Institutional and Social Innovations in Irrigation Mediterranean Management
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Background information Objective Goals Development and science Implementation

Background information

The aim of the ISIIMM project is to share experiences, knowledge and build new perspectives for sustainable water management in Mediterranean agriculture systems. We propose to work on 12 specific well documented case studies inside river basins in 6 different Mediterranean countries, involving local partners, water users, citizens, development agents, researchers, teachers and administrations in building new visions and agreements for the sustainable management of water resources. With a primary objective to help local rural communities adapt to the emerging problems resulting from pressures on the water supply, two priorities will guide programmed activities: working with local irrigation organisations and working with the professionals of development. ISIIMM project is part of the European MEDA programme born as result of the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Local Water Management, Turin, 18-19 October 1999.

Background information

Overall objective

Overcoming current contradictions associated with local water management in Mediterranean catchment areas through innovative institutional solutions, based on common understanding of six key mechanisms: ... download project synopsis


Essential to an understanding of irrigation techniques developed in the framework of social systems that are characterised by alliance or competition.

The three main forms of local management - administrative, community-based and industrial - reflect the diversity of competing interests for water that need to be reconciled

(Photo : Mohamed Nawar - national coordinator Egypt)

Describes how the other mechanisms have developed through cycles of activity, (mis-)management and crisis, reestablishment, rehabilitation and reorganisation.
(Photo : Michel Soulié - project head, coordination unit - Spain, Grenade, ancient Noria jardin Alcazar - august 2002)

Land use patterns result from the interplay of multiple factors and are in constant evolution to provide rural populations with their livelihood. Water needs and uses evolve in tandem with them.
(Photo : Mohamed Nawar - national coordinator Egypt, Menya basin, pumping from canal to an irrigation canal 24 august 2003)

A reading of the landscape allows us to understand how irrigation and drainage systems form a network whose meaning is not only technical and hydraulic but also social and political.

Hydrological / hydraulic
Water scenarios need to be adapted to different situations, especially where reliable information, including the evaluation of water scarcity and abundance (the frequency of droughts and floods), is lacking.
(Photo : Michel Soulié - project head, coordination unit - Egypt, Behera, secondary canal and pumping - may 2003)

Therefore, a comparative, progressive and participatory approach will be driven between different actors coming from the selected cases studies in Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Italy, France, and Spain where water is a central topic issue to social and economic life.

The ambitious and challenging purposes of the ISIIMM project will be built upon a framework of regional network co-operation systems, using five main languages: Arabic, English. French, Italian and Spanish. Many multi-national and multi-sectoral teams will work together with the support and organisational efforts of project partners and under the overall co-ordination of Agropolis.

In order to capitalise and disseminate ISIIMM results, an information system will be at the centre of all project activities: OSIRIS (Organisation System for Information and Research on Irrigation and Societies). Comparative studies and comprehensive approaches to the diversity of co-ordination between institutions will be integrated within OSIRIS for future use in institutional innovations.


Target groups
  • Public authorities and rural municipalities,
  • River-basin authorities,
  • Water users organisations (WUOs)
  • Environment and development NGOs,
  • Local and regional development organisations
Main activities
  • Facilitating the coordination between water managers and other actors in each river-basin
  • Strengthening institutional capacities and training in irrigation water management,
  • Promoting a better understanding of the key mechanisms through project partners networks,
  • Identifying solutions to problems of water conflict,
  • Organising the information on Irrigation Societies (OSIRIS) that will underpin the different dimensions of ISIIMM
  • Exchange of information and transfer of know-how

Principal outputs
  • Building a common knowledge and comprehension of Social and institutional irrigation management and creating adapted institutional tools,
  • New perspectives for irrigation development policies and for innovation at local level through guidelines and documents that synthesize the 12 ISIIMM river-basin cases
  • Creating OSIRIS and communication productsTraining and dissemination through website and distance learning

Development and scientific partnership

ISIIMM is founded upon strong associations between its development partners who work with local users' associations and its scientific partners who work on collective water management issues. These partners in France, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon and Palestine (if possible) will exchange experience and knowledge about institutions, organisations and the rules for water use that are applied at three levels: national frameworks, regional basin situations, and specific river basins that will be developed as case studies. Exchanges of experience and knowledge are organised through multiple training workshops. These events will be organised on site in the project's 12 case studies to provide first hand interactions with management dilemmas. A powerful tool, OSIRIS, will allow all Mediterranean stakeholders concerned with water management to access to information and distance learning. The co-ordinating partner, Agropolis is an association in charge of building linkages between research and development especially in the Euro-Mediterranean perspective.


The implementation of ISIIMM activities is organised into three main phases (see figure B of summary).
Phase 1 (months 1-12) focuses on the collection and organisation of Knowledge relevant to each of the case studies. This is achieved through the involvement of stakeholders beginning with a preliminary stakeholders meeting and culminating with a local seminar to present findings.
Phase 2 (months 13-36) focuses on Mutual Learning activities whereby groups made up of stakeholders and scientific experts from the six participant countries engage in week-long workshops that are held in the case study areas. The workshops are organised on a thematic basis and conducted in rotation so that participants will have the opportunity to work with people from different nationalities and from different professional backgrounds. Local 12 studies progress from diagnosis to action. OSIRIS is built and allows access to knowledge and formation. Movies are prepared.
Phase 3 (months 37-48) focuses on the Dissemination of the knowledge, opportunities and new perspectives that have developed through the collaborative activities in phase 2. Books, guides, movies, and OSIRIS become permanent tools.

EURO-MEDITERRANEAN Regional Programme for Local Water Management
ME8/AIDCO/2001/0515/59763-P 016
Agropolis, France