside the country (other than India) and most of them migrating for work purposes. This out migration is leading to an ever increasing feminization of agriculture and the associated O&M of the irrigation systems. Since the maintenance of FMIS is basically labour-intensive, the outmigration fueled labour shortage has accelerated the deterioration of many of the irrigation systems. The project will address the challenges of deteriorating irrigation infrastructure and adaptation of irrigation system O&M and irrigated agriculture to the increasing feminization of agriculture by providing less maintenance intensive irrigation infrastructure and overall labour saving solutions for system O&M and irrigated agriculture.