Water User Associations

Studies on understanding the vulnerabilities of the farming communities of Nagapattinam indicated that unless some action was taken on the repairs and maintenance of the river systems, Nagapattinam would always be vulnerable to floods and hydrological droughts.

BEDROC took up five of fourteen river systems running through Nagapattinam for immediate repairs. While interventions were necessary, BEDROC also believed in capacitating local communities in taking up responsibilities. BEDROC believes that intermediaries, external triggers and facilitators are transient in nature, but the Government and related service providers are permanent.  Thus, any attempts at sustainable development by the external constituencies need to focus on aligning their interventions with the larger framework set in place by the Government. This underscores the need for an exit strategy that aims at building up local community based organizations that can necessarily understand access and utilize available opportunities like schemes and development projects promoted by the Government.

To this end, BEDROC set up 27 Water User Associations in the 27 Panchayats covered by the five river systems. Mobilising the community, organizing of water user associations, giving them a legal identity and forming of the district level federation to take on further activities was the major thrust of the interventions planned by BEDROC.

The Water User Associations have also been trained in participatory problem analysis, designing of solutions, procurement of materials and implementation methodologies. Transparency and accountability has been inbuilt through social and financial audits. The most remarkable part of this intervention is that the community contributed 10% of the total implementation cost thereby reinforcing their ownership of the project.

More than 10,000 farmers have been impacted through this intervention. 120 channels were de-silted; 57 notches, 2 sluices, 5 siphons, 2 shutters, 3 retaining walls and 68 plates were built and/or repaired. Bund strengthening was also done wherever necessary. Many farmers were able to cultivate additional crops and some brought in additional acreage under cultivation due to the availability of water.

With most of the members of these associations being farmers, the formation of such platforms, at the village level, have been found useful for also taking on other issues pertaining to the farming communities. The Water User Associations are now working on identifying and finding common approaches to soil and water salination, non-availability of quality seeds for cultivation, improving their productivity and marketing of their produce.

Federation of Water User Associations

One of the main outcomes of the PWRM project was the understanding of collective strength. The farmer members decided to carry this one step forward and decided to federate all the Water User Associations under one banner. A Delta Water User Federation has been set up and office bearers selected from among the farmer members. 

a. Formation of Federation of WUAs

District level Federation of WUAs have been formed, elections held and registration completed. This was inaugurated by the State Minister for Dairy development and Member of Parliament on 22nd May 10

b. Roles taken up by this Federation

Revolving Fund and Common Asset Fund Management

  • BEDROC has transferred an amount of Rs. 2.51 lakhs, budgeted under Seed Money to the WUA Federation for further management
  • The Federation took over the grading of the WUAs and decided on the WUAs that would be eligible for the revolving fund.
  • The WUAs give proposals to the Federation for the RF and CAP. Based on the assessment of their proposal and the grading of the WUA, the Federation approves the proposals or returns them for corrective action.
  • Once approved, the seed money is given as RF and CAP fund to the WUA.
  • 146 farmers were benefited through the RF of Rs. 3,60,000 during the first round. The second round of distribution of loans was done prior to this samba season and 131 farmers have received loans so far.
  • The RF, in the eventuality of it being unutilized during the non- farming periods, can be deposited back in the Federation at a nominal deposit interest of 1%. The Federation, in turn, can loan this fund to other needy WUAs or other entities like NAPROC, NAMPCO and even BEDROC at higher but nominal interest rates.

Support for purchase of excavator (JCB)

  • The Federation was offered support by the Commissioner of Revenue Administration who is also in charge of Disaster management in the State, to purchase a excavator through the unspent tsunami funds. He was of the opinion that a JCB would reduce a lot of their costs incurred for desilting and this could be done in a systematic manner if it was handled by these WUAs.
  • Accordingly, a proposal was developed by the WUA Federation and submitted. The proposal is currently pending with the Commissioner for his action.

c. Insurance Coverage

  • BEDROC facilitated insurance coverage among the WUA members for pulses and paddy. 239 farmers were assisted in getting coverage under the Varsha Bhima Policy. 908 acres was covered for an assured amount of Rs. 54.49 lakhs. The total premium, including service fee paid by the farmers was Rs. 4.55 lakhs
  • Various and relevant insurance schemes are detailed and explained to the WUA members during the monthly meetings. Now the WUA is taking a lead role in canvassing and using the WUA as a meeting place for distribution of forms, helping the farmers in filling them and collecting the completed forms.

d. Soil Test Analysis

  • BEDROC and the WUA Federation jointly conducted a drive for soil test analysis of the farmer members to support them in better management of the soil.
  • 556 samples were collected from 263 farmers and tested. This was done in August 2010 and the results made available by September, just before sowing during the main cultivation season, along with recommendations.
  • The Agriculture specialists from BEDROC held special programmes to assist the farmers develop more informed soil treatment practices

e. Model farm and field based training

  • Field based training designed round the FFS model was initiated in some of the WUAs
  • Apart from this, all monthly meetings at the WUAs are preceded by a brief lecture-demo on farming practices, pest control etc.
  • As these are relevant to the season and the local requirements, this has become popular and even non- members are attending the meetings.