MUS in Mekong Basin

MUS in Mekong Basin

TitleMUS in Mekong Basin
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of PublicationSubmitted

The MUS activities in the Mekong basin are mainly carried out in partnership with the Local Wisdom Networks. The MUS project in northeast Thailand builds upon their experiences in the rainfed zone of drought prone areas. The project does its research through learning alliance development for multiple uses of water, linking up with the formal government offices and national development plans for multiple water use system aimed at achieving economic sufficiency- that links to both livelihood and ecosystem development.

Within the national development paradigm for achieving economic sufficiency, the development plans are now being up-scaled to cover the entire Mekong The development plans include- both site specific technologies and knowledge sharing through learning alliances. The implementation includes application of participatory action research methodologies for effective engagement of stakeholders in the research process. This ensures sustainability of multiple water use activities beyond the project life, not only in the Mekong basin but also nearby basins. Plans will be gradually developed to upscale the results of MUS to other countries, such as Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Full Text

Northeast of Thailand is one of main sub-regions of the lower Mekong basin. The rainfalls are moderately low to very low, from 900 mm to 1600 mm annually. Due to the generally flat landscape, capacity of the land to keep water naturally is low only along water ways and depression areas. These water resources were the main natural water resources for the past prior National Development Plans 1-9 from 1961 to present. During the early phase of development, massive forest encroachment for upland crop production has severely degraded natural water resources, on top of land and natural foods. Land carrying capacity was eventually declined and initiated migration of the rural people to the cities. The migration has been coincided with industrial development. However, livelihoods as labors in the cities even further degraded due to family separation.

In the development there were numbers of water resource development but due to low rainfalls and flat landscape, available water resource for irrigation is only around 5% of agricultural lands, and limited to some locations with relatively undulating terrains. On the other hand, general sandy soils with less than 10% clay contents did not allow sufficient water storage in the soil profiles. Moreover underlying rock salt in most part of the region even further limits the use of ground water due to salinity problems. As a result, main strategy for water use of most farmers is to rely on harvesting of rain water for MUS with various strategies.

With desperation of living constraints in rural and subsequently cities, around 30 years ago some farmers have initiated self-reliant systems for primarily household sufficiency on water resource and foods. The most primary strategies were water resource management of effective rain water harvesting by diversion of runoff to farm ponds. The water has been used for multiple uses for both home-uses and production system. In some cases, small shallow wells could be dug close to main water resource for cleaner drinking and home-use. However, in later stages with corrugated iron roofing, drinking water is usually directly collected from roof gutters and kept in jars. Water in farm ponds has been primarily uses for fishery, vegetables, poultry, piggery, cattle, and home industries. In some years if the collected water were sufficient, it may be applied to rice nurseries or even paddy fields during dry spells. With the sufficiency system, simultaneously they could also develop add-on cash generations and self support retirement plans.

As successful examples, around 15 years ago non-government organizations such as World Vision, Population and Community Development Organization, etc. have further supported development and networking of leading farmers for further knowledge development and networking. The support has further strengthened knowledge development and sharing. With the realistic successes at both household and community levels, gradually, farmer leaders were invited to be advisers to government development plans at various hierarchies. The leaders activities have further attracted government development funds to support farmer networks at various aspects, from health to agriculture and environment. As a result, national development plans have been transformed towards bottom up and participatory approaches with various degrees of success. Currently, both government and non-government organizations have joined to work with local organizations for more effective development programs. At the same times, farmer leaders have become involved with most of development plans from social, agriculture, natural resource through environment issues. However, constraints of the development are still on development alternatives of limited water resources at household and farm scales.

With the new policy of Governor CEO strategies, water resource management is a high priority program that still needs technical supports from research at household scale. The constraints have derived from conventional large scale irrigation system that hardly reached poor families. Despite a numbers of small scale irrigation projects; the scale is somewhat square kilometers that hardly reach the poor households. Therefore, participatory technology development at household and farm scale could be potential activities for development of the water resource management systems. The learning alliance approach would be also examples for the rest of Mekong basin for sustainable water resource management plans, such as Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.