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Adaptive Learning Networks for Improved Floodplain Management

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Sultana, Parvin
Conference: Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Hyderabad, India
Conf. Date: January 10-14
Date: 2011
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/7131
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): community participation
adaptation
co-management
fisheries
flood management
water management
Abstract: "Adaptive learning is a structured process of 'learning by doing' that emphasises the learning process in management. Previous work on adaptive learning networks has focused on exchanges between individuals or focused on technical aspects of resource management across villages. However, co-management is increasingly being adopted in floodplain commons. In Bangladesh many community based organizations (CBOs) have been formed and left to continue managing wetlands when projects ended. Over 250 existing CBOs involved in managing floodplain natural resources were brought together into a learning network. The CBOs identified lessons and good practices and spread their adoption. They identified gaps and opportunities, and coordinated innovation to address common problems. The adaptive learning process evolved through workshops among CBO leaders at a regional level and two-way communication between leaders and members of their CBOs. By bringing together CBOs that had before concentrated on either fishery management or water management for rice, and reviewing together constraints and opportunities, proven practices spread and new options were tested. Over three years 56% of participating CBOs acted to improve fisheries management, and 72% now have fish sanctuaries. Taking a system-based view of natural resource management encouraged a quarter of the CBOs to test dry season crops that need only about 20% of the water used by the dominant irrigated rice. The aim was to preserve more surface water for fish to survive in. Most of the alternative crops were shown by the farmers to give better financial returns than rice, and crops such as garlic are now spreading in several CBO areas. Overall the benefits of an adaptive learning network are: more rapid and systematic learning than individual trial and error, encouraging innovation, more efficient channels for advice, and strength in numbers to face threats such as external pressure to access common water resources."

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