FWUCs Development in Cambodia

Together with water users, we invited monks and local authority to celebrate the inauguration

FWUC stands for Farmer Water User Community, a legal entity initiated and supported by the state to encourage farmers and agricultural water users to work collectively in order to operate and maintain the irrigation systems in Cambodia. An inventory done by CEDAC in 2009 found out that there are around 2,500 schemes exist in this country. Another survey done by JICA for Ministry of Water Resource and Metorology (MOWARAM) indicated that more than 2,400 irrigation systems are in place. So far, the numbers of the schemes varies from one institution to another, when asked. It is only estimation and some time, if there is only a main canal exists, it is reported as irrigation system as well. The government, with the support of many development partners and NGOS, tried to record it in the form of CISIS (Cambodia Information System on Irrigation Schemes). Till now, 1,200 schemes were recorded in CISIS. Efforts are going on to record the rests. According to H.E. Veng Sakhon, MOWRAM Secretary of State and based on the existing water resources, the potential irrigated area could be estimated at about 1,888,300 ha. The current state of irrigated area varies from 800,000 to 1 million ha.

MOWRAM was created in 1999. The legal framework to create and support FWUCs is as follows:

  • Circular # 1 and its Appendix on the statute of the FWUC, 1999, signed by the Prime Minister
  • Prakas 306, instructing the implementation of PIMD policy, 2000, MOWRAM
  • Policy for sustainability of operation and maintenance of irrigation systems, 2000, MOWRAM
  • Water law, 2007, signed by the King
  • Responsibility and role sharing between PDOWRAM and FWUCs, Decision letter, signed on July 5, 2012; by Minister Lim Kean Hor
  • FWUCs sub-decree (being discussed and drafted)

Water pumped from the river in the canal in Sdau Kaong irrigation scheme (Prey Veng province)

Based on the recent discussion with officials from the FWUC department in MOWRAM, 288 FWUCs in 21 provinces (out of 24) are currently registered at the national level. Some FWUCs are in the process of registration, plus locally registered FWUCs; it is estimated at about 500 FWUCs. The idea is still new. Many development partners such as NGOs and donors are spending lot of money to improve the irrigation sector in Cambodia. People start to understand more and become more involved in FWUCs organization and mobilization. MOWRAM has also developed training manuals to support this process. It is not difficult to create FWUCs, but it is a real challenge to make it works in a sustainable way with little or no support from the government/projects.

Irrigation schemes classification in the Cambodian context:

  • Less than 200 ha of command area: small scale
  • From 200 ha to less than 5,000 ha: medium scale
  • More than 5,000 ha: large scale

Scheme typology:

  • Reservoir with gravity and pumping
  • Reservoir with main canal, secondary canals, tertiary canals using gravity flow
  • Prek to harvest river water and out-pumping
  • Polder: drainage rain water and protect salty water to enter the rice fields
  • Pumping stations
  • In addition, small ponds and (tube) wells are playing important role in harvesting water for irrigation


  • Government and other stakeholders encouraged the implementation of this PIMD policy
  • Existing legal and policy framework
  • Availability of vast water resources
  • Support provided by other countries and development partners/NGOs
  • Support provided by local authorities
  • Farmer’s participation


  • Limited budget and technical support in O&M
  • Not complete schemes rehabilitation
  • Quality of rehabilitated irrigation schemes
  • Limited understanding and participation of farmers
  • Irrigation service fee collection
  • Incentives from rehabilitated schemes in term of increased rice cultivation and agricultural diversity
  • Little incentives for FWUC committee’s members

A happy woman stands next to her paddy bags after harvesting. Without irrigation, her fields could not be cultivated

However, it seems that there is no way out; if Cambodia wanted to increase cultural production to secure food supply for raising population and wanted to export one million tons of rice in 2015; all stakeholders muss joint hands to support FWUCs to become strong and equal partners in irrigation development and management. There are successful cases stories to be learnt from the region and from Cambodia as well. CEDAC has been involved in irrigation scheme development and management since 2000. Now, we have established Irrigation Service Center (ISC) and Farmer and Water Net (FWN) to work exclusively in irrigation issues and irrigated agriculture.

Finally, children are happy about the increased yield obtained after harvesting


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