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LESSONS:

Philippines: Second Irrigation Systems Improvement Project

sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development | country: Philippines

The project completion report (PCR) indicated the main lesson as recognizing that future performance of irrigation schemes will largely depend on improvements in farmers’ water management, and specifically that farmer irrigators’ service cooperatives (FISCOs) need to be stronger. The PCR suggested that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) should hand over local management to FISCOs despite their weakness, which might precipitate more effective action from FISCOs (though this is, perhaps, more in the nature of a recommendation). The Independent Evaluation Department (IED) would add to this the lesson that needs to be learned for future project design. Although the report and recommendation of the president (RRP) acknowledges the importance of the agricultural and institutional aspects, learning its lessons from other ADB and non-ADB projects, in practice, it gave inadequate attention to these matters. The funding and other resources allocated to establishing the systems for operating and maintaining the schemes were not in proportion to those allocated to physical works. There needs to be genuine recognition of the input required to establish the capacity to manage irrigation at the community level, and to embed improved farming practices. At appraisal there was not even a nominated counterpart agency for the agricultural improvement component. More appropriate design needs to be backed by more appropriate monitoring of project progress and the flexibility to apply additional resources to components that are not achieving their objectives. Additional lessons may be learned from the Project: (i) not to expand the scope of a project when the initial project is already underachieving and (ii) the need for a careful analysis of how agrarian relations and interlinked markets in rural areas influence the behavior of farmers and other economic agents. There seems little doubt that the introduction, midway through the Project, of the Marabong dam distracted NIA from dealing with the problems of the originally designed project.

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