Project Assistance Completion Report: Maharashtra Minor Irrigation Project (386-0490)
PACR of a project (4/84-8/92) to improve the physical infrastructure and management of minor irrigation schemes (MISs) in Maharashtra State, India. The project was a great success, primarily because it used an innovative approach to irrigation management consisting of (1) a performance-based disbursement system, which disbursed funds only as the Government met specific performance benchmarks, (2) performance testing of the distribution system. The Government of Maharashtra (GoM)/Irrigation Department (ID) is considering institutionalizing this methodology. The project has completed construction of 84 MISs (with 6 more underway), a number of which reached 100% of planned irrigable land in their first season. Other accomplishments include: establishment of 52 hydro meteorological stations; computerization of data from rain gauge and river gauge stations and other sources, for use in crop planning and water scheduling; a number of studies, analyses, and pilot activities, findings of which were incorporated into MIS design and management planning; establishment of a few demonstration chaks (areas served by a single canal), in which farmers learned about new crop varieties, such as sunflowers, and cultural practices. The organizational improvements, special studies, pilot activities, and training programs introduced under the project played a major role in improving the capabilities of the ID and of the Agriculture Department (AD), although the latter was never involved to the extent planned. Three new ID departments were formed, one was reorganized, and all are working effectively. The establishment of farmers' groups to participate in operation and management of MIS was a key element, the success of which is due to such factors as early involvement of farmers in the planning process, training of ID engineers who motivated farmer participation, and the MIS performance testing which gave farmers confidence in the system. The following lessons were learned. (1) The PBD system may be the most effective means of managing MISs. (2) Land acquisition difficulties delayed the achievement of benchmarks on 6 MISs. The likelihood of such complications should be considered during project design. (3) Early farmer involvement in MIS planning, completion, and performance testing facilitates the formation of well-functioning farmer organizations. in addition, ID staff, with minimal training, have the interest and capacity to work with the farm community. These factors augur well for sustainable development of MISs. (4) Initially, the AD provided the project with very little support; separate funding and performance requirements should be set for the irrigation sector and the agricultural sector. (5) The ID has the capacity to computerize its functions; however, this requires an acceptance of technology, private sector training and maintenance support, and sufficient time to set up a management information system. (6) Fixed Amount Reimbursement (FAR) was incorporated into the PBD mechanism, requiring that cost overruns be borne by the implementing agency. Due to inflation, completion costs for some approved MISs exceeded estimates, straining GOM's budget. Where the FAR is used, safeguards should be established in the budget to cover inflationary pressures.