Better crops with better irrigation: Boosting Agricultural Performance in the Peruvian Sierra
Challenge<br /> <br /> Although Peru had one of the best economic growth rates in Latin America, poverty in the Sierra was far above national averages, and considerably higher in rural areas, posing a challenge for the country’s economic sustainability. The 2002 Household Survey indicated that the incidence of poverty in the rural Sierra was about 75 percent (4.2 million people), with more than 40 percent of the population (2.3 million people) characterized as extremely poor.<br /> <br /> In 2010, the largest share of household income in the Sierra came from agriculture. About 400,000 hectares of agricultural land was irrigated, representing a third of the total irrigated area in the country. However, the sector faced many challenges. Irrigation systems, usually small, were supplied mostly from surface water sources and consisted of a network of open canals, generally unlined, with rudimentary water intakes and distribution systems. Irrigation systems generally did not include water regulation structures. Less than 5 percent of the irrigated area was equipped with improved on-farm irrigation systems, leading to low efficiencies at the farm level. Management of irrigation infrastructure was also weak. Because the government and donors had traditionally focused support on Peru’s coastal area, only a small number of water user organizations (WUOs) in the Sierra had received capacity building and infrastructure investments, and those investments had been very limited. In general, the Sierra WUOs were financially and technically weak, with low water tariffs and collection rates. Consequently, planning or daily management of water distribution and irrigation services were negligible or nonexistent. Poor maintenance contributed to the gradual degradation of the infrastructure and poor water delivery performance, thus limiting water quantity, frequency, and reliability at the field level.<br /> <br /> Problems of low quantity, uniformity, frequency, and reliability of irrigation delivery to crops thus often persisted, even in irrigated areas. Many areas of the Sierra, required improvements in irrigation infrastructure and management to increase the value of agricultural production and to foster production of higher-value crops for internal and export markets.