Adapt to Changes: Lessons from Two Irrigation Systems in Ezhou, China

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"In this article I examine how local irrigation institution adapts itself to external intervention projects, like farmlands consolidation project in central China. Through a comparative analysis of two irrigation systems in Ezhou, a city located at Southeast Hubei, in the middle reaches of Yangtze River, I explain why one irrigation system can be better adapted to the intervention project, while the other failed to deal with the same one. Using the framework of robustness in Social-Ecological Systems, entities of two different irrigation systems are identified and their different outcomes are illustrated. Interviews with village heads, community leaders, and farmers make it possible for me to double check the case information and get to understand various incentives of different irrigation entities. Various incentives help me explain their behaviours in the institution adaptation processes. It turns out that the adaptive capacity of the Village Bao irrigation system is much higher, while the irrigation system of Upper Horse Village deteriorating still after the project. A key issue presented here is that interactions between water users and irrigation infrastructure providers, is important for robustness of local irrigation systems. Water users’ engagement in institutional design may make a sustainable, robust and adaptive SES."



adaptation, infrastructure, irrigation, social-ecological systems, sustainability, participatory development