Formation of WUAs in Kyrgyzstan


On-farm Irrigation Project, implementation period – 2001-2008. The project consists of 3 components:

  1. WUA formation and development – US$ 6.3 million.
  2. Infrastructure rehabilitation, operation and maintenance – US$ 22 million.
  3. Assistance in implementation – US$ 0.7 million.

Project goal: Increase crop production through stable and reliable water distribution in 120,000 ha of irrigated lands in all the provinces of the republic.

Importance of the issue or initiative

Formation and strengthening of viable Water Users Associations (WUA), which could assume the maintenance of on-farm irrigation infrastructure earlier belonging to kolkhozes and sovkhozes.

Physical rehabilitation and restoration of on-farm irrigation and collector-drainage infrastructure for guaranteed irrigation water supply to farmers in the project area of 120,000 ha.

Results / practical experience

There are 462 WUAs, of which 451 are officially registered. The number of members in 462 WUAs is 175,157 people.

The area of irrigated lands served by WUAs is 712,000 ha, which accounts for 70% of the total irrigated lands in the republic.

Training courses were developed and organized for WUAs on the following themes: “WUA formation and development”, “Management and administration”, “Financial management, operation and maintenance of structures”, “Water use”, “Monitoring and assessment”, “Legal framework for WUA activities”. Assistance is provided to WUAs in drawing up yearly plans for operation and maintenance, including costs and establishing irrigation service fees.

For the implementation period, 1063 km of irrigation canals were repaired, 142 km of collector-drainage network were cleaned and repaired, 429 gauging stations were constructed, 2299 outlets and other structures were installed at canals. Water availability was raised in 106,200 ha of irrigated lands. 121,418 ha of irrigated lands were covered by rehabilitation.

Due to a rapid growth in prices for construction work during the past 3 years, the project faced a challenge to address the deficiency of funds to complete the work. In some cases, it was difficult to carry out rehabilitation work owing to weakness of contractors.

In the republic, 35 Water Councils with an area of 228,000 ha of irrigated lands were established. The activities of public Water Councils are mainly aimed at addressing conflict situations between individuals on water distribution, agreeing water rotation and water supply schedule, and considering issues related to operation and maintenance of inter-farm part of canals in hydro-geographic zone. Water Councils are involved in raising grant funds from donors for repair and cleaning of Specific canals and structures. Altogether 13 Water User Association Unions (Federations) with an area of 115,338 ha of irrigated lands were legally registered in the republic.

What did not work and why?

As experience has shown, during their formation and development WUAs face a number of problems and drawbacks as follow:

  1. Low irrigation service fees. In the republic, established tariffs for irrigation water supply services for WUA’s own needs vary from 21 to 659 soms per ha. According to the estimations of international and national experts, about 500 soms per ha is required for adequate recovery of operation and maintenance costs;
  2. Irrigation service fees are paid by water users, of which about 60% through in-kind payment, labor inputs, and 40% in money terms;
  3. Most WUA Councils are still passive in their activities, and don’t fulfill their control functions, due to which there is no transparent governance, the trust of water user farmers is low, affecting WUA development;
  4. WUA members have not completely understood the essence of WUA functioning as an independent, voluntary and promising organization;
  5. In some cases, local authorities exert pressure upon WUA administration, violating provisions in WUA Charter;
  6. In some regions, in particular in Chui province, government officials negatively react to WUA development, not understanding that today WUA is a fragile organization requiring all-round support. At present, there is still no alternative for WUA, as a union for on-farm network operation, and its functions can be fulfilled only by agricultural cooperatives (if local officials achieve their formation and development);
  7. The issue on the exemption of organizations transferring waterworks facilities and appropriate infrastructure free of charge (rural administration, cooperatives and other entities), from value added tax (VAT) has not been solved. VAT rate under free property transfer is 20% of the market value of an object or structure as well. This infringes their right to property, thus impeding WUA development;
  8. Practically more than 400 WUAs don’t have material and technical basis (excavation equipment, transport vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles), necessary office equipment such as computers, faxes, which negatively affect their development;
  9. There are cases when fiscal agencies check WUA’s financial and economic activities, neglecting WUA Charter provisions;
  10. Sometimes selected zone representatives of WUAs representing the interests of water users don’t realize their powers and obligations completely. Because of that, water users have no information on made decisions.

Positive sides:

  1. Initially, it was supposed that the project would provide support to 160 WUAs, but support is provided to practically all established 462 WUas: data on their work, structure are gathered, necessary consultations are held and so on.
  2. Farmers express satisfaction with support provided under this project.
  3. Representatives of the World Bank have also highly appreciated project outcomes and expressed an opinion that achieved outcomes are higher in Kyrgyzstan than those of similar projects in other countries.

Key points for knowledge sharing and dissemination (on a broader scale)

Inflation, especially for construction materials, should be considered in cost determination of repair work.

It is necessary to popularize the positive experience of WUA formation and development via electronic communications and mass media; it may be necessary to create a website of the project. Prepared training material may be disseminated.

Training should be organized for women on WUA management, leadership skills, agrotechnical practices and so on.

On-farm irrigation system rehabilitation in “Besh-Baatyr” WUA, contract PVO-63

Contractor: “Kyzyl-Kiya TSK" Limited Company

Cost of work: 9.8 million soms, increase of the cost up to 10.5 million soms.

Construction period: 27 March 2006 – 1 April 2008.

“Besh-Baatyr” WUA. Head intake structure at Zhin-Zhigen canal

before rehabilitation

after rehabilitation