Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives. (300 words maximum)
Prak-Nam-Dang is a sub-district of Samut-Songkhram Province, a coastal province on Western Gulf of Thailand. Being a low-lying coastal province, Samut-Songkhram has over 300 canals in 416.7 square-kilometer. Prak-Nam-Dang itself accommodates a network of 36 canals that supply water for 3,915 people in 36.23 square-kilometer. Seventy years ago, the locals benefited from clean water, diverse ecosystems and abundant natural resources in their farming and fisheries. Large-scale development (i.e. major highway and reservoir) is one of the reasons that reduce freshwater discharges. The situation became worse in 1976 as unusual drought caused severe saltwater intrusion. The local people requested the Governor to relieve the problem. In 1982, the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) installed 14 regulators with an effort to control saltwater intrusion, but unfortunately it was not the right solution. The regulators did not only separate Prak-Nam-Dang community into two parts (areas of freshwater and saltwater), but also deteriorated the brackish ecosystem and initiated conflicts among people over the regulation of the regulators. The people living in freshwater areas cultivated rice, vegetable, coconut, and aquaculture while the people living in saltwater areas relied on marine fisheries and shrimp farming. After the conventional regulators were installed, polluted water from an increasing number of industrial factories and livestock farming upstream was trapped and caused negative effects to freshwater areas. When the regulators were opened, such polluted water caused sudden death of fishes and shrimps in saltwater aquaculture and tremendous loss to the farmers. Without the participatory mechanism, mutual agreement on the administration of the regulators could never be reached. The objectives of this initiative are as follows:1) to resolve conflict on water management in the community, 2) to develop sustainable participatory water management in diverse ecosystems; and 3) to strengthen Water User Organization in the region for sustainable management of natural water.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category. (100 words maximum)
The initiative clearly demonstrated the integration and collaboration between various organizations, including government agencies, public sectors, and academic institutions, with a balance between collaboration and accountability of each organization. The government agencies integrated their budgets, staff and technical knowledge. On the other hand, the local community actively participated and shared valuable local wisdom throughout the participatory process. The academic institutes are accountable for accurate information and evaluation. Every stakeholder participated in every phase of the implementation in order to resolve conflicts, develop a sustainable participatory water management, and empower local community to effectively manage their natural resources.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation. (200 words maximum)
The implementation of Participatory Water Management in Prak-Nam-Dang Community primarily supports SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, particularly targets 6.5, 6.6, and 6.B. The initiative encourages relevant stakeholders at all level to fully involve in decision-making and implementation process of water administration through participatory water management mechanisms such as Water User Organizations (WUOs) and participatory activities. WUOs, including Water User Group (WUG), Integrated Water User Group (IWUG), and Joint Management Committee for Irrigation (JMC), help strengthen the participation of the local communities and encourage transboundary cooperation (target 6.5 and 6.B). Once the collaboration was developed and all water management tools were implemented, the initiative was able to restore the balance of both freshwater and saltwater to the near-natural condition. The brackish water ecosystem, a spawning habitat for aquatic and terrestrial animals, was eventually recovered (target 6.6). Moreover, the initiative develops the innovative regulator model (Hub-Puei regulator) that became the important water management tool to restore the water flow between freshwater and saltwater. The success of this initiative develops transboundary cooperation and brings back pristine diverse ecosystems to the communities.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms. (100 words maximum)
The initiative resolves the conflicts among local people in Prak-Nam-Dang community and promotes solidarity and compassion of people by turning “ME” into “WE”. The change in people’s mindset and the strengths of WUOs establish social sustainability. Fair and effective water management assures sufficient water supply; enhances productivity in the farms and the natural ecology; improves local income and work security; and even creates economic sustainability. Environmental awareness lies in the heart of Prak-Nam-Dang people. The community learned from the loss of valuable resources. The community continually organizes voluntary canal maintenance and promotes organic farming which leads to environmental sustainability.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
RID has the missions to manage water allocation in equitable and sustainable manners, and encouraging public participatory in water resource management and development. The initiative was implemented with an objective to resolve the adverse effects caused by public service,i.e. development of large-scale infrastructure and conventional “one size fits all” water management procedure. The initiative resolves conflicts of people on the administration of regulators by encouraging inclusive and collaboration of the local community in water management. People are guided to engage in the process with respect manner and recognition of human dignity. They are also advised to listen to diverse points of views with open-minded. The participatory water management explicitly creates opportunities for instrumental learning through activities such as empathic dialogue that contributes to communicative learning for all participants. Regardless of wealth and decision-making power, participatory meetings are forums with accurate and complete information, freedom from coercion, openness and empathy to alternative points of view, equal opportunity to participate, and readiness to accept an emerged consensus. With the goal to achieve inclusive and transboundary water management that addresses everyone’s needs, RID ensures the respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights for all members and pledge to leave no one behind.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
The initiative provides equal opportunities for men and women to participate. Female participants actively involved in the process from the beginning. Approximately 31% of local participants and 35% of irrigation staff are women. The women participants have equal access to information and technology and equal opportunity to serve on JMC as the men do. The women in Prak-Nam-Dang have equal opportunity to receive equal benefits from Water User Co-op, i.e. annual dividend, loan with low-interest rate, child education, etc. They also have freedom to choose their roles in the Co-op business, i.e. accountant, tour guide, chef, and café barista.
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
The target group of this initiative is the local people in Prak-Nam-Dang community including farmers, household, and other water users. The main output, outcome and impact of the initiative are shown as follows:
Primary OUTPUT of the initiative is the participatory water management procedure in diverse ecosystems. The local people are able to manage their own natural resources under the challenged circumstances with mutual agreement.
The main OUTCOMES of the initiative include: 1) the resolution of 20-year conflict between people in freshwater and saltwater areas of the community by participatory mechanisms that bring solidarity to the community; and 2) increasing organic farming production due to sufficient water and improved crop yield resulting in less chemical residue and toxic contamination in soil and water.
Finally, the IMPACTS of the initiative include: 1) better environment and natural resources and the restoration of diverse ecosystems; 2) increase in job security due to increased income and farm productivity (i.e. rice productivity increased by 26% from 4,062 kg/hectare to 5,125 kg/hectare); 3) the restoration of spawning habitats in the brackish ecosystem making the locals to gain additional income from fisheries in the public canals (22 - 25 USD/day); and 4) additional income from co-op businesses.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
At the beginning, RID public irrigation staff worked together with the community-based researchers. The staff made themselves familiar with the local people by organizing small group meetings for all six villages in Prak-Nam-Dang community to establish communication among people. The staff collected and analyzed the data through participatory activities, and then assisted local people to seek the underlying cause(s) of their problem.
At one of the activities, the participant proposed the idea to modify the conventional lifting regulator into a swing regulator that operated as an ancient Thai Hub-Puei swing door. This regulator would open to allow water on the surface to flow through and close when sea water level rises, which could potentially restore the water flow to its near-natural condition and thus recover the brackish ecosystem. The Hub-Puei regulator is the innovation from the participatory mechanism and the local wisdom. The construction of the first two Hub-Puei regulators was an integration of the public wisdom, RID’s technical knowledge and Provincial Administrative budget. Finally, a system of 14 regulators were installed in Prak-Nam-Dang community and its surrounding areas in order to effectively manage freshwater and saltwater.
RID staff promoted the establishment of Integrated Water User Group to carry on the participation in all phases of water management including the mutual agreement on the administration of all regulators. An ultimate solution is to sustain participatory water management in the region. RID, therefore, assisted the communities to join the Joint Management Committee for Irrigation (JMC), which was composed of three provinces, in order to promote a higher level of transboundary water management.
After conflicts was resolved, local people’s standard of living improved significantly. The local people voluntary participate in canal maintenance, which help protect and restore water-related ecosystems. Prak-Nam-Dang now hosts the learning centers for visitors from Thailand and other countries.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
The biggest obstacle to the conflict resolution is the lack of ability to listen with an open-mind. The participatory staff guided local people to overcome this obstacle by practicing “deep listening”, which generates empathic and trusting. When people understood the needs of each other, mutual agreement can be reached. Another important obstacle was the conventional “one size fits all” water management, which did not concern the unique condition of each area. This obstacle was overcome by the implementation of participatory water management that seek local’s needs and wisdom in order to finally “custom-made” participatory water management that fits the community.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
Being a PROCESS INNOVATION, the initiative started in 2002 when RID began to adopt Participatory Irrigation Management into its strategic plan. Success in conflict resolution of Prak-Nam-Dang had made it a prototype for 1) transforming participatory policy into targeted action that empowers local stakeholders to manage their own water resources, and 2) implementation of participatory water management in diverse ecosystems where the needs of people in both sides of the regulator contradict to each other. Not only is the initiative a process innovation, but it also created a PRODUCT INNOVATION, the Hub-Puei regulator, which can potentially be used along coastline.
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiative in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
The initiative drew inspiration of participatory process from Thailand Research Fund (TRF) who was the first public organization that works with the local communities by conducting Community-Based Research (CBR). The main purpose of CBR is to empower and strengthen local communities through research that focuses more on the participatory process of the locals in identifying research questions, learning and searching for appropriate solutions to local contexts. RID local officers studied the principle of CBR and adapted it with the water management techniques to create participatory activities that are suitable for local water users.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
The Implementation of Participatory Water Management in Diverse Ecosystem and the use of Hub-Puei regulator have been adapted to other provinces along the coasts of Thailand. The initiative has been adapted to the Eastern and Southern regions (i.e. Trat Province, Pattani Province, Samut Sakhon Province and Phetchaburi Province). The model for implementation includes the following processes: First, RID local irrigation staff make themselves familiar with the local people by organizing informal small group meetings in order to collect preliminary and historical information of the area and search for community leaders. Then, the staff organize activities for larger groups to learn and practice participatory tools together. After understanding and trust were built, the local participants were assisted to find the root causes of their problem based on the principle to solve the problem by themselves, and for themselves. RID staff later strengthen the local community and establish Water User Organizations (WUOs), beginning with WUG and progress to IWUG and JMC, which is the highest level of participatory water management that truly empowers the local communities. The initiative may also inspire other visitors from several countries (e.g. New Zealand, Japan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos) that made study visits.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
FINANCIAL RESOURCE including the budget for implementation of the participatory activities (i.e. meetings, study visits, canal maintenance, etc.) and the design, adjustment, construction, and installation of all Hub-Puei regulators was from RID, TRF and Provincial Administrative Organizations.
HUMAN RESOURCE including public irrigation staffs, participatory staffs, and Community-Based Researcher was provided by RID and TRF.
OTHER RESOURCES such as water quality monitoring, equipment for canal maintenance, treatment tools for water and sediment, knowledge on production and marketing of organic products, etc. were provided by local government agencies, academic institute, and private industry in JMC area.
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
This initiative explicitly demonstrated institutional sustainability with the establishment of WUOs in several levels from involvement to empowering (i.e. Water User Group (WUG), Integrated Water User Group (IWUG), and Joint Management Committee for Irrigation (JMC)).
Financial sustainability was made possible in two parts: the local community and the provincial fiscal budget. Water User Co-op provides members with financial benefits from Co-op businesses, i.e. restaurant, café, high quality organic products and souvenir shop. Part of the benefits was used to facilitate maintenance of public canals. Other major construction maintenance is supported by the integrated budgets from RID and Provincial Administrative Organizations.
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
This project was evaluated by Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University (Bangkok Campus). Information derived from interviewing 250 local participants who live in the area of Integrated water users' groups (IWUG), consisting of four sub-districts, Prak-Nam-Dang, Yisan, Plai-Phongpang, and Wat-Pradu. There are three objectives: 1) to measure the success of participatory water management in social, economic and environmental terms; 2) to assess project performance, challenges and sustainability of the project; and 3) to provide recommendation for future policy improvement. In addition, an internal audit was performed on 112 local people to assess the effectiveness of the initiative.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used. (100 words maximum)
The Closed-Ended Questionnaire (five-point scales) was used to evaluate the outcomes of the initiative on Social, Economic and Environmental aspects including Stakeholder Satisfaction. Furthermore, the Open-Ended Questionnaire was used to collect recommendation for future improvement. Firstly, the questionnaire was developed by a group of participatory water management stakeholders from four sub-districts. Then, it was approved by three experts on local area, questionnaire review, and statistical evaluation. To assure its credibility, Index of Objective Congruence was used to validate the questionnaire before testing it with 30 similar samples. Finally, Cronbach's alpha Method was used to measure the reliability of the questionnaire.
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how this information is being used to inform the initiative’s implementation. (200 words maximum)
The main findings showed significant improvement in Economic, Social and Environmental aspects of the communities. Prior to an implementation of the initiative, average scores of the local Economic, Social and Environmental situation were 2.66, 2.77 and 2.73 (Scale 1–5), respectively. After implementing the initiative, average scores in Economic, Social and Environmental aspects were improved to 3.68, 3.70 and 3.65, respectively. Similarly, Stakeholder Satisfaction was improved from 2.83 to 3.89. The significant improvement of all aspects was proved by the paired samples t-test indicating a significant success of the initiative in improving livelihood of the locals.
Internal audit conducted by RID Socio-Economics and Project Evaluation Division on four sub-districts indicated the return of local people toward their hometown due to stable agricultural condition; an increased homegrown vegetables which reduced living cost and improved people health; an increased agricultural productivity, i.e. rice production from 4,062 kg/hectare to 5,125 kg/hectare (26% improvement), and a restored ecosystem which increased aquaculture productivity including an extra 22 – 25 USD/day income. In general, household income increased from 1,600 – 3,300 USD/year to 2,300 – 4,000 USD/year after implementing the initiative.
Recommendations for future improvement, i.e. enforcement of upstream water quality to meet Water-Quality-Index and installation of water disaster-warning-system.
Please describe how the initiative strives to work in an integrated manner within its institutional landscape – for example, how does the initiative work horizontally and/or vertically across different levels of government? (200 words maximum)
The Royal Irrigation Department (RID) is functioning as the network manager in the relevant institutional landscape. The relevant organizations can be grouped into four primary functions as follows:
1) KEY ACTOR: Prak-Nam-Dang Community. The locals are the fundamental element of the participatory water management. They are the ones who solve the problem of themselves, by themselves, and for themselves.
2) NETWORK MANAGER: RID. RID supports communication and continuity of relevant participatory activities, i.e. public hearing, meeting, study visit, and canal maintenance. As the network manager, RID staff develop a realistic action plan for activities, evaluate the progress and take note of lesson learned throughout the process.
3) FACILITATOR: Government agencies including Provincial Administrative Organizations, RID, TRF, agencies under Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Community Development Department, and Provincial Chamber of Commerce. The facilitators provide accurate water quality monitoring, treatment tools for water and sediment, guideline for organic agricultural practices, equipment and budget for canal maintenance, etc.
4) PARTNERSHIP: Academic institution and private sectors including Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University and private industry in the three provinces of JMC. These partner agencies conduct evaluation, participate in decision-making, respect the agreement, and provide support when needed.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
RID and TRF engaged in DESIGNING the initiative. Both agencies guided the local people to seek the underlying cause of the conflict and resolved it by themselves. Activities were designed under the concept of participatory mechanism. Several stakeholders involved in the IMPLEMENTATION of the initiative. Prak-Nam-Dang Community was the key element who continually participated in all participatory water management activities; RID adjusted the design of Hub-Puei regulators and facilitated all relevant participatory activities (i.e. coached local participants through compassionate communication, provided accurate and update information, sought mutual agreement, took note from the meeting, conduct after action review, and established WUOs with the main purpose to empower and strengthen local communities). Provincial Administrative Organizations supported initial budget for the Hub-Puei regulators; the local government agencies and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University (Samut-Songkhram Center) provided water quality monitoring, canal dredging, Effective Microorganisms balls (EM balls) for water treatment and reduction of sediment and sludge from pig farms upstream, and knowledge on producing and marketing organic products which enhanced income and work security for the local people. EVALUATION of the initiative was done by Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University (Bangkok Campus) on social, economic and environmental aspects, together with suggestion and recommendation for future improvement.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
Key lessons learned include:
1) Strong community leaders can make a difference. It took years for Mr. Panya Tokthong and a group of community leaders to find conflict resolution by participatory mechanisms due to lack of funding and knowledge. Mr. Tokthong believed the local know their own area, but government top-down plans were designed by others. Therefore, he never gave up until he found participatory management as the right solution. RID could gain better opportunity to promote participatory water management by providing open-channel for interested community leaders.
2) The local wisdom is a treasure. Participatory activities present opportunities to learn from the local. A local carpenter, Mr. Uma Silawong, used his carpenter’s skill together with observant skill to propose the innovative Hub-Puei regulator model. To improve the sharing of local wisdom in the future, participatory activities should be organized in creative atmosphere and local wisdoms should be recorded and shared with other communities.
3) There is no “one size fits all” solution for all communities. Every place is unique in its own way. RID local staffs must understand physical condition and assess the needs of local people in order to “tailor-made” solution that truly fits the context of the community.