Nawal El Haouari
Stakeholder and partnership approaches have moved centre-stage in water management. From service delivery the focus has moved to process: the engagement of at least the direct stakeholders in decisions on water use, allocation and management is the central theme in IWRM and close related approaches – such as Integrated Flood Management. In some cases a further step is taken – not only engaging stakeholders in the decision making process but also putting a larger part of the responsibility – financial and operational – with water users. The latter move has been very much promoted within the large scale irrigation sector in developing countries under the banner of Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) and Irrigation Management Transfer.
The context in irrigation is different from other fields of water management. Unlike many other fields of water management, where there is more or less a void, in irrigation systems there are already existing and typically deeply-entrenched institutions. The move is to shift away from agency management towards joint management – with farmers (mainly) and other user more directly engaged in the management of the water systems.
Though the starting point is different then in other fields of water management, the direction in Participatory Irrigation Management is the same as in other stakeholder approaches to water management: intense engagement of water users in water management. In Participatory Irrigation Management the stakeholder approach goes even further than being stakeholders being a party to consultations and planning processes but also aims to have user organizations take larger direct responsibility in water management.
This paper describes the attempt to move towards a more stakeholder management of water in Morocco, focussing particularly on one irrigation system, i.e. Tadla. From the 1990’s ‘the heat was on’ and there was a concerted effort to move towards participatory irrigation management. Much concentrated on the creation of WUAs – the main element in the Moroccan PIM policies. The contours of WUAs are described in the PIM policy documents and international literature. WUAs are vehicles of ‘transparency, democracy and the participation of the different groups of irrigators’. WUA are there to make the voice of the poor heard (small farmers: empowerment), the marginalized groups (women: gender involvement). They will address the problems of equity in connection with water allocation and distribution as well as funding problems relating to shouldering operation and maintenance costs of the irrigation systems (i.e. financial autonomy).
As Cleaver (1999) has described that participatory approaches have a ‘heroic feeling about them’, but the subject is hardly ever quizzed. Her paper is a collection of examples where participatory process and local organization have not delivered, suggesting there is a more mundane side to stakeholder processes as well. At the factual level the analysis of Cleaver is very correct, but it also misses a point. The reason of course for the high rhetoric is that in the post-ideology era any new idea – particularly an idea that has the potential of changing a power equilibrium – needs to be launched in glowing terms – to master support behind it, to neutralize the sceptics and generate the funds and human talent to give it a go. Presenting a policy idea with realistic ‘ifs and buts and maybes’ that is characteristic of scientific analysis simply would not do to get a new idea on the agenda in the first place.
Then particularly in case of introducing new institutions there is a second a closely related factor, which is that they do not only need to be presented as the magic bullet, but that they have to be perfect in their own way. To present the idea of WUAs as worthy of being promoted means that they need to be presented as democratic, equitable, and transparent: it is hard to conceive them being promoted in any other way.
To denounce the policy of participatory organization on the basis of evidence – as Cleaver rightly does – is then on one hand too easy, as there is an in-built functional mechanism to oversell and be unrealistic in the process. The more intriguing question is what is realistic to expect and what is still improvement, even if results fall short of how they were introduced in the beginning. In other words what can stakeholders’ engagement practically do – short of solving all everything. This paper documents the launching of the PIM policy in Morocco and its results within that context. It looks at the promotion of WUAs in large scale irrigation in Tadla and the actual achievement in terms of joint management and joint planning. The move towards PIM was very much supported and pushed by the World Bank as part of their PAGI 1 and 2 projects. The World Bank traditionally is the main lender in irrigation in Morocco and it very much embraced the concept of PIM, introducing it not only in Morocco but also in lending operations in other countries.
Tadla is situated on the left bank of the Oum Er-bia river about 200 kilometres north-east of Marrakech and 170 kilometres south-east of Casablanca. The system irrigates about 100,000 ha serving about 27,000 farmers. Most irrigation is surface irrigation but some supplementary pumping of groundwater occurs to tidy over dry spell. Tadla is the first Moroccan large scale irrigation project and was established during the thirties. It is operated by the Office Regional de Mise en Valeur Agricole de Tadla (ORMVAT).
The scheme is divided into two ‘perimeters’, i.e the Beni Amir perimeter which is about 28.000 ha; and the Beni Moussa perimeter with about 70,000 ha. In Beni Moussa, water comes from Bin El Ouidane dam, whereas the Beni Amir is irrigated directly from Oum Er Rbia river where recently a dam called Ahmed El Hansali has been constructed to regulate water flow going to Beni Amir.
- The process of PIM policy adoption in Tadla irrigation system
Water user associations, even the formal versions of them, are not new in Moroccan irrigation. A decree issued by the French Administration on June 15 1924 provides the legal framework for communal management of the irrigation network. The decree codified Representative Water User Associations (Association Syndicale Agricole Privilégiée or ASAP) as well as Free Associations (ASAL). They responded to the political and economic requirements of the colonial period and its aftermath – contributing labour for maintenance and coordinating the controlled farming. In Beni Amir the first organization of this kind (ASAP) was created in 1954 in the irrigated scheme of Beni Amir.
WUAs were back on the agenda from 1985 onwards, when they were part of the unfolding PIM policy. They – intriguingly – were presented under the new name of AUEA (Association des Usagers des Eaux Agricoles) and were meant to play a role in the management of the irrigation systems.
Following directions in the World Bank project PAGI-1 on, how “to involve water users into the operation and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure”), ORMVA of Tadla prepared an action plan for WUAs establishment as early as 1987 and subsequently elaborated a document detailing the strategy for AUEAs establishment and their role in irrigation systems management as well.
In 1989, even ahead of the formal promulgation of the Law n°2-84 (Decree n°1-87-12 of December 21, 1990) pertaining to the WUAs, the ORMVA in Tadla went ahead – demonstrating goodwill – and ‘created’ its first WUA by converting the Al Massira ASAP into an AUEA in the Beni Amir system as well establishing a WUA ‘from scratch’ in Al Ittihad in the Beni Moussa perimeter. These were the first of the new ‘breed’ of WUAs and they were very much in the spotlights. Al Massira rapidly gained a reputation as a success story.
Following these early start 1990 and 1995, ORMVA of Tadla created 10 associations of irrigators (AUEA), to provide for a larger coverage of the Beni Amir and Beni Moussa irrigated sectors. In 1995, date of the convening of the first national seminar on PIM, ORMVA of Tadla developed a second action plan for PIM implementation in its irrigated system. This action plan focused on creating AUEAs to cover the entire irrigated perimeter. The emphasis was on form not on function. Little importance was given to the future responsibilities and duties that the AUEAs would have to perform. “Being there” was the main thing. The plan also overlooked coaching and training measures needed by the AUEAs for upgrading their technical and managerial capacities.
Between 1995 and 1999, 10 other AUEAs were established in the systems. None of them was taking responsibility in the irrigation management. An air of superficiality crept in. The AUEAs in Tadla were meant as an interface not as a management body. They were supposed to discuss with the ORMVA’s personnel in charge of water distribution the schedule for the water turn and sometimes priorities concerning maintenance programs, but apart from this interface function they had little responsibility.
In 1999, a study conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture and the World Bank, showed that AUEAs lacked the capacities to participate effectively to irrigation system management and that a vision and strategy for participatory irrigation management was still not there. In other PIM was still ‘an idea without a plan’. A second national seminar on PIM was organised in 1999 to handle these aspects and repair the original idea of WUAs as management organizations. The ORMVAs were asked to elaborate, with the support of national experts, specific action plans for tasks sharing/transfer to AUEAs at short and medium terms (two to five years). In a way things were getting serious in PIM. This third and last PIM action plan merits close examination because the discussion was no longer on WUA numbers but on empowerment and transfer of responsibilities.
3- PIM Action Plan of Tadla (1999)
Although drawing strong inspiration from previous experiences involving former associations of irrigators, the strategy for PIM implementation in the irrigated perimeter of Tadla does not greatly differ from the strategy developed in the other large-scale perimeters. Thus in 1999, ORMVA of Tadla designed a PIM action plan, taking account of the socio-economic and technical features of the irrigation system and focusing on providing training and empowering farmers to upgrade the skills and performances of WUAs.
What did it entail? As stated in the 1999’ PIM action Plan, the objectives of PIM adoption in Tadla were the followings:
- Improving water service;
- Creating an institutional forum for consensus-building and dialogue with water users;
- Promoting rational use of irrigation water at plot level;
- Ensuring efficient management of the water infrastructure;
- Ensuring sustainability of the irrigation systems.
The strategy put in place by the ORMVAT consisted in involving WUAs in all decision-making processes regarding operation and maintenance of the water infrastructures, and eventually (in other words maybe but not sure) transferring some operation and maintenance tasks at tertiary canals’ level to them. As regards other tasks, they were to be shared between the ORMVA and the WUAs, or done by the ORMVA in collaboration with AUEAs.
Conversely, ORMVAT was considering the likelihood of involving WUAs in the deliberations of the Governing Board and of the Technical Committee, in an advisory capacity, during the preliminary two years and granting them the right to participate in the negotiation and vote later.
The reservations and skepsis were fomented by the negative experience of the WUA Al Massira – the 1989 showcase. The Al Massira WUA was disbanded in 1997, due to financial and management flaws. , ORMVA of Tadla didn’t hide its intention to keep all its prerogatives pertaining to enforcing management. Emphasis was made on “the participation of WUAs, on an advisory basis only, in the management forum of ORMVA and on their contribution with ideas as to the best management pattern to be adopted by ORMVA” (PIM Action plan of Tadla, page 10, 1999).
Next the struggle started: four versions of the PIM action plan were written and submitted to the World Bank before it got validated. In the four first versions, the ORMVA intended to be the exclusive implementing structure of “irrigation management systems, while generously offering to remain ready to serve the water users »’. However, in the final action plan version, which takes account of the orientations and remarks put forth by the World Bank project officers, ORMVA subscribed suddenly to the approach of transferring management tasks to WUAs, with the medium term goal of “assigning water management and maintenance of tertiary and even secondary canals to them”. As for primary and main canals “the tasks will either be shared with AUEA or taken care of totally by the ORMVA” (PIM Action Plan of Tadla, P: 25-29, 1999).
Without wanting to fully commit itself through its action plan, the ORMVA of Tadla remained quite ambiguous through its wording, “task-sharing, involving WUAs”. What was not clear whether task sharing meant ‘being heard’ or co-management, which supposes engaging in negotiations likely to lead to a consensus–building over issues related to planning and decision-making; or even more: a genuine transfer to WUAs of some management duties. Or was it simply a fuzzy concept devoid of meaning used by ORMVA in a bid to comply with the pressure of the World Bank, without any real willingness to give substance to it or Pyrrhus victory in other words?
- Actual PIM implementation in Tadla
What were the actual achievements in terms of the creation of new organizations and the restructuring of relations between agency and stakeholders in Tadla? Did the discussion and negotiation around the Action Plan help move towards meaningful stakeholders engagement in the management of water in Tadla or did was it stalemate and business as usual – and how problematic was this?
4.1 Establishment of WUAs
By 2016, 32 WUAs out of an initial objective of 49, as set in the 1999 PIM action plan of Tadla had been established. 12 associations were set up in the Beni Amir and 20 in the Beni Moussa irrigated districts. One WUA was disbanded in 1997: remarkably the model AUEA Al Massira. After 2003 no further effort was put in the establishment of AUEAs.
The 32 AUEAs cover a total area of 45,913 ha (47% of the irrigated area) and bring together 11,400 farmers (42% of the farmers in the district).
Table: 1 Progress of WUA establishment in Tadla
The pattern of AUEAs establishment is characterised by a discontinuity in time with lows associated with political events (local elections) or unfavourable climate conditions (severe drought periods). Highs (7 in 1993-1994 and 10 in 1998-1999) correspond with the launching of the PAGI.II project and the two national seminars (organized within the framework of the PAGI II project) in November 1995 and December 1999.
All AUEAs existing in the Beni Amir district were organized into a Union of AUEAs, in order to join efforts to face the acute water shortages in 20010.
Also seventy farmers who use drip irrigation in the Beni Amir and Beni Moussa districts, created the Tadla Association for Drip Irrigation (ATIL) in order to look after their specific requests and interests regarding water allocations and water turns regularity, which are quite different from those of farmers using gravity irrigation.
4.2 Contractualisation of relations
Water supply agreement between ORMVAT and AUEAs
In spite of intentions to the contrary, not a single contract of water delivery has been signed between ORMVA and water users because of the variations in the volume of water allocated annually to the Beni Amir district in the last few years (i.e. recurrent droughts), which makes it impossible for ORMVAs to ensure supply of a firm annual hectare-based water volume, a fundamental binding condition of the contract.
Partnership between ORMVATs and AUEAs
Three partnership contracts were completed with three AUEAs Al Ittihad, Al Ittifak, Ouled Nema) in 1998 and 1999. However, the content of these contracts were quite general and did not provide for a real involvement of the WUAs in connection with irrigation systems management. They are best seen as demonstrations of good intentions. The contracts do not specify the strength of “participation”, nor the level of involvement of WUAs or the sharing of the financial load required for the management of the irrigation networks.
4.3 Participation of WUAs in management of irrigation systems
As part of the research for this paper a survey involving 11 AUEAs in the Beni Amir district was conducted with a view to collect in-depth information on the dynamism and involvement of WUAs in the management of irrigation systems and their capacity to partner with ORMVAT and share responsibilities and duties. Table 2 summarizes the outcomes of the survey.
The highlights are:
-Except for 3 AUEAs, which renewed their board members between 20010 and 2016, none of the others operating in Beni Amir has held its annual general assembly to re-elect its governing board and work out a work plan as stipulated by the Law N°02-84 relating to establishment and functioning of AUEAs. The date of the last General Assembly convened often corresponds to the first statutory meeting of the WUA;
-None of the 11 AUEAs has collected membership fees or the annual subscription dues for covering expenditures related to its working program;
-None of these AUEAs has signed any partnership contract with ORMVAT on the issue of sharing management tasks or supplying water to the users;
-The ‘seventh members’ (i.e. the government representative) of the AUEAS, whose role consists in providing counselling and assisting AUEAs in the chores of elaborating their annual budget and action plan, in compliance with the law, are drawn from the ranks of technicians or water distribution employees. Those last often have very low educational backgrounds and often lack both knowledge and expertise in the performance of their tasks. The survey showed that none of the seventh members was acquainted with the Law N°02-84 or of its decree of implementation. Furthermore, these seventh members have other technical tasks within the ORMVAT (scheduling of water turns, extension programs, etc), which leave them with little time to discharge their duties in their capacities as seventh members of the AUEAs.
– An assessment of the functioning of AUEAs was carried out by the BRU (“Bureau des Relations avec les Usagers), which is the government stakeholders-liaison bureau. The study revealed the lack of functionality of almost all of the WUAs in the Beni Amir except for four WUAs, rated by the BRU as more dynamic compared to the others. What is more revealing is the perception of functionality used by this bureau. The functionality criteria according to the BRU are:
- The degree of popularity of the presidents of the WUAs and their availability;
- The degree of closeness of the president with the ORMVA employees;
- Regularity of attendance of meetings scheduled by ORMVA;
- The number of contravention cases recorded in the AUEA’s irrigated district.
These criteria, which relate mainly to the personality of the president of a WUA and the compliance with ORMVA operations, do not allow making a fair judgement on the dynamism of the AUEA or on the level of adhesion of its members to the underlying principles of PIM. Also, they do not tell much about real participation of the AUEA in the every-day duties of the irrigation system management. They however tell a lot about the perceptions on PIM by main government players.
In terms of AUEA’s involvement in irrigation management, the on site interviews with farmers and members of the Boards of AUEAs ( Annasr, Takadoum, El Fath) confirmed that WUA involvement at best is weak, of the users; an absence of the AUEA institution in its capacity as a partner in the management of irrigation systems as well as a little internal strength. The Governing Board members of the AUEAs do not know each other, are unclear about the tasks shouldered by each one and never hold meetings. The AUEAs do not have proper financial resources as they fail to collect membership dues and annual subscription fee. This represents a serious constraint to their functioning. Attempts made by the BRU to organize annual general assemblies of AUEAs over years were unsuccessful.
- All AUEAs de facto exist illegally because they do not comply with the provisions of the law regulating them (membership fees, subscription dues, annual work plan, keeping accounts, annual renewal of one-third of the board members, etc.).
- None of the actions intended in the PIM action plan of ORMVAT, which made provisions for effective involvement of AUEAs in the management of irrigation systems by transferring all management tasks to them as of 2002, was implemented. Furthermore, even the dynamism that was set in motion during the elaboration process of the PIM action plan vanished with the completion of the PAGI II project in 2001.
Table 2 : Assessment of WUAs in Beni Amir
|WUA/ AUEA||Date of establishment||Number of members||Renewal of board||Annual meeting||Membership
|Agreement ORMVA/AUEA||Water supply contract||Seventh member*||Assessment by BRU|
|El Fath||27/04/93||32||once in 2001||none||none||none||none||Aiguadier||B|
|Ennasr||26/02/98||353||once in 2002||none||none||none||none||Social organizer||B|
|Taqadoum||12/07/99||323||once in 2001||none||none||none||none||Social organizer||B|
* CGR, CDA and Aiguadier: local government employed water masters.
- Responses to PIM in Tadla
On balance it is fair to say that the entire PIM policy in Tadla has not moved very far. The ORMVA have not changed – it is delivering irrigation supplies within the constraints of periodic droughts and overall is providing a robust service. In general, farmers are more interested to manage water individually rather than collectively. In fact, they actively seek a degree of independence regarding access to water. Those who have enough financial resources dig wells in order to avoid being dependent of water turns decided by the irrigation agency, especially during dry years. The reason behind seeking independency is the unreliability of water delivery during last years due to an increasing water scarcity caused by the lack of water reserve in the dam. Consequently, farmers are feeling more secure to have their own individual wells. Another strategy is to diversify income sources and not be solely dependent on farm income. The overall picture is one of reducing exposure to shortfall in the joint system rather than better coordination and joint management.
The overall strategies and response to PIM differs between different categories of stakeholders:
- Small and medium farmers are favourable to PIM : they believe PIM would bring more equity in water distribution because they will be involved as « a group of small farmers » in the water allocation process and will be able to have a say on water distribution. But they think that the ORMVA should keep the role of « referee » to arbitrate eventual conflicts with influential farmers and social leaders;
- Big land owners do not perceive any advantages to PIM: many of them live in other cities in Morocco or are immigrants in other European countries (Italy, Spain), or have other commercial activities in big cities like Casablanca and Beni Melilla. They are not interested in managing water directly and consider water management as an activity which requires high technical and professional skills and should be performed by specialised staff (engineers and technicians). But they think they should have a say on water fee levels and water turns schedules, etc. many big farmers possess individual wells and are relatively independent from the water users groups and ORMVA regarding water delivery.
- Social leaders are not interested to implement PIM: their position as group leaders allow them to have close relations with the irrigation agency staff and give them access to some advantages, especially with the ditch-man (more flexibility regarding water delivery timing, sometimes more water, longer delay for water fees payment, etc.). Adopting participatory management means « making concerted group decisions and respecting them » and having the WUA as an interface between farmers and the irrigation agency which means loosing the privileges they have through their direct relation with the ORMVA.;
The ORMVA’s staffs resists the turnover in irrigation management: The ORMVA’s officials concerned with irrigation management are not in favour of a transfer of irrigation management tasks to water users associations, but they think farmers should be “involved at the last stage in all levels of decision making concerning operation and maintenance of the irrigation network”. Thus, the ORMVA proposes to be the unique irrigation service provider with the participation of WUAs in decision making without explaining the meaning of the word “participation”. This vision is clearly expressed in the discussions prior to the finalization around the PIM action plan established in 1999 and they still hold.
Conclusions: joint management, joint non management or non joint management?
Within the context of this conference Tadla presents a case of non joint planning and non management. The PIM effort has resulted very much in the creation of new organizations (WUAs) – that however are not active. Effort has gone into the preparation of action plans, standard agreements, and training and policy document – but somehow the middle (i.e. the discussion on water management and water delivery) was all the time missing and organizational development (establishment of WUAs) took the place of improved water management. Joint planning between ORMVA and WUAs never occurred.
Though better coordination and better water management were mentioned systematically in all statements, little happened on that front. Instead farmers adopted individual strategies and WUA did not become active. Different groups had different views and energy levels to be involved. Also ORMVA played along but a clear vision on what PIM was going to deliver in better water management was all the time out of focus. In the end it all was driven by mechanisms and not by vision – which is not a recipe for change.
In PIM there was in addition the discussion on large user responsibility in the management of systems, that was partly obscured was for a long time and in the end, when it was agreed, not followed up, creating a stalemate of some sorts. The entire PIM efforts in the end petered out. As a result very little happened on that front and the opportunity to overhaul water management in the irrigation system in consultation with the users was missed.
A second main question is whether this is all bad and regrettable. To one extent it is not – the ORMVA continues to deliver its services and cope with droughts as they come along. The system is not mismanaged – rather the opposite – only it is not jointly managed. Some of the problems that PIM was supposed to address, financing, maintenance, water delivery (see section 2) are real and are still there, but somehow the system manages to cope with them and survive and provide water. From another angle it is regrettable: much of the water management is cruising on automatic pilot and improving overall productivity and sustainability is not discussed. There appear for instance important opportunities to discuss conjunctive management of surface irrigation and groundwater: many wells have come up in the canal commands, giving rise to issues of equity, risk management, recharge and access. This is at the moment regrettably not on any joint agenda.
This touches a larger and fundamental question – many organizations perform in the large middle range between super and abysmal. How do we choose the targets for improvement? Where do we put our efforts? It seems that in PIM in Morocco a generic global approach was followed – and that the case was made not based on an analysis of the Moroccan situation or an assessment of the benefits that could realistically be delivered. This is also explains part of the failure, as there was not a strong local problem owner. This is intriguing as this blanket move to stakeholder processes almost goes against the philosophy of stakeholder management and context specificity. On the other hand – especially in irrigation – there are major interests at stake and many set patterns and the question is who catalyzes a change? Who rocks the boat? In Morocco ORMVA was supposed to be a main agent in the change and it was supposed to help WUAs getting of the ground and undo some of the things that were at the core of its mandate. This is a heavy assignment, especially if an organization has no prior experience in this field nor is fully convinced of the outcomes. But who else – if not ORMVA? Here new thinking on water governance is required – as we are faced with challenges of climate change adaptation and global food insecurity we need that catalyst function and visionary view to make better use of water. Should this come from the stakeholders, is just bringing stakeholders together enough as they are or do we need an extra ingredient to move out of institutional equilibrium states? The Moroccan PIM case suggests that something extra is required to make things move and change: mechanically setting up new user organizations is not enough. One thing is clear: though we may have reached the limits of water availability, we fortunately have not yet reached our capacity to cope with the increasing scarcity.
Cleaver, Frances (1999). Paradoxes Of Participation: Questioning Participatory Approaches To Development. Journal of International Development, 11, 597-612
Maha Hadioui , Nicolas Faysse , Hassane Kemmoun ; 2014- Alternatives Rurales ; « Participation des agriculteurs à la conception d’un projet de reconversion à l’irrigation localisée dans le périmètre du Tadla ».
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 Ingénieur en Chef Principal ; Ministry of Agriculture, Morocco. This paper is prepared as part of ongoing PhD research with the Economic and Management Department- University Ibn Tofail. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Intriguingly in developed countries the movement is in the opposite direction and because of economies of scale and reducing overhead costs the merger of local water organizations is the order of the day – a move towards centralization rather than centralisation.
 Paper on « Institutional Development and Support Measures », Annex 5-A-2 of the Loan Agreement.
 Annex c.2.a and b of the Loan Agreement
 Report N 14-A-7/90, April 1990 – paper 4-9
Séminaire : « gestion durable des ressources hydriques en Afrique » février 2020
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