Stakeholder Forum of the Sub-sector Working Group on Irrigation. 20 March 2024, Vientiane, Laos PDR

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Water management is still key in the setting where water resources are abundant, like Laos.

Water management for irrigated agriculture was discussed to enhance irrigation efficiencies in the first stakeholder forum of the year 2024 on 20 March 2024 in Vientiane Capital, Laos. The results of the irrigation sub-sector review conducted in 2018/19, was used as inputs for the discussion, in addition the Irrigation Development Plan from 2024-2025 and Vision to 2030 of the Department of Irrigation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Stakeholder discussion at Stakeholder Forum of the Sub-sector Working Group on Irrigation. 20 March 2024, Vientiane, Laos PDR

One of the key challenges associated with efficiency in irrigation utilization included demotivation of rice farmers to utilize irrigated water for rice cultivation during the dry season due to high cost of electricity for water pumping and low price of paddy. This emergent challenge affected overall contribution of irrigation to intensify agricultural practice in Laos.

Another nascent phenomenon was part of urbane expansion causing converting agricultural/irrigated land into other land types, i.e. constructions. The issue seems not to be new in other urban development settings. The national research team of CGIAR Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS) also learned a concern on underlying effects may incurred on food production, from their key information interviews prior to the event.

Group photo – Stakeholder Forum of the Sub-sector Working Group on Irrigation. 20 March 2024, Vientiane, Laos PDR

A low capacity of relevant public agencies to maintain functionalization of irrigation schemes and strengthen farmer organizations to take a lead in managing and maintaining irrigation schemes was a common development challenge and needed to be comprehensively addressed. This chronic matter affected the intensification practice and the efficient utilization of irrigation.

Key recommendations to cope with these challenges were as follows:

  • Capacity building – strengthen operation and maintenance of public agencies as well as adequate deployment of local officials with irrigation professions to in-charge existing irrigation projects. The capacity building should be expanded to water use groups and other farmer organizations.
  • Cross-sectoral cooperation in a broader integrate water resource management – enhance efficiency in irrigation utilization for different agricultural crops, fisheries and livestock and water management for irrigation and water use for other economic activities, i.e. hydropower among relevant ministries (MAF, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Energy and Mines).
  • Sources of financial support and incentives – these were recommended as food-for-thoughts to establish funds for operation and maintenance of irrigation facilities and government subsidy for associated energy cost of irrigation operation.

More details of the stakeholder forum are available at and relevant podcast on NPS’ study findings


Souphalack Inphonephong, National Researcher – Social-Political Scientist • Water Governance and Political Economy (WGPE), IWMI

Mark Dubois, IWMI Representative and CGIAR Water Systems Lead – Laos • Sustainable Water infrastructure & Ecosystems (SWIE), IWMI

This work is part of the CGIAR Research Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS). CGIAR launched NPS with national and international partners to build policy coherence, respond to policy demands and crises, and integrate policy tools at national and subnational levels in countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. CGIAR centers participating in NPS are The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Alliance Bioversity-CIAT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Potato Center (CIP), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and WorldFish. We would like to thank all funders who supported this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund 

Photo Credit:  IWMI Laos

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