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Decentralization in the management of irrigation and the need of social mediation process: lessons learned from ISIIMM in EGYPT

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Mohamed H.A. Nawar
Mohamed H.A. Nawar, Prof. National Coordinator of ISIIMM-EGYPT and Senior Advisor, Center for Rural Development Researches& Studies (CRDRS), Faculty of Agriculture, Cairo University, 12613 Giza, EGYPT Phone/Fax: +2(02)35681610 Mobile1:+2(012) 9187789 Mobile2:+2(010)1401295 Web Site: CRDRS e-mail: Personal email: Personal email-2:

Keyword(s): decentralization, irrigation, social mediation, Egypt
AbstractISIIMM- EGYPT was a sub project implemented through the “Institutional and Social Innovation of Irrigation Management Mediterranean” project which was s implemented in six Mediterranean countries between 2003 and 2007. The project was one of ten projects financed by the EU Water -MEDA program. The main objective of ISIIMM was to collect, organize and exchange knowledge and related experience of local management of irrigation among concerned actors and professionals in the Mediterranean at local, national, regional and international levels. This would help all stakeholders gaining benefits from the others’ learned lessons in solving encountered problems in that sector. Egypt experienced the most centralized irrigation systems allover the world. This was due to the only one main source of water, the Nile River, and due to many other historical political reasons. However, the growing suffer from scarcity of water resources in Egypt relative to the escalating demand has led to deep analyses of the deficiencies in irrigation water management. Detachment between the growing number of end users and decision making process was found essential. Yet, under the long history of central mode of management of this sector a more rigid and stagnated social system concerned with irrigation was maintained. The type of roles of actors and their interrelations within that system were the bases of the current pattern of low functionality. Institutional and even the specific pattern of social interrelations maintained were based on rigid social distances among the official professionals who make decision and the end users. Reform of such system for the sake of better functionality of the sector needs reorganization of the network of interrelation among all actors as well as drastic change in the institutional framework on action. Early experiments to develop the irrigation management through decentralization at local level had encountered resistance from both sides of actors; i.e. the officials and end users. Each party had its own special reasons. Lack of trust and suspicious attitudes between both sides was found so obvious. Social mediation process of a neutral third party in the reform of the interrelation between both parties was found essential to avoid resistance and conflicts. Facilitating communication, negotiation and interaction for reaching common decisions among the two parties were the core functions of mediation process. Convenient time frame, good understanding of the local social setting and dynamics, relevant social skills and active role of local leaders were essential in the mediation process. The experience of ISIIMM staff in Egypt in this regard proved very valuable specially in two of the four cases addressed. Yet, mediation needs to be institutionalized in the management process and be given longer time and wider spectrum for action.
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