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Options in irrigation system management and their implications for farm technology in Sri Lanka.

Farrington J
In: Poverty and rural development: planners, peasants and poverty, edited by K. Puttaswamaiah. London, England, Intermediate Technology Publications, 1990. 144-70.

Insufficient regular supplies of water prevents increased agricultural production in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, but the possibilities for reducing water consumption to save water in rice field areas are complicated and only moderately optimistic. Sri Lanka's use of tractors as its technology-based solution to cut down on staggering and foster early cultivation was a mistake. Tractorization actually followed traditional buffalo tillage techniques. In addition, necessary institutional reform did not accompany tractorization. 25 years after introduction of mechanization, Sri Lanka addressed the need to improve the performance of institutions in water management and their relations with farmers. One institution reform of water management has been accomplished, the strategy choice for reducing water consumption hinges on the hydrological characteristics of each area, where water is in adequate supply for full drysowing crops and partial cultivation of intermonsoon crops. Variations are tillage on residual moisture and sowing a proportion of the drysowing crop area under nonpaddy crops and either paddy or nonpaddy crops during the intermonsoon period, depending on water availability. Irrigation administrators must be very familiar with delivery systems and committed to managing water to increase crop production. Further, there must be mutual sympathy between irrigation engineers and farmers. In order for appropriate motivation to occur, however, irrigation professionals must recognize the traditional bias towards construction and design and away from water management. Other past problems which must be overcome include poor living conditions in some remote areas leading to professionals being unwilling to work in these areas and widespread high turnover of senior staff. Politicians and irrigation professionals should visit remote schemes more frequently to gain a deeper commitment to water management.

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