Mali's irrigation scheme was an outcome of colonial settlement with the corresponding lack of rights for cultivators to own land, process paddy, and market rice. Post-independence, a coalition of government and irrigation agency staff contributed to governmental unwillingness to reform the scheme's management. Government interest lay in satisfying the growing demand for rice from its burgeoning urban constituency and a fear of riots in response to rice shortages and high prices. It's interest also lay with maintaining the support of the agency's staff.
The authors analyze how field teams, funded by bilateral donors, shaped technical and institutional change to fully reform management and how grain market reforms provided farmers stronger incentives and raised yields. The combination of changes inside and outside the scheme gradually shifted the balance of power and led to a stakeholder setup in which organized farmers replaced the agency. Regime change to multiparty democracy and policy change toward economic liberalization then opened a window of opportunity that the government used to consolidate the reforms and the new balance of power.
The success of the reform process lies in the way Mali's government came to commit to the irrigation reforms. The paper indicates how commitment by other governments may be achieved by using the same and other tools. Making Large Irrigation Schemes Work is a useful resource for professionals involved in the transfer of management authority from government to user associations....Continua