A framework for sustainable and inclusive irrigation development in Western Nepal
Growing water risks threaten to severely derail Nepal’s agricultural development ambitions, requiring substantial investments in better water resources management to meet food security targets, strengthen resilience, and encourage inclusive and private sector-driven growth in agriculture to support Nepal’s transition to middleincome status by 2030. Currently, irrigation development in Nepal focuses primarily on large-scale infrastructure, with insufficient data resources to support more adaptative and targeted coordination across sectors and stakeholders. As a result, irrigation development remains expensive and with limited reach relative to the country’s needs, while missing opportunities to leverage the private sector, civil society, women and youth. In response, building climate resilience and boosting agricultural productivity will require more adaptive and inclusive water management approaches. This report outlines three interlinked investment priorities informed by extensive country experience and more than one year of research. The three identified investment priorities are summarized as follows: 1. Ensure adaptive technology prioritization and water management practices which respond to local resource constraints and equity considerations. 2. Build robust data and information systems to allow adaptive planning, prepare for climate change impacts, and support digital agriculture and targeted farm advisories. 3. Expand and upgrade irrigation and agricultural value chains to ensure access to water, returns on investments, and the creation of better, more inclusive jobs. Investments in these interlinked areas are expected to contribute to inclusive and sustainable irrigation development in Nepal which fosters resilient and equitable food system transformation. Subsequently, farmers may gain assured access to irrigation, with incentives in place to keep consumptive water use within an ecologically safe and socially just operating space. As a result, more resilient and higher agricultural production and farm incomes can be achieved, while safeguarding the rights of other water users and encouraging biodiversity conservation in neighboring ecosystems.