Indigenous farmers formed a local community (Water User Association) called Five village Bless, led to effective irrigation management by ensuring reliable and equal water distribution in support of their livelihoods in MyinMu Township, Sagaing Region in Myanmar.

Local farmers can regulate the water distribution towards their own irrigated fields which can sustain and improve their livelihoods by attaining specific trainings and organizing regular meetings to manage the water allocation with mutual understanding among water users.

When reducing poverty to improve food and nutrition security while enhancing the agricultural economy, irrigation systems are crucial part of supporting Myanmar's Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS). According to the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (2018-2030) sound water management is recognized as a foundation for food production.

Therefore, with the specific structure of water user associations (WUA), there are several possible incentives for farmers to participate in joining and managing a WUA. Not only equitable water distribution will be gained regardless of the location, type and size of the farm, but also more reliable water supply will meet the crop needs. Furthermore, establishing WUA's in Myanmar can support cost recovery to other important development outcomes such as poverty reduction, food security and climate resilience.

MyinMu township is located in Myanmar's Central Dry Zone which is home to more than 10 million people and is the country's most water scarce and least food-secure region. As part of a strategy to boost agricultural production, the Government of Myanmar has created more than 300 pump-based irrigation schemes across the Zone. The Pyawt Ywar Pump Irrigation Project (PYPIP), funded by LIFT, aimed at improving water governance and agricultural productivity in one of the pump based irrigation schemes.

Assuming that it co-manages the scheme efficiently and alters to proposed cropping systems based on soil type, the WUA is able to irrigate more than 1,750 hectares of cropland which demand less water and energy. At the end of the project, in March 2019, 89 farmers had adopted one of the newly introduced high-value crops, 779 farmers had received training in best agricultural practices and 693 farmers were officially registered as a member of the WUA.

Regarding the forming of a WUA and the organizational strengthening, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach. Yet it could become a showcase to other areas in recognition of first-hand experience in establishing a WUA in a pump-based irrigation scheme.

A handbook – A practical guideline 

There is a handbook for establishing water user associations in pump-based irrigation schemes here. This handbook focuses on how to set up suitable WUA's for pump-based irrigation schemes in Myanmar. It draws on the experience and lessons learned by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and its partners in the Pyawt Ywar Pump Irrigation Project (PYPIP), funded by the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT).

The purpose of this handbook is to support efforts to improve irrigation efficiency, and crop and water productivity to enhance farm incomes and livelihoods in pump-based irrigation schemes established and operated by the Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department (IWUMD) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MoALI) in Myanmar.

The anticipated users of this handbook are practitioners responsible for planning and implementing programs to create and operationalize Water User Associations (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 nongovernmental organizations 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.