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What Affects Organization and Collective Action for Managing Resources? Evidence from Canal Irrigation Systems in India

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Meinzen-Dick, Ruth; Raju, K. Vengamma; Gulati, Ashok
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/595
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
collective action
resource management
water users' associations
farmer-managed irrigation
Abstract: "Policies of devolving management of resources from the state to user groups are premised upon the assumption that users will organize and take on the necessary management tasks. While experience has shown that in many places users do so and are very capable, expansion of comanagement programs beyond initial pilot sites often shows that this does not happen everywhere. Yet much is at stake in this, with more widespread adoption of irrigation management transfers and other forms of community-based resource management. It is therefore important to move beyond isolated case studies to comparative analysis of the conditions for collective action. "This paper identifies factors affecting organization of water users associations, and collective action by farmers in major canal irrigation systems in India, based on quantitative and qualitative analysis of a stratified sample of 48 minors in four irrigation systems (two each in Rajasthan and Karnataka). Using key variables suggested by the theoretical and case study literature, the study first examines the conditions under which farmers are likely to form formal or informal associations at the level of the minor (serving several watercourses, and one or more villages). Results indicate that organizations are more likely to be formed in larger commands, closer to market towns, and in sites with religious centers and potential leadership from college graduates and influential persons, but head/tail location does not have a major effect. We then examine factors affecting two different forms of collective action related to irrigation systems: collective representation and maintenance of the minors. Lobbying activities are not more likely where there are organizations, but organizations do increase the likelihood of collective maintenance work. "Such studies can assist policymakers by identifying whether there is likely to be a rapid response to management transfer, or if more effort (such as community organizers) is required. For program implementers, this type of analysis can help identify the most 'fertile ground' for starting programs to achieve impact, and to expect to devote extra attention in other areas, if devolution programs are expected to achieve high levels of farmer involvement in resource management."

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