POLICY BRIEF: Framework for effectiveness and resilience of small and medium-scale irrigation systems in Nepal

Policy Brief / Strategy Brief

POLICY BRIEF: Framework for effectiveness and resilience of small and medium-scale irrigation systems in Nepal

ORGANISER: Farmer Managed Irrigation Systems Promotion Trust, CDKN
AUTHORS: Prachanda Pradhan, Umesh Nath Parajuli and Ram Chandra Khanal


June 2017


Out of 2.7 million hectares of agricultural land in Nepal, only 1.3 Mha have irrigation facilities. The majority of irrigation systems are small and medium-scale. Agriculture is a mainstay of the economy of Nepal, providing about 33% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and supporting the livelihoods of most of the population. Livelihoods based on agriculture are vulnerable due to the monsoon climate and the topography.

A recent study funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) revealed that about 0.8% of agricultural GDP is being lost annually due to climate change and extreme events. There is a need to both improve agricultural productivity and make it more resilient to climate uncertainty and change in general. Recent increases in floods and droughts have raised concerns that the climate is changing rapidly and that existing arrangements for irrigation design and management may need to be reconsidered.

In light of these concerns, a project was undertaken for CDKN in 2015-2016 to develop a framework for the effectiveness and resilience of small- and medium-scale irrigation. The aims of this project were to:

- help the government, especially the Department of Irrigation, and other stakeholders understand the impacts of climate change
- develop a framework for improving the resilience and effectiveness of (both existing and potential) small- and medium-scale irrigation systems
- improve the approach and methodology for planning, delivery and management of efficient, effective, equitable and climate-resilient irrigation
- assess processes, institutions and policy
- prepare a framework to increase the climate resilience and effectiveness of small- and medium-scale irrigation systems, ensuring that it is understood by relevant stakeholders.

This paper synthesises the findings and recommendations from the project and is intended for policy-makers, planners and implementers working in Nepal’s irrigation sector under uncertain conditions induced by climate change. It provides guidance to irrigation sector project designers and policy-makers on assessing climate risks at the project and system levels, and on mitigating the risks using the resilient approach.