School of Global Studies

Small Scale Irrigation: Politics and Moralities

Elizabeth Harrison and Canford Chiroro
With Dom Kniveton, Katy Gardner (LSE), Anna Mdee (Mzumbe University, Tanzania), Zahir Ahmed (Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh) and Joseph Chidanti-Malunga (LUANAR, Malawi)

Small-scale irrigation is seen as key to improving agricultural productivity, food security and rural incomes. However, a complex combination of challenges has frequently conspired to limit its progress. Climate change now further compounds these challenges. Adopting an ethnographic approach, this research project explores the role of power, politics and institutions in shaping the impacts and responses to environmental (climate) change among small-scale irrigators. This includes questions relating to the relationship between ‘local’ and ‘external’ rules and norms for the governance of water.

The project will examine how knowledge about innovations that facilitate adaptation is produced, valued, transferred and used within and between ‘communities’. This will enable us to assess how lessons about this might be drawn from one setting to another. We hope to obtain an understanding of why some induced irrigation projects and technologies have collapsed while others have operated successfully. The project will contribute towards both policy and academic thinking on how ‘growth’ in the agricultural sector in developing economies could be achieved within the context of multiple stressors.

The project is funded under the DFID/ESRC Growth Research Programme (DEGRP). Ethnographic field work has been undertaken in Malawi, Tanzania and Bangladesh.

Publications and other outputs


Published outputs

Project reports