What is a Water Users Association?
A Water Users Association is a private entity, organised as a company, co-operative or friendly society established and managed by a group of farmers located among one or more watercourse.
The National Irrigation Commission Limited (NIC), which is responsible for the operation of irrigation systems, has been mandated by the Irrigation Act to provide licences to legally registered WUAs that demonstrate the ability to adequately manage some or all of their operations.
The NIC in ensuring legal status for the WUAs under its mandate, partnered with the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies (DCFS), the government agency responsible for the registration and regulation of all entities registered under the Friendly and Cooperative Societies Acts.
Purpose of Water Users Associations in Jamaica
In 1999 the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) in its Water Sector Policy highlighted several major objectives that would improve cost recovery by ensuring that direct beneficiaries of new and rehabilitated irrigation schemes would not only pay, but also actively participate in the management and distribution of irrigation water.
The government believed that these objectives would be best achieved through the delegation of responsibility for irrigation systems to Water Users Associations (WUAs), which comprise the farmers who benefit from the systems.
WUAs were seen as being pivotal to a process that will ensure greater rate of cost recovery, lessen the burden on the central government and promote the sustainability of irrigated agriculture through decentralized self-governance as far as is possible and practical.
Where do WUAs exist?
In July 2007, the DCFS registered all six (6) irrigation pilot projects under the National Irrigation Development Programme as legal entities under the Friendly Societies Act. They are:
- Little Park/Beacon Irrigation Specially Authorized Society – St. Elizabeth;
- Seven Rivers Irrigation Specially Authorized Society – St. James;
- Hounslow Irrigation Specially Authorized Society – St. Elizabeth;
- Yallahs Irrigation Specially Authorized Society – St. Thomas;
- New Forest/Duff House and Its Environs Irrigation Specially Authorized Society – Manchester; and
- Colbeck Water Users Association Irrigation Specially Authorized Society – St. Catherine.
Objectives, Roles and Responsibilities of Water Users Associations
The Water Users Associations through partnership with the NIC are engaged in numerous activities to meet the needs of their respective members and key stakeholders. This includes inter alia:
- Administering any project for the proper distribution of irrigation water on behalf of its members.
- Entering into agreements or contracts with members and other persons or groups of persons whether bodies corporate or not in executing any irrigation or other projects.
- Initiating, developing and encouraging better and more economical methods of production, processing and marketing of members products.
- Managing the affairs of the WUAs in accordance with their respective rules.
- Implementing steps required to generate funds for micro projects, cropping mix as well as on-farm irrigation equipment.
- Acquiring, using and maintaining technical equipment.
- Taking necessary actions to prevent water and soil pollution.
- Facilitating the provision of technical assistance to members.
- Developing ad hoc committees to identify and develop policies and programmes to satisfy training and other resource needs.
- Acquiring by lease, purchase, donation or otherwise any land and its appurtenances for farming inclusive of road, irrigation, soil conservation, river and well training, tank and dam building (storage).
- Entering into agreements with any authorities, governmental, municipal, local or otherwise, that may seem conducive to the attainment of the Society’s objectives; and obtain from any such authority any rights, privileges and concessions which the Society may have the capacity to receive and may think desirable to obtain and carry out.
- Collaborating with the NIC and other stakeholders on the agreed method of irrigation management transfer.
- Making initial application and meeting the necessary conditions to satisfy the operating license to be issued by the NIC (when so determined).
- Supplying timely information to members and stakeholders upon request.
Water Users Associations and Agro Parks
Three WUAs have been participating in the government’s Agro Park initiative. These are:
- Yallahs Irrigation Specially Authorized Society – planting onions
- New Forest/Duff House and Its Environs Irrigation Specially Authorized Society- planting pineapples, sweet potatoes and vegetables
- Seven Rivers Irrigation Specially Authorized Society – slated to plant bananas