Institutional Development

NIA's institutional development program (IDP) is based on Presidential Decree (PD) 552's mandate to delegate the partial or full management of national irrigation systems (NIS) to duly organized cooperatives or associations and centerson the organization and empowerment of farmer-beneficiaries. Farmers are organized into Irrigators Associations (IA) and strengthened through training activities to make them more effective partners of NIA in irrigation development and management. 

An IA is a non-sectarian, non-stock, and non-profit organization of farmer-beneficiaries. The formation of an IA starts from the identification and listing of the individual farm lots and the potential beneficiaries who are later on grouped according to hydrologic boundaries and layout of the water distribution system.


NIA's IDP started with PD 552's provision that farmer-beneficiaries must pay back the cost of construction or rehabilitation of their communal irrigation systems. Repayment could only be possible if farmers manage their systems well, collecting fees from themselves. Many of the communal associations were weak in the 1970s. In 1975, NIA contracted the Farm Systems Development Corporation to undertake the organization of communal associations while it would be responsible for the construction activities. Coordination problems between the two cropped up later. 

NIA started the Participatory Approach Program (PAP) in 1980, combining its technical and institutional aspects. Farmers are consulted and involved in project identification, investigation, evaluation and selection, pre-construction and construction, and eventually operation and maintenance (O&M) of communal systems. They are organized into IAs and trained to be self-reliant and self-governing partners from planning to management of the systems. The training activities include leadership, financial management and systems operation. It has been observed that communal systems built with the farmers participating in all phases of the systems' development are more functional. Irrigation systems constructed without consultation with and the participation of water-users were not as acceptable as those planned and constructed with their involvement.


The success of PAP in the communal systems led NIA to implement the Management Turnover Program (MTP) and, recently, the Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) Program in the NIS. Under both programs, NIA entrusts or passes on to farmers, through the IA, the responsibility of managing part or the whole system, retaining only O&M of major facilities. In the future, as farmers' capability is developed, IA will be commensurately entrusted bigger responsibilities. 

IMT refers to the transfer, wholly or partially, of the management, operation, and maintenance of NIS to IAs, depending on capacity of the IAs. It is provided in RA 3601 as amended, Magna Carta of Small Farmers (RA 7607), and Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (RA 8435). 

The IMT Program focuses on developing the technical and financial capabilities of IAs in handling substantial O&M responsibilities. It is carried out under a joint system management arrangement where NIA retains its responsibility in maintaining the main irrigation and drainage facilities while the IAs are responsible for the secondary facilities. NIA and the IAs share in the benefits and burden in the O&M of the systems. There are 4 IMT models. The NIA still manages the major facilities under Models 1, 2, and 3. The compensation of IAs under these Models is sourced from the ISF they collect. Under Model 4, the IAs manage the whole system.

  1. Model 1: IAs do canal maintenance and specific operation activities. NIA pays them P1,800 per 3.5 km of unlined canal or 7 km of lined canal for every clearing. Their share from ISF collection is commensurate with their collection efforts.
  2. Model 2: IAs manage the laterals, sub-laterals, and terminal facilities and undertake ISF collection. Their share from current account collection is negotiated with NIA based on the concept of fair sharing of burden and benefits.
  3. Model 3: IAs manage the rest of the system downstream of the specified junction (of the first lateral canal) and undertake also collection of ISF. Their share from current account collection is also negotiated with NIA based on the concept of fair sharing of burden and benefits.
  4. Model 4: IAs manage the entire system including the headworks and are responsible for all O&M activities including setting up its own ISF rates and improvement/modernization program for the system. They also pay NIA Technical Assistance Fee covering the cost of supervision, and capital investment on the repair and rehabilitation of the system. The manner of payment will be agreed between NIA and the IA.

There are some 6,330 organized IAs in NIS and CIS as of end 2009. Out of these, 6,010 IAs are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to afford them the legal rights to conduct business as a corporate entity. Around 5,490 IAs have O&M contracts with NIA: 2,060 IAs in NIS and 3,430 IAs in CIS.