Experts and scientific studies in various science disciplines agree that water and irrigation issues are a key concern for global food security and that potential water conflicts are an essential risk for water-scarce regions.
Positioned within the Global Programme “Food Security” of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), a multi-sectoral group of actors under the lead of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation allied to roll out an innovative approach to address inefficient irrigation practices in smallholder farming of cotton and rice in India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The alliance is based on the insight that the complexity of water productivity in the field cannot be tackled by individual actors. A more holistic approach is required that can only be achieved by a set of activities that plug together synergistically. Thus, the actors came up with the idea to develop an approach that can implement three components:
The Push Component is to address the knowledge gap of farmers. Small farmers in particular either lack knowledge of modern irrigation practices or they cannot risk experimenting with practices different from
the ones they are using already. This component represents the usual approach of development co-operation: bringing a change of technologies via extension. This approach is useful, but finds only a fraction of the farmers adopting the methods, because incentives for the change are lacking.
The Pull Component addresses the lack of incentives. Farmers that produce either cotton or rice will be motivated to change production and irrigation practices, because the buyers of the product support this change either by a direct premium or via the benefits of a systematic programme.
The Policy Component aims to fill the gap that inappropriate water governance is creating. In many cases, water distribution, the maintenance of the channel system and the right timing of irrigation leaves room for improvement and requires efforts beyond the reach of an individual farmer or a single private sector entity.