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Title: Contexts, ideologies and practices of small-scale irrigation development in east India
Author: Hill, Joe
ISNI:       0000 0001 3578 3525
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2008
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The development of small-scale surface-water irrigation facilities in rainfed agricultural regions is a necessary but problematic task. Whilst some academic literature recognises that water control problems are the locally specific outcomes of social and political histories and processes, this is yet to be adequately comprehended and internalised in irrigation policy discourse and its manifestations in state and NGO intervention practices, which too often seek standardised and generally applicable solutions to such problems. This thesis, through a detailed study of smallscale surface-water irrigation systems - three recent NGO-led, state-sanctioned lift irrigation interventions and four indigenous storage works - and historical and present-day social relations amongst three adivasi (tribal) communities in south-east Jharkhand State, examines this insight and its significance for policy. Present-day international irrigation policy discourse has shifted since the 1980s and 1990s from one which recognised the necessity of group-based small-scale irrigation development and thus sought to provide support to the resource poor, towards one which promotes smaller, noncommunal technologies, expects greater financial contributions from farmers, and thus implicitly favours relatively wealthier farmers. This ideological policy shift, promoted internationally and nationally under neo-liberalism, is legitimised by the perceived poor outcomes of irrigation development investments. In Jharkhand, blame is placed upon water-users whose organisation for irrigation system management is often lacking, yet such outcomes have been aided by the state - which has in innumerable ways failed to support farmers, and by NGOs' inability to monitor and self-critically analyse their own interventions. This thesis, by conceptualising irrigation and society as mutually constitutive rather than autonomous, demonstrates the potential viability of small-scale irrigation technologies and argues for the development of irrigation centred upon improving irrigation water access and system management for the resource poor majority, not just a minority. This thesis takes an anthropological and sociological approach to the study of irrigation and society, which provides balance to the otherwise dominant technocratic engineering and common property resources and new institutional economics approaches in contemporary irrigation management thinking. Emphasis is placed on the historical processes that determine irrigation resource access and rights, and on the formal and informal rules that create and reinforce unequal access to irrigation systems. Methodologically it favours a sociological-historical method; research was conducted combining ethnographic methods with physical field measurements and archival research. The sociotechnical approach to irrigation, utilised by Boelens and Mollinga, places centrally the concepts of control and power, allowing an exploration of the political dimensions of water control - normative (discourse), technical (infrastructure), organisational (management), socio-legal and socio-economic (access), whilst allowing consideration of irrigation systems' social dimensions - as social constructions, having social requirements for use, and having social effects. Such a perspective indicates the necessity of inclusive, group-based irrigation development interventions, focussed on communities in their entirety, integrating with their socio-productive systems, and striving for equitable outcomes. In the medium and long term this may aid system sustainability thus increasing total food production.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available