Valuing soft components in agricultural water management interventions in meso-scale watersheds: A review and synthesis

Jennie Barron
Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York, UK; and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden; jennie.barron@sei.se
Stacey Noel
Stockholm Environment Institute, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; stacey.noel@sei.se

ABSTRACT: Meso-scale watershed management (1-10,000 km2) is receiving growing attention as the spatial scale where policy in integrated water resource management (IWRM) goes into operational mode. This is also where aggregated field-level agricultural water management (AWM) interventions may result in externalities. But there is little synthesised 'lessons learned' on the costs and benefits of interventions at this scale. Here we synthesise selected cases and meta-analyses on the investment cost in 'soft components' accompanying AWM interventions. The focus is on meso-scale watersheds in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. We found very few cases with benefit-to-cost evaluation at full project level, or separate costing of hard and soft components. The synthesis suggests higher development success rates in communities with an initial level of social capital, where projects were implemented with cost- and knowledge-sharing between involved stakeholders, and where one or more 'agents of change' were present to facilitate leadership and communications. There is a need to monitor and evaluate both the external and the internal gains and losses in a more systematic manner to help development agents and other investors to ensure wiser and more effective investments in AWM interventions and watershed management.