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Toward better institutional setup in spate irrigation system: the case study of Yandafero-Konso lowland spate irrigation system, Ethiopia

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The Yandafero spate irrigation system, both traditional and modern, has experienced community floodwater management for the last 25 years. However, most of the intakes were severely damaged by high flood. The weak relationship between governmental organization and water users, absence of policy and institutional structure for operation and maintenance, result conflicts on water sharing at upstream and downstream, then lead to collapse or dysfunctional of scheme. Hence, the study was conducted to evaluate the existing performance of institutional setup concerning operation and maintenance, water sharing and conflict management, provision of self-finance and performance impacts on agricultural productivity and recommendation that build strengths and address limitations of current institutions for better spate flow management in Yandafero-Konso lowland. Primary data including socio-economic data like household income were collected through a household survey and questionnaires. Interview, focus group discussion and field visit were employed to understand operational and maintenance activities. Grey literature and documents were also used to realize the general description and role of organizations in Yandafero spate system. Then five principals: right to organize, operation and maintenance of infrastructure, water sharing dynamics, conflict resolution mechanism and facilities for self-finance were developed to evaluate the existing institutional arrangement. As the study showed that farmers were organized under formal and informal Irrigation Water User Cooperative (IWUC), out of the nine proposed IWUCs, only three of them got the right to be organized with clearly stated (written) responsibilities. Oneya and Potota sub-schemes were with poor status of diversion weir such as damaging of headwork, barred gate, malfunction of flood flash that results in high accumulation of sediment on the weir. Though water rights and distribution rule were similarly established among three schemes, their performance was varying. In Potota sub-scheme, negligence of enforcement of water distribution regulation and codification was experienced compared to Oneya (56.7%) and Tarakoma (43.3%). There was good performance of IWUC at Oneya and Tarakoma sub-schemes regarding the construction irrigation canals and ensuring equal floodwater distribution. Conflict resolution mechanism was established only at Oneya and Tarakoma sub-schemes. Farmers practiced credit and loan facilities for self-finance through formal cooperative mechanisms. In Potota sub-scheme, the average annual production before and after the improvement of diversion weir was the same (< 1000 kg per annual), whereas dramatic increment was witnessed at Oneya and Tarakoma (> 4000 kg per annual).

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(source: survey, 2013)

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Source: EECMY/SWS summary annual report, 2012


  1. 1.

    Jarso Peasant Association (JPA) is the same as Jarso Kebele.

  2. 2.

    About the size of the sample (10%), the confidence interval adopted from sample size calculator is relatively small. http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm. Accessed 24 Nov 2013.

  3. 3.

    It is according to Galunde Waketa (2009) presented in his thesis work.


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My special thanks goes to the Spate Irrigation Network and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for funding the study.

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Correspondence to Tolossa Lemma Tola.

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Tola, T.L., Haile, A.M. Toward better institutional setup in spate irrigation system: the case study of Yandafero-Konso lowland spate irrigation system, Ethiopia. Sustain. Water Resour. Manag. 6, 15 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40899-020-00359-x

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  • Spate irrigation
  • Institutional arrangement
  • Operation and maintenance
  • Water right and distribution rule
  • Conflict resolution