Last week, during the 8th Asian Regional Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal, I had the pleasure of speaking at this three-day international event. The conference focused on the theme of “Irrigation in Support of Evergreen Revolution”. The event was held at the Yak and Yeti hotel during 2-4, May 2018.
The conference was inaugurated by the President of Nepal, the Honorable Bidhya Devi Bhandari, and attended by more than 400 participants including government officials, water/irrigation development professionals, scientists, water/climate researchers, and private sector leaders from 30 countries. During this mega event, 71 papers were presented along with 7 plenary sessions concerning a variety of topics including modernization of irrigation systems, irrigation ecosystem services, aquatic biodiversity, sustainable irrigation, challenges to irrigation institutions, climate change and adaptation to floods/draughts, and interbasin water transfers.
I presented the paper entitled “Rural Water Systems (RWS) for Smallholder Farmers in the Hills of Nepal – An Unrecognized Irrigation Service” in the Technical Session-3. This session, titled “Enabling smallholder’s capacity to obviate farmer’s distress,” was facilitated by Dr. Alian Nicol, Principal Researcher, IWMI. My paper highlighted how Rural Water Systems (RWS), even if planned, designed and managed for single-use domestic systems, are helping smallholder farmers to irrigate their small plots of Bari lands (lands close to home) and earn a fair income. However, this income can be increased significantly if the systems are designed and implemented as multiple-use water systems (MUS). The paper recommended that government policy formally recognize RWS’ for its positive impact on agriculture. Three additional papers presented during the Session focused on: I) water use for dry season agriculture by marginal and tenant farmers, II) micro-irrigation technologies for small growers, and III) gender differences in water security. Two key messages from the session: I) water needs of small growers (including women’s need) for productive activities should be carefully assessed while planning a water system, and II) it is important to motivate small growers into commercial farming while providing adaptive water, agricultural technologies and access to markets.
It was fascinating to learn of Asian efforts to modernize irrigation technologies and practices that are designed to increase agricultural production and water productivity while making efficient use of available resources. The conference urged concerned stakeholders to be prepared and equipped with adequate resources, appropriate technologies and institutions to produce more food with less water, land and chemicals in the face of increased water stress and climate change. I feel that the conference was quite relevant for Nepal and its efforts to increase agriculture production and productivity and to realize its objective of achieving sustained economic development.
On May 4th, Minister of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Barsa Man Pun concluded the program with closing remarks. He stressed the need for the modernization of irrigation systems and for the commercialization of agriculture.
I learned a great deal from the informative sessions and felt honored to be part of this great conference. The entire conference was an excellent opportunity to network with water professionals, researchers and scientists and to share my research at Virginia Tech.
 RWS is defined to include single-use domestic water systems (SUS) and multiple-use water systems (MUS)