Integrated Drought Prevention and Mitigation: The Mae Yom Operation and Maintenance Office
Royal Irrigation Department

The Problem

Yom Basin is one basin out of 25 basins of Thailand. Its catchment area is 5.8 million acres which Yom River, 459 miles long, serves as the main river of the basin. The Yom River has no reservoir to supply water resulted in lacking of water for domestic use and agriculture, as well as causing flash flood. To relieve drought, the Mae Yom Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Office under the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) built a 350 m-long concrete weir in the Yom River to raise water level in order to irrigate water for 88,538 acres. During a rainy season, the average maximum flow of the Yom River is 1,042 m3/sec or daily runoff 90 million m3 while the average maximum flow in a dry season is 3 m3/sec or daily runoff 0.3 million m3. The dry season runoff can only supply water for agriculture of 6,917 acres, however, farmers tend to extend their plots in a dry season every year. The agricultural areas for the dry season in 2011, for example, are 36,364 acres.
As a result, water shortages for the second crop season were common in the areas, especially from January to February. A series of crop failures were repeated, thus causing the inevitably rural poor. The water shortages ignited water fight among local farmers. Individual farmer either destroyed irrigation structures or pumped water for one’s own benefits. Related public agencies did practice passive response to the problems. Lacking of participation and communication among stakeholders further boosted the loss of faith in public governance.
According to the 1992 - 2011 statistics, the agricultural areas in dry seasons have increased from 12,846 acres to 36,364 acres. The water shortages have been escalated to eventually affect to the agricultural areas of approximately 7,905 acres and lead to be the complete crop failures of 2,767 acres.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The initiative which was established in 2005 provided substantial benefits to various parties from an individual level to a global level, that is, farmers, local administrative organizations, relevant public agencies, Thailand, and the world. At an individual level, there were 16,700 and 370 households of farmers who live in inside and outside of the irrigation areas, respectively. Farmers gained opportunities in joint water management decision-making, water delivery scheduling, and water-taking rules specifying, thus encouraging a sense of ownership of farmers and enabling two-week quicker plot preparation. Farmers, moreover, cooperatively monitored work procedures with related public agencies, thus promoting transparency. The joint water management facilitated water delivery to farmers in a fair and equal manner, thus decreasing water conflicts and complaints from farmers. Furthermore, the initiative helped farmers to extend their dry-season agricultural areas from 12,846 acres in 1993 (before the initiative) to 36,364 acres in 2010 (after the initiative), thus generating agricultural income from US$5.1 million to US$18.4 million. As a result, the seasonal migration of local farmers in the areas was minimal.
The benefits for individual public agencies, including local administrative organizations, Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE), and the Mae Yom O&M Office, can be summarized in the followings. The more farmers’ income, the greater purchasing power that helped boost the economy in the areas. The local administrative organizations were able to collect more taxes to develop local communities. The DOAE claimed that the drought prevention by the initiative, in turn, the increased income opportunity was estimated to be 24,901 acres or US$10.1 million in 2010. Even though the manpower of the Mae Yom O&M Office has been continuously decreased from 282 persons in 2004 to be 166 persons in 2011, the operation and maintenance service is more effective, thus saving staff salary US$620,000 per year. Instilling a sense of ownership among farmers made them take a better care of an irrigation system, thus saving a maintenance budget of the RID. The fair and equal water delivery resulted from the initiative, moreover, minimized conflicts between farmers and the staff of the Mae Yom O&M Office.
At the national level, the initiative led to ease water conflicts in Thai society. The increase of farmers’ income helped alleviate the standard of living of farmers. This helped maintain agricultural careers, which accounted for 34% of the country, conserved the irrigation areas, and enhanced the food and energy security of the nation. The agricultural export served as one of the main contribution of the GDP.
At the global level, the initiative promoted the food security of the world. The security was built on the food availability and food access through the Thai agricultural export.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Having been repeatedly encountered water shortages for the second crop season in the areas, the Mae Yom O&M Office developed the initiative in 2005 to solve the problem. There were five key players contributed to the implementation of the initiative. Five key players included the director of the Mae Yom O&M Office, staff of the Mae Yom O&M Office, farmers in the irrigation areas, Disaster Relief Committee at district and provincial levels, and local administrative organizations.
The director of the Mae Yom O&M Office fully supported the initiative by determining it into one of the Office’s missions and allocating a budget. Staff of the Mae Yom O&M Office introduced the initiative to prospective parties and coordinated with relevant agencies and farmers in order to reach a mutual agreement on policy, implementation plan, and working procedures of participatory water management. Farmers in the irrigation areas cooperatively identified water-taking rules and followed those rules whenever taking water. Farmers additionally served as committee members to tracking and auditing fuel and lubricant budgets for pumps. The Disaster Relief Committee at district and provincial levels were made up of representatives from relevant public agencies at the district and province. The chairman of the district and provincial Disaster Relief Committees were sheriff and governor, respectively. The Committee took part in specifying strategies for integrated drought prevention and mitigation plan and driving related public agencies to implement accordingly. The Committee, moreover, supported budgets to drive the integrated drought plan in the areas. The local administrative organizations acted as representatives of local people to coordinate with water user groups in order to supervise rotational water taking conforming to the mutual agreement.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The initiative was launched to cope with the following concerns: to prevent and mitigate drought in the irrigation areas of the Mae Yom O&M Office; to effectively manage water in a fair, equal, and sustainable manner; and, to promote stakeholder involvement in every process of integrated water management.
Two main strategies were used to implement the initiative, that is, (1) knowledge management and data dissemination; and, (2) three-coherent task mechanisms. The first strategy, knowledge management and data dissemination, constituted three steps as follows: (1) collecting data: the Mae Yom O&M Office gathered data on meteorology, hydrology, engineering, economy, social, and local wisdom to study the current situation, potential of dry-season cultivation, and factors that affected the cropping pattern, as well as applying the SWOT analysis in order to lessen water conflicts among tail-end users; (2) using information technology: the Mae Yom O&M Office utilized various information technologies including the Remote Sensing, Geographic Information System (GIS), and Global Positioning System to analyze drought risk areas, to provide a geographical database, and to prepare maps of zoning water management; and, (3) transferring knowledge and data dissemination: the Mae Yom O&M Office disseminated the comprehensive water information, geographical database, and agreed rules via different means, for example, the National Broadcasting of Thailand / Phrae Province Branch, local radio stations, village loudspeakers, and farmer meetings. The publicized data made the local administrative organizations and water user groups understand the irrigation regulations and water saving campaign.
The second strategy, three-coherent task mechanisms, consisted of three tasks as the followings: (1) water subsidy for agriculture: the Phrae Province Disaster Relief Committee, the Mae Yom O&M Office, the Phrae Provincial Irrigation Office, and local administrative organizations cooperatively identified the water management and pumping control plans, as well as allocating budgets to supply either fuels or electricity for pumps at different locations; (2) participatory irrigation management: it was the cooperation between the Mae Yom O&M Office, district agricultural officers, local administrative organizations, and water user groups to determine a water management plan, to establish a temporary dike, to reach a mutual agreement, to arrange a rotational water delivery, to maintain irrigation canals, to locate a pumping station, and to mediate water conflicts in the areas; and, (3) acting upon agreement and supervision: it was the coordination between the Mae Yom O&M Office, district, local administrative organizations, and water user groups to supervise and audit water management, rotational water delivery, mutual agreement, fuel use and provision, and electricity cost for pumping, as well as adjusting the operation schedule according to the present situation.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The chronology of the initiative was portrayed as follows. Before 1998, farmers blocked and pumped water from irrigation canals at will. During 1998-2003, the Mae Yom O&M Office continually collected public opinions from farmer’s meetings and personal communication at field trips. The farmer’s meetings served as forums to notify farmers about irrigation regulations, to recommend crop types for dry-season agriculture, and to inform drought risk areas. The public irrigation staff together with farmers removed a barrier before water delivery for the second crop season of the year 1998. In 2003, the Mae Yom O&M Office made the maps of dry-season agricultural areas from the scale map 1:10,000 of the RID. In 2004, the Mae Yom O&M Office gathered Landsat images to arrange a database on water resources and irrigation systems in the areas. Also, Phrae Province firstly announced a drought zone and installed the mobile pumping stations to pump water into irrigation canals in order to ease dry-season agriculture. The budgets were granted by the Phrae Province Disaster Relief Committee. In 2005, the Mae Yom O&M Office introduced three-coherent task mechanisms to the Phrae Province Disaster Relief Committee. The mechanisms were then implemented in the areas for the first time. The Office, moreover, studied factors that influenced farmers in the areas to do farming. During 2006-2011, the Mae Yom O&M Office incorporated up-to-date geographical information technologies including Landsat images, Orthophotos, images from the national satellite called THEOS and Asia-Pacific satellite called SMMS, and GIS to arrange a number of maps and database regarding irrigation areas, dry-season agricultural areas, drought risk areas, and mobile pumping stations. As a result, zoning water management was adopted to best suit water supply. The progress of dry-season agriculture at zoning and district levels was mapped to prepare drought relief, as well as evaluating the next dry-season agricultural areas.
The Phrae Province Disaster Relief Committee adopted and embedded the initiative into its working procedures. The annual implementation steps of the initiative were composed of five steps as the followings. Step 1) data collection and analysis for supporting decision-making (October-November): assembling data on knowledge management, appropriate information technologies, and public opinions to analyze and then propose to the Committee and farmers to jointly making decisions on water management plan. Step 2) data utilization for planning and participatory irrigation management (December): participatory meetings between relating public agencies and farmers were arranged to specify rotational water delivery and water-taking rules, as well as inquiring local wisdom to provide extra water supply. Step 3) converting plans into actions (December-March): the mentioned plans and meeting resolutions were informed to all stakeholders and acted upon accordingly. Step 4) plan monitoring and evaluation (December-March): the three-coherent task mechanisms were the key to tracking and promoting transparency of the initiative. Step 5) learning from the initiative (April-May): the arisen problems during water delivery were brought to a meeting to seek a mutual solution. When the second crop season completed, the After Action Review (AAR) was regularly held to conclude all lessons learned.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Three main obstacles were encountered during the implementation of the initiative. First, head-end farmers dissatisfied with water sharing due to their habitual water taking all the time. The Mae Yom O&M Office regularly arranged meetings with farmers to inform water supply and demand in the dry season. The meetings also served as forums for head-end and tail-end farmers to exchange their problems. This helped facilitate better understanding in one’s situation, which in turn, created compassionate communication and the spirit of water sharing among farmers.
Second, farmers did not follow the water-taking rules. Water stealing was common in the areas. The tail-end areas therefore did not get water in a sufficient and timely manner. The Mae Yom O&M Office set a series of meetings with all stakeholders including representatives of farmers and relevant public agencies, community leaders, and district agricultural officers to mutually adjust water delivery schedule in accordance with water supply and catchment areas, as well as identifying water-taking rules and penalties. The meeting resolutions were broadcasted via village loudspeakers, as well as sending official letters to related agencies for further dissemination. Additionally, there was a committee, which was made up of representatives from water user groups and community leaders in related areas, to control farmers to follow the agreed water delivery schedule and water-taking rules.
Third, farmers grew the second rice crop more than a dry-season agricultural plan. The price of paddy had been continuously escalated from US$333 per ton to be US$500 per ton in 2010. This urged farmers to increase their dry-season agricultural areas from 6,081 acres in 2009 to be 9,477 acres in 2010. A meeting was arranged for all stakeholders to seek a mutual solution. The meeting participants agreed to request the Mae Yom O&M Office to extend a period of water delivery ten more days to supply water for the increased second rice crop. The extended water delivery additionally challenged the Mae Yom O&M Office to balance water supply for the field crops in the same areas.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
There were four resources contributed to mobilize the initiative. First, financial resources: the budgets, US$265,867, for buying fuel, lubricant oil, and electricity of pumps as well as dike construction came from a provincial emergency budget allocated by the Phrae Province Disaster Relief Committee. In addition, the regular budgets, US$8,000, of the Mae Yom O&M Office were allocated for transportation and staff allowances to control the 21 mobile pumping stations. The mentioned budgets helped provide more pumps to supply water amounted to 10 million m3 for dry-season agricultural areas of 24,911 acres yearly.
Second, information technology resources: the Mae Yom O&M Office was keen on engaging GIS to organize a geographical database. At the first stage, the Office got Landsat images from the Royal Forest Department of Thailand and the Phrae Province Information and Communication Technology Center during the year 2000-2006. At the second stage, the Office was granted a research fund totaling US$18,800 from the Royal Irrigation Department. The research titled “Drought Risk Areas Evaluation by Using THEOS Images” was carried out during the year 2009-2010. At the third stage, the Office got satellite (SMMS) images from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology during the year 2010-2011. The geographical database was brought to create the dry-season agricultural areas and drought risk areas to facilitate water management planning.
Third, human resources: main staff were taken from relevant agencies, that is, 28 persons from the Mae Yom O&M Office, 10 persons from district and provincial agricultural office, and 5 persons from provincial administrative office. The staff were responsible for managing water and overseeing the water operation according to a water allocation plan. Furthermore, about two thousand farmers volunteered to build temporary dikes in the Yom River and tributaries as well as installing the mobile pumping stations.
Fourth, resources management: all resources were blended to create an approach to reach the initiative’s goals. The principal approaches involved: (1) encourage participation from allied public agencies at every level from districts to province; (2) incorporate data, information technologies, and knowledge management to provide a database for water management and zoning agricultural areas; (3) introduce the three-coherent task mechanisms to help conduct the initiative; (4) invite local wisdom for locating temporary dikes in the Yom River; and, (5) take full responsibilities by relevant public officers and get sacrifices from farmers.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The initiative, integrated drought prevention and mitigation, has been continuously operated since 2005. It calls for participation from all stakeholders and related public agencies. The three-coherent task mechanisms are designed by drawing the current jobs of relating agencies to link with the happening problems and needs in the areas. The arising problems and needs facilitate learning to seek greater water administration and zoning agricultural areas management. The mutual learning assists in joint-problem solving among stakeholders. The mechanisms are approved and implemented by every stakeholder including public agencies, local administrative organizations, the district and provincial Disaster Relief Committees, and farmers. The mechanisms have been embedded in regular jobs of the responsible public agencies since 2008. The initiative is, therefore, sustainable.
At present, the provincial offices recognize the initiative’s accomplishment and promote to be the Best Practice in integrating drought prevention and mitigation. The initiative is then extended to other provinces to cope with drought in the areas through the function of their Disaster Relief Committee at district and provincial levels.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The key elements to success are the followings: (1) to understand the existing problems in the areas by inquiring stakeholders’ needs and expectation to relevant public agencies; (2) to compile the updated information technologies along with the lessons learned to provide a reliable database for problem solving; (3) to create a participatory irrigation management system by arranging a series of community meetings to brainstorm and listen to farmers’ recommendations, thus reaching a sustainable solution; (4) to learn past water management failures and farmers’ needs in order to improve working procedures and optimally response to farmers’ needs; (5) to cooperatively make a rotational water delivery schedule and water-taking rules between public irrigation staff and farmers, thus encouraging farmers to follow the schedule and rules; (6) to adopt a risk management concept by providing extra water resources for farming, thus ensuring water security for dry-season agriculture; (7) to apply the three-coherent task mechanisms that specify clear responsible parties in each task and urge relating public agencies, local administrative organizations, and farmers to work harmoniously; (8) to incorporate indigenous knowledge of local farmers in finding spare water resources and locating temporary dikes in the Yom River, thus acknowledging area expertise of marginalized farmers; and, (9) to be sincere in problem solving, persevere, and continue providing information to farmers, thus instilling a sense of sharing and water saving that leads to acting upon an agreement.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Royal Irrigation Department
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Dr. Wachiraporn Kumnerdpet
Title:   Office of Public Participatory Promotion  
Telephone/ Fax:   (66) 2 669 3775 / (66) 2 669 1460
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   811 Sam-sen Road
Postal Code:   10300
City:   Dusit
State/Province:   Bangkok
Country:   Thailand

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