TIRTA aims to increase access to water resources for poor farmers. In Indonesia, irrigation is managed at three levels: the national and provincial level which handles large schemes and primary canal systems (from 1,000 to 3,000ha), and the district level that manages smaller schemes (<1,000ha). Schemes that are smaller than this are called tertiary schemes and are managed by farmers. TIRTA focuses exclusively at the tertiary irrigation level, where some of the systemic failures are most evident.
Why we work in this sector
The rationale for supporting improvements in tertiary irrigation in eastern Indonesia is compelling. Land and water resources are coming under competing pressure not only from agriculture but also from industry, growing urban and rural populations, and the impacts of climate variability. Water resource management and tertiary irrigation play a very important role in Indonesia’s socio-economic development in terms of food security. Irrigated agricultural land produces 85% of national rice production and 95% of Indonesian people consume rice as a staple. Irrigation also has a significant impact on farmer incomes. When compared with other inputs like fertilisers and seeds, the typical net income gain for water resources is up to three times greater.
Tertiary irrigation offers the potential to: (1) increase production and profitability per hectare per crop; (2) increase cropping intensity from one to three crops a year; (3) allow production of higher value non-rice crops in the dry season and; (4) reduce the risk of failed crops, which can be catastrophic for small holder farmers with limited resources and reserves. Focussing on tertiary irrigation can therefore allow many farmers to move from subsistence to small-scale commercial production.
Many tertiary irrigation schemes in Indonesia are not operating effectively and suffer from accumulating maintenance deficits as a result of poor management as well as a lack of investment finance that is needed to break this cycle. Current legislation (Water Law 7/2004) gives local communities a greater responsibility in the management of the irrigation system. While government is responsible for primary systems (dams, reservoirs, etc.) and the secondary systems (rivers, channels, canals, etc.) that bring water to the farm, farmers, through water user groups known as HIPPA, are responsible for operating, maintaining and developing the tertiary system.
In the TIRTA focus districts in East Java many HIPPA are not functioning effectively or are operating well below their full capacity to serve their farmer members. There are also some highly successful HIPPA. Key factors in their success was the ability to raise capital by partnering with private sector partners that invested in pumping equipment and civic works as well as operations and maintenance.
The aim of TIRTA is to scale-up the application of successful investment models so that these models become a workable standard for sustainable tertiary irrigation in the AIP-Rural target areas. TIRTA uses a M4P approach to bring together farmer groups to form HIPPA and then enters into agreements with local private investors who then invest in diesel engines, pumps and canal infrastructure which then permits them to supply water to farmers in return for a portion of their crops. Other successful investment models may be identified during the course of the program and also trialled for scale-up potential. TIRTA identifies opportunities for commercial investment and stimulate demand for investment.
If farmers make good use of this new access to tertiary irrigation through the application of improved farm practices then farmers will increase their overall land productivity. Because the local investor receives their irrigation service fee based on output they have an incentive to ensure that farmers use good practices. Because of this incentive, local investors are encouraged to pay for a large portion of farmer productivity training.
Part of TIRTA’s M4P approach is to provide capacity building training in pump installation and maintenance working through local service providers and developing demonstration sites along the Bengawan Solo River to act as learning centres, displaying cost effective and real life pump/engine configuration options.
The target beneficiaries
The aggregated outreach of the irrigation interventions is anticipated to be 10,000 smallholder farmer households with income increases of at least 60% per household.