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    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

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Record number 327831
Title Irrigation Practices, State Intervention and Farmers' Life- Worlds in Drought-Prone Tigray, Ethiopia
Author(s) Teshome, W.
Source Wageningen University. Promotor(en): N.E. Long; Linden Vincent. - Wageningen : Wageningen - ISBN 9789058089458 - 230
Department(s) Rural Development Sociology
Irrigation and Water Engineering
Publication type Dissertation, internally prepared
Publication year 2003
Keyword(s) ontwikkelingsstudies - rurale sociologie - overheidsbeleid - landbouwbeleid - agrarische planning - irrigatiesystemen - landbouwhuishoudens - Ethiopië - verhoudingen tussen bevolking en staat - voedselzekerheid - development studies - rural sociology - government policy - agricultural policy - agricultural planning - irrigation systems - agricultural households - Ethiopia - relations between people and state - food security
Categories Development Studies (General) / Irrigation
Abstract This study examines irrigation practices, state intervention and the responses of farmers in theTigrayregion ofEthiopia. Although governments have been involved in the construction of irrigation infrastructures since the mid-1980s to mitigate drought and famine in many parts ofEthiopia, the responses of irrigators to such interventions have never been studied. The main concern of this study therefore is to document how irrigation intervention interfaces with the life-worlds of small-scale irrigators.

Two theoretical perspectives are combined: asociotechnicalapproach to irrigation and an actor-oriented analysis of the dynamics of state intervention. The former helps to explore irrigation management practices and the social effects of the technology used. Irrigation constitutes an arena of struggle where social actors negotiate and make decisions about technology and water management. The latter perspective focuses on the confrontations and interpretations of intervention as defined by the different actors and their contrasting life-worlds. A case study method is employed to investigateHewaneand Gum Selassa irrigation systems located in the drought-prone region ofTigray. The methodology used is largely ethnographic, that is it is concerned with understanding the social lives of local people and discovering how they construct meanings and livelihood practices in the natural, economic and socio-political settings in which they are located.

The thesis consists of eight chapters. The first outlines the conceptual and theoretical approaches used and lays out the main research questions that guide the study and its methodological considerations. Chapter 2 provides an account of the context of the research and an overview of agrarian policies and conditions, drought and famine situations, and irrigation development and technology choices. A brief historical account shows that none of the various government policies pursued over the previous thirty years has enabledEthiopiato feed its people adequately. In drought-prone regions likeTigray, food-for-work and labor mobilizations for the construction of infrastructure such as roads and dams have been a regular and essential part of farmers' life-worlds since farm production has often failed to meet family needs. In these circumstances, government and international development bodies have looked to irrigation as a solution to the conditions of drought and famine.

Chapter 3 describes irrigation management practices and the struggle to preserve irrigated areas threatened by soil erosion inHewane. The management of irrigation schemes under contrasting state regimes inEthiopiahas been the responsibility of government bureaucracies, not irrigators' organizations .It has fallen, that is, to officials of thetabia (local) administration and the Agriculture Department to manage water allocation and resolve any disputes that might arise. The control of access to river water has likewise been administered. In short, water access, allocation and scheduling are dictated by government policies aimed at achieving 'food security' through irrigated agriculture at household level. Classifying plots intohayfoandmesnois the criterion used for allocating water inHewane. Upon the decision of government, all soil and water conservation works were halted for over five years so that local labor could be mobilized for the construction of the newShelenatdams, which eventually aggravated the gully erosion and slumping inHewane. This agro-ecological problem - mediated by political power - threatened the livelihoods of farmers inHewane, compelling them to take actions that were more in keeping with their existing life-worlds. One such important initiative was bee keeping.

Chapter 4 discusses government-initiated irrigation intervention through the construction of the Gum Selassa irrigation system. LikeHewane, the approach adopted was top-down and entailed the pooling and redistribution of farmers' holdings, despite the widespread skepticism about irrigation expressed by local people. Also likeHewane, the local government bureaucracy became embedded in irrigation management. The end result, however, was poor water control methods that have given rise to water scarcity in the irrigation system which now threaten farmers' livelihoods. Over the past six years there has been a serious scarcity of water, with the percentage of the plot holders not receiving water fluctuating between 21 and 85 percent.

Chapter 5 falls into three sections. The first section is a detailed description of irrigated agriculture in Gum Selassa andHewane. It covers agricultural tasks and seasons and the crops cultivated in the irrigated fields and their yields. In bothHewaneand Gum Selassa irrigation production has increased by taking advantage of modern agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and improved seeds. Although regional government officials highlight these increases in yield under irrigation, yields remain low for cash crops such as tomatoes and onions, and uncertain for maize as the main food crop. The second and third sections focus on household production dynamics and the practice ofWoferit(sharecropping). The government's assumption that the plot holders would cultivate the irrigated plots themselves was not realized. Water users are widely involved in sharecropping: in Gum Selassa, 54 percent of the irrigators and inHewane, 40 percent leased out their plots, with a higher proportion of female than male plot holders doing so. Due to sharecropping, a large majority of plot holders receive only one-fourth or one-third of the harvest reaped from their leased out plots, and between 70 and 80 percent of households consumed all their grain within four to seven months. Indeed a deficit in household food is a serious problem among these plot holders and many are forced to seek work aslabourersfrom outside. Hence, the practice ofwoferit(sharecropping) in both irrigation systems highlights the vulnerabilities of agricultural livelihoods and the differentiated life worlds of different local actors involved in irrigated agriculture.

Chapter 6 discusses the coping strategies commonly adopted during drought and famine situations at household level inHewaneand Gum Selassa. Such strategies span a combination of four types of strategy: a reductive strategy (i.e. an attempt to reduce expenditure and consumption), a depleting strategy (where the household gradually depletes its resources), a maintaining strategy and a regenerative strategy. At times of severe food shortage, the most important maintaining strategy is that of accessing food relief.The study also shows that rainfed farming has been and still remains the main source of livelihood for many local people.

Chapter 7 examines the arena of 'coercive persuasion' pertaining to the widespread diffusion of chemical fertiliser use in ruralTigray. Its aggressive promotion by extension workers and local government officials has led not only to a degree of scepticism and resistance among farmers as to its effectiveness, but also to farmers distancing themselves from the direct cultivation of their irrigable plots, in favour of leasing them out under sharecropping agreements. This takes place in the context of the growing vogue for programmes of 'Participatory Demonstration and Training Extension Systems' in theHewaneand Gum Selassa irrigation schemes. These programmes show how government- induced 'participation' has spearheaded coercive strategies in the implementation of public works such as dam construction and soil and water conservation.

Finally, in chapter 8, I pull together the findings and implications of the research by identifying other measures (besides the development and improvement of irrigation systems) that must be put into place in order to mitigate drought-induced food shortages.

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