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Farmer-based financing of operations in the Niger valley irrigation schemes
This paper presents the results of case studies of the functioning of four pump-based irrigation systems in the Niger River Valley. The objectives and performance of these schemes, and their prospects for sustainability are analyzed, especially in the light of the government's policy of promoting irrigator organizations to take over responsibilities for operating and maintaining the irrigation facilities. The organizational arrangements in the Nigérien cooperatives do not conform to the principles cited in the literature as being characteristic of sustainable, autonomous locallymanaged organizations of irrigators. significant improvements in sustainability could be expected through better adherence to the principles if transparency, rule-compliance, autonomy from the government, and functional decentralization. In addition, the large size of the organizations puts practical stresses on the available management skills in the community. Indeed, the lack of organizational skills in the rural environment of Niger presents challenges to managing relatively large new organizations, some of the order of 1,000 households. Financial weakness of the irrigator organizations seems to pose the most serious threat to their sustainability. None of them has been able to accumulate reserve funds to cater to future needs for major repairs and renewals, and they all face shortage of operational funds. Lessons and recommendations for future organizational and institutional design, with particular emphasis on the reduction of constraints to physical and organizational performance, and on enhancing sustainability, are suggested.