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Institutional Evolution and Social-Ecological Resilience: A Study of Irriagation Institutions in Taiwan

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Lam, Wai Fung
Conference: Workshop on the Workshop 3
Location: Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: June 2-6
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/6493
Sector: Social Organization
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): irrigation
institutional analysis
Abstract: "Taiwan’s irrigation management has faced a series of challenges in the past decades. As the country’s economy developed, agriculture has ceased to be a viable economic activity; the decline of agriculture has in turn adversely affected the incentives of farmers and the government to engage in irrigation management. Despite these challenges, the evolution of Taiwan’s irrigation systems in the past decades has been characterized by a high degree of resilience. Although irrigation management is unlike that in the good old days when farmers actively engaged in meticulous management and were willing to contribute significant manual and monetary resources, farmers’ organizing abilities and social capital accumulated over the years have largely retained, and continued to sustain a vibrant management order. The general picture is that while the sector as a whole has been in flux and gone through many changes, the vibrancy of the system remains. Drawing upon the literature of complexity studies and conceptualizing an irrigation system as a social-ecological system (SES), this paper seeks to explain and understand the institutional vibrancy and resilience of Taiwanese irrigation. The major argument is that the design of Taiwan’s irrigation institutions, as a result of years of trial and error, has been able to cope with the dynamics inherent in the SES. The institutions allow various actors and organizations at different levels to engage in continuous learning and adaptation. I shall examine how disturbances of different types have impact the structure and dynamics of the Taiwanese system, how individuals and organizations at different levels have responded to the disturbances, and how these responses have constituted the systemic response to the changing environment."

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