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Japan – South-South Networking around Paddy Fields


International Network for Water and Ecosystem in Paddy Fields (INWEPF) Country (ies): Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam


A South-South Network to improve policies and practices related to paddy (rice) agricultural systems in Monsoon Asia. INWEPF holds annual general meetings and more frequent meetings of the three working groups focusing on (1) technical issues, (2) policy and awareness, and (3) development cooperation, plus a regular e-newlsetter and occasional


INWEPF grew out of an initiative of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and Food and Agriculture of United Nation (FAO) to present a message about the multifunctional roles of paddy agriculture, at the 2003 World Water Forum in Kyoto. MAFF, The Japanese Institute of Irrigation and Drainage (JIID) and other related organizations organized a pre-symposium conference on this topic in 2002, and invited representatives from paddy-growing countries in the region and international organizations. Many of these same participants convened again at the World Water Forum in 2003, when the idea of a South-South network was introduced. The network approach was enthusiastically embraced by the country representatives, and MAFF followed up with a meeting in November 2004 to formally establish INWEPF whose purposes was to promote better management of water for paddy fields in order to further the objectives of (1) food security and poverty alleviation, (2) sustainable water use and (3) international cooperation. The modality of action was "to provide a forum to realize the three challenges by promoting dialogue, exchanging knowledge and experiences, creating synergy among existing forums and strengthening capacity building in agricultural water management in paddy fields" [from INWEPF brochure].


INWEPF was initially run through a secretariat within MAFF. The inaugural session establishing the organization was held in Tokyo, and financial arrangements for the international participants (about 12 countries in South and Southeast Asia) were paid by MAFF. This meeting served as the prototype for future meetings by devoting one full day to thematic papers and country reports, and then another full day for administrative reports (strategic planning, and business matters). The second annual INWEPF meeting was hosted by Korea and followed a similar format. Participants came from about 15 countries, all within South/SE Asia plus Egypt (where rice is an important crop) and from several international organizations, such as FAO, ICID and IWMI. An innovative feature of the 2005 meeting was holding a "Virtual Meeting" two months prior, consisting of a moderated discussion via internet. MAFF arranged for the technological logistics and hired a consultant (David Groenfeldt, the author of this case study) to chair the virtual meeting, which continued for a period of 3 weeks. [A report of the 2007 Virtual meeting is included as a file attachment, to give an idea of what this entailed.]

The discussion issues for the 2005 Virtual Meeting were the following
(1) What services does paddy agricultural contribute to the larger economy, to society, and to the environment?
(2) How can agriculture provide the greatest overall value to society, and in particular to the goals of poverty alleviation and food security?
(3) What governance arrangements can provide the greatest overall value to society, both in terms of water use efficiency and enhancing social capital?
(4)What policies are needed to support the multiple roles of agriculture? and

(5) What is our vision of agriculture for the future? What kind of agriculture would we like to see, and why?

The Third INWEF annual meeting was hosted by Malaysia in September 2006, and was preceded by Virtual Meeting focusing on "poverty alleviation and food security" again posing a set of specific questions aimed at stimulating on-line discussion (see Outcomes section for analysis of how this worked). The 2007 INWEPF meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand, and did not entail a Virtual Meeting. Later in 2007 a special meeting of INWEPF was held in Oita, Japan, to coincide with the first Asia-Pacific Water Summit. One of the important themes of the summit is "Water for environment". In respect of this larger theme, the INWEPF meeting topic (as well as the topic of the preceding Virtual Meeting) was "environmental flows" and ecosystem services of paddy fields. The 2008 annual meeting was held in Bali, Indonesia and did not involve a Virtual meeting. The 2009 meeting was back in Tokyo and also did not involve a Virtual meeting. In addition to the annual meetings, INWEPF organized sessions at the World Water Forums in Mexico (March 2006) and Istanbul, Turkey (March 2009), at the FAO conference on "Water for Food and Ecosystems" held at The Hague in 2005, and a regional conference on rice held in Kyoto that same year. In addition to these meetings and conferences, some of the three working groups held small meetings of their members to discuss their particular themes. Most importantly, in terms of keeping the Network functioning, have been regular e-newsletters sent out from the Japanese Secretariat, which have maintained a sense of belonging to this far-flung network.


The achievements of INWEPF have been to raise the profile of paddy agriculture as a center-piece of national rural development strategies in both developing and developed countries of the region. At a time when agriculture was regarded as a straightforward policy issue of focusing on higher levels of production and greater economic efficiencies, the INWEPF network called attention to the important environmental, social, and also economic linkages that need to be included in development planning and policies. One of the unique strengths of INWEPF has been that the member countries, including Japan, share a common interest to integrate paddy agriculture into sustainable rural development. All the member countries are concerned about the continued vitality of their rural areas, in addition to food production. It is this "multifunctional" perspective to agriculture that provides all the members with common interests, even while their national economies are dramatically different (e.g., Japan vs Myanmar). Another factor in the smooth running of INWEPF, but which has also limited its impact, is the narrow set of professional disciplines represented within the membership. The dominant discipline is agricultural engineering, with some pure engineers and some pure agronomists. There are a very few economists, and no other social scientists, much less humanists. A broader mix of professional expertise and types of organizational representation (beyond Agriculture Departments) would result in more interest in the social and cultural dimensions of agriculture, as is the case in European policy discussions about agricultural policies and the concepts of multifunctionality. However, given the very conservative nature of agricultural agencies in Asia, INWEPF provides a very useful reminder to policy-makers that paddy agriculture is closely embedded with culture and society. These dynamics, once viewed as constraints to industrial-style agricultural development, are increasingly appreciated by national development planners who are seeking solutions to the challenges of increasing agricultural productivity without sacrificing the cultural identity of the rural producers who are vital to sustainable nation-building. Where INWEPF can constructively evolve is to build links with other regions (e.g., Europe and Latin America) where similar concerns are being addressed in somewhat different ways. The biggest impact so far, and where INWEPF can make even greater progress in the near future, is in shifting the perceptions of traditional agriculture from being seen as a problem, to being viewed as a set of lessons and solutions.

Aid Effectiveness

The principles embodied by INWEPF of ecosystem services within paddy agriculture (and by implication other forms of agriculture also) have yet to be embraced by development programs. The basic ecosystem services of sustainable agriculture are acknowledged, but there is yet more relevance that can be gleaned from the experience and knowledge shared by INWEPF members, which could be better incorporated into development aid projects.

Capacity Development

The entire INWEPF program is a type of capacity development by sharing information and experience in a systematic way, among members who are in positions of practical authority to act on the information they share. Part of the effectiveness of the capacity building is that each member is both a student and a teacher through the process of information sharing.


INWEPF was established formally in November 2004 and intends to continue into the forseeable future.

Budget (Optional)

NWEPF does not collect membership fees or other types of fee from members. INWEPF activities of each member are implemented and funded by the member organizations. Some members, especially the host countries of INWEPF annual meetings, allocate a budget specifically for INWEPF activities. Because INWEPF doesn't have a dedicated secretariat, however, the total budget of INWEPF-related activities is not accounted. In the case of Japan, the budget is 8,600 thousands Japanese Yen (equivalent to US$ 95,000). This is used for the activities of INWEPF Japanese committee and financial assistance to some members to participate in INWEPF meetings.

File (Optional)

INWEP Leaflet.pdf

Name of Primary Contact Person

Mr. Yasuhisa KAYAMA; Mr. David GROENFELDT, PhD (INWEPF Consultant); INWEPF Japanese Secretariat

Title of Primary Contact Person

The Japanese Institute of Irrigation and Drainage; Director Water and Culture Institute; Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries


Santa Fe, New Mexico