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Algerian Irrigation in Transition; Effects on Irrigation Profitability in Irrigation Schemes: The Case of the East Mitidja Scheme

Authors: K. Laoubi, M. Yamao


In Algeria, liberalization reforms undertaken since the 1990s have resulted in negative effects on the development and management of irrigation schemes, as well as on the conditions of farmers. Reforms have been undertaken to improve the performance of irrigation schemes, such as the national plan of agricultural development (PNDA) in 2000 and the water pricing policy of 2005. However, after implementation of these policies, questions have arisen with regard to irrigation performance and its suitability for agricultural development. Hence, the aim of this paper is to provide insight into the profitability of irrigation during the transition period under current irrigation agricultural policies in Algeria. By using the method of farm crop budget analysis in the East Mitidja irrigation scheme, the returns from using surface water resources based on farm typology were found to vary among crops and farmers- groups within the scheme. Irrigation under the current situation is profitable for all farmers, including both those who benefit from subsidies and those who do not. However, the returns to water were found to be very sensitive to crop price fluctuations, particularly for non-subsidized groups and less so for those whose farming is based on orchards. Moreover, the socio-economic environment of the farmers contributed to less significant impacts of the PNDA policy. In fact, the limiting factor is not only the water, but also the lack of land ownership title. Market access constraints led to less agricultural investment and therefore to low intensification and low water productivity. It is financially feasible to recover the annual O&M costs in the irrigation scheme. By comparing the irrigation water price, returns to water, and O&M costs of water delivery, it is clear that irrigation can be profitable in the future. However, water productivity must be improved by enhancing farmers- income through farming investment, improving assets access, and the allocation of activities and crops which bring high returns to water; this could allow the farmers to pay more for water and allow cost recovery for water systems.

Keywords: Irrigation schemes, agricultural irrigation policy, farm crop budget analysis, water productivity, Algeria.

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