Madeline Dahm / IWMI

Water user associations in pump-based irrigation schemes

Successful irrigation schemes demand more than solid infrastructure. Sustainable and inclusive plans require a strong governance system to foster cooperation and communication between all involved. To establish these governance expectations, the Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department (IWUMD) introduced Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) guidelines — rules developed to support farmers’ involvement in irrigation projects. Developing Water User Associations (WUAs) have been an ongoing effort since the late 1970s. 

This handbook provides a guideline for establishing pump-based irrigation schemes in Myanmar. It draws from research and findings from the Pyawt Ywar Pump Irrigation Project (PYPIP), launched by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). The PYPIP was the first WUA to be set up as part of this scheme.

WUA implementation is designed to strengthen and increase farmer participation in irrigation management and control. This goal is often hard to meet; while farmers might be interested in joining these efforts, other facts prevent schemes from moving forward. This publication addresses these barriers:

“The recognition of WUAs as formal registered farmer-led institutions is hence a strong indication of a policy shift by the Myanmar government towards a more collaborative and systematic approach to irrigation management."  

While this guide covers the 300 pump-based irrigation programs across Myanmar's Central Dry Zone, it may also be applied to canal-based irrigation schemes that serve farmers across the country

The anticipated users of this guideline are practitioners responsible for planning and implementing programs to create and operationalize WUAs in Myanmar, especially in pump-based irrigation schemes. Practitioners include managers of such irrigation schemes, government agricultural and irrigation officials, and private initiatives and NGOs that are involved in the creation and operationalization of WUAs. The handbook is also targeted at donor agencies that often fund WUA creation as part of new schemes or the rehabilitation or modernization of existing schemes.


*The Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) is a multi-donor fund that supports poor people in rural Myanmar. Its donors include the United Kingdom, European Union, Australia, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States of America, as well as Mitsubishi Corporation from the private sector.

This project is implemented for and with Myanmar’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (specifically the Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Division and the Department of Agriculture).

Implementing partners are the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), The United Nations Office for Project ServicesNational Engineering and Planning ServicesWelthungerhilfe and The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arad Tropics (ICRISAT).

Check out our photo story on irrigation in Myanmar's Central Dry Zone.