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Is There an Alternative for Irrigation Reform?


  • Suhardiman, Diana
  • Giordano, Mark


Poor performance of government-managed irrigation systems persists in developing countries despite numerous policy interventions over the last four decades. We argue that many of these interventions have failed, because they did not recognize irrigation bureaucracies as prime actors in policy change. This paper examines the varied actors and agendas within irrigation bureaucracies, highlighting the dichotomy between “hydraulic missions” on the one hand and direct service provision to farmers on the other. To increase the significance of future reform, bureaucracies must be considered as explicit actors, and reform efforts should derive from better understanding of the farmer–agency interface.

Suggested Citation

  • Suhardiman, Diana & Giordano, Mark, 2014. "Is There an Alternative for Irrigation Reform?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 91-100.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:57:y:2014:i:c:p:91-100
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2013.11.016

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Vermillion, Douglas Lynn, 1997. "Impacts of irrigation management transfer: A review of the evidence," IWMI Research Reports 52798, International Water Management Institute.
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    8. Vermillion, Douglas. L. & Samad, Madar & Pusposutardjo, Suprodjo. & Arif, Sigit. S. & Rochdyanto, Saiful, 2000. "An assessment of the Small-Scale Irrigation Management Turnover Program in Indonesia," IWMI Research Reports H026189, International Water Management Institute.
    9. Wade, Robert, 1985. "The market for public office: Why the Indian state is not better at development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 467-497, April.
    10. Diana Suhardiman & Peter P. Mollinga, 2011. "Correlations, Causes and the Logic of Obscuration: Donor Shaping of Dominant Narratives in Indonesia's Irrigation Development," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(7), pages 923-938, August.
    11. Svendsen, Mark, 1993. "The impact of financial autonomy on irrigation system performance in the Philippines," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 989-1005, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hoogesteger, Jaime & Tiaguaro-Rea, Yisenia & Rap, Edwin & Hidalgo, Juan Pablo, 2017. "Scalar Politics in Sectoral Reforms: Negotiating the Implementation Of water Policies in Ecuador (1990–2008)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 300-309.
    2. Smith, Steven M., 2018. "From decentralized to centralized irrigation management," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 62-87.
    3. Lankford, B. & Makin, Ian & Matthews, N. & McCornick, Peter G. & Noble, A. & Shah, Tushaar, "undated". "A compact to revitalise large-scale irrigation systems using a leadership-partnership-ownership 'Theory of Change'," Papers published in Journals (Open Access) H047459, International Water Management Institute.
    4. Ricks, Jacob I., 2016. "Building Participatory Organizations for Common Pool Resource Management: Water User Group Promotion in Indonesia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 34-47.
    5. Alaerts, G.J., 2020. "Adaptive policy implementation: Process and impact of Indonesia’s national irrigation reform 1999–2018," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    6. Balasubramanya, Soumya, 2019. "Effects of training duration and the role of gender on farm participation in water user associations in Southern Tajikistan: Implications for irrigation management," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 216(C), pages 1-11.
    7. Wegerich, Kai & Van Rooijen, Daniel & Soliev, Ilkhom & Mukhamedova, Nozilakhon, 2015. "Water Security in the Syr Darya Basin," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 4657-4684.
    8. Ali, Sameen A. Mohsin, 2020. "Driving participatory reforms into the ground: The bureaucratic politics of irrigation management transfer in Pakistan," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).
    9. Wang, Yahua & Chen, Chunliang & Araral, Eduardo, 2016. "The Effects of Migration on Collective Action in the Commons: Evidence from Rural China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 79-93.
    10. Lan T. Pham & Ilona M. Otto & Dimitrios Zikos, 2019. "Self-Governance and the Effects of Rules in Irrigation Systems: Evidence from Laboratory and Framed Field Experiments in China, India and Vietnam," Water Economics and Policy (WEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 5(01), pages 1-28, January.
    11. Harrison, Elizabeth, 2018. "Engineering change? The idea of ‘the scheme’ in African irrigation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 246-255.


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