The aim of the project is to demonstrate a demand-led, flexible-outcome approach to irrigation development (and improvement) by means of an innovative institutional model. The successful implementation of the pilot project will show that sustainable and pro-poor smallholder irrigation can be developed (and improved) cost-effectively at a large scale. The irrigation development approach piloted in this project steps away from the construction paradigm in irrigation projects, recognizing that although improved water transportation is an important element of irrigation development, it is not necessarily the biggest obstacle to increase smallholder irrigated production. Providing good quality seeds and fertilizers may induce more growth in irrigated agricultural production than lining earthen canals with concrete, and developing contract farming linkages for secure output markets may lead to a higher increase in irrigated area than the construction of permanent diversion weirs. The collaboration between a university, 2 NGOs and an engineering firm reflects a key ingredient of the innovation institutional model: the combination of education, action research and implementation, which is the basis for creating crucial synergies.
The specific objectives of the project are: (1) to fine-tune the institutional model to make it possible to implement the demand-led, flexible-outcome approach for irrigation development in the setting of large donor-based projects, (2) to demonstrate the advantages of the consortium partnership through the implementation of the approach to an area of 100 ha, (3) to monitor, evaluate and document the approach as evidence to policy makers and promoters of large-scale improvement of smallholder irrigation, and (4) to generate evidence and know-how on how to incorporate the approach to (large) irrigation projects. A detailed and concrete activity plan is available upon request.