Political Ecology of Irrigation Management Transfer

EPA Grant Number: U915761
Title: Political Ecology of Irrigation Management Transfer
Investigators: Tuovinen, Katariina A.
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2000 through August 1, 2003
Project Amount: $94,268
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Social Sciences , Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice


The objective of this research project is to study the multiple outcomes of irrigation management transfer (IMT) in Sri Lanka?s Mahaweli Scheme in terms of intra-household dynamics, access to water resources, agricultural practices, and local environmental conditions.


To undertake this study, a political ecology approach will be used to understand the broad patterns of causation and outcome associated with the turnover of responsibility in IMT. With this political ecology approach, a range of methods will be used, including socioeconomic survey methods, ethnography, and environmental measurements. A case study will be performed of a rice farming community in the Mahaweli Scheme in Sri Lanka where the government is implementing a participatory IMT program. Using a political ecology approach, the political economic circumstances surrounding irrigated rice production in Sri Lanka will be observed. After looking at the macro-level policies, exploration will shift to the local level. Water usage and access to water on the community level will be examined. Next, analysis will shift to the household-level. A household structured questionnaire will be developed to collect information on land holdings, water rights, water usage, membership, and participation in farmer organizations, gender division of labor, and agricultural productivity. Hopefully, conducting a long-term study with a particular community will establish rapport with several households. In-depth information will be collected on intra-household negotiations and decisionmaking using ethnographic methodology. A detailed, micro-level analysis of household dynamics will allow the implications of IMT on gender relations to be understood. Finally, an environmental science component will be incorporated in this research; this aspect is essential to analyze the effects of IMT on agricultural production and environmental resources. It is intended that this research will contextualize the effects of IMT on multiple levels, and an understanding will be obtained of how national policies are shaping intra-household dynamics and how these polices are affecting the local environmental conditions. Social science theory and methods will be linked with a solid environmental science base to analytically map the connections between water policy, social circumstances, and environmental conditions.

Expected Results:

The hypothesis is that IMT is a process with gender-differentiated consequences, so IMT will change the gender division of labor and women?s role in irrigation operation and maintenance.

Supplemental Keywords:

community-based management, irrigation management transfer, IMT, decentralization, farmer organizations, participation, decisionmaking, gender, water management, irrigation, access, water rights, water usage, Sri Lanka, Mahaweli, South Asia., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Economics, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, International, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, policy making, economic research, decision analysis, environmental decision making, decision making, socioeconomics, community based environmental planning, environmental policy, political ecology, irrigation management transfer

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final