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I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • Modernisation and African farmer-led irrigation development:Ideology, policies and practices

    2019. Chris de Bont (et al.). Water Alternatives, 107-128


    In both Mozambique and Tanzania, farmer-led development of irrigation is widespread, yet it is little recognised in irrigation policies and is under-supported by the government. This paper explores how this situation is exacerbated by modernisation ideas in irrigation policy and professional thinking. By means of a historical review, we trace modernisation thinking in irrigation development from the colonial period onwards, and analyse how this thinking continues to play out in contemporary irrigation policies in both countries. We then examine the relationship between modernisation thinking and practices of farmer-led irrigation development, drawing on policy documents, field studies, and interviews in both countries. Based on this analysis, we argue that the nature of farmer-led development of irrigation is consistent with many of the goals identified by state agricultural modernisation programmes, but not with the means by which government and state policies envisage their achievement. As a consequence, policies and state officials tend to screen out farmers’ irrigation initiatives as not relevant to development until they are brought within state-sanctioned processes of technical design and administration.

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  • Neither modern nor traditional

    2019. Chris de Bont, Hans C. Komakech, Gert Jan Veldwisch. World Development 116, 15-27


    The debate around what kind of irrigation, large- or small-scale, modern or traditional, best contributes to food security and rural development continues to shape irrigation policies and development in the Global South. In Tanzania, the irrigation categories of ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ are dominating irrigation policies and are shaping interventions. In this paper, we explore what these concepts really entail in the Tanzanian context and how they relate to a case of farmer-led groundwater irrigation development in Kahe ward, Kilimanjaro Region. For our analysis, we rely on three months of qualitative fieldwork in 2016, a household questionnaire, secondary data such as policy documents and the results of a mapping exercise in 2014–2015. In the early 2000s, smallholders in Kahe started developing groundwater. This has led to a new, differentiated landscape in which different forms of agricultural production co-exist. The same set of groundwater irrigation technologies has facilitated the emergence of different classes of farmers, ranging from those engaging with subsistence farming to those doing capitalist farming. The level of inputs and integration with markets vary, as does crop choice. As such, some farms emulate the ‘modern’ ideal of commercial farming promoted by the government, while others do not, or to a lesser extent. We also find that national policy discourses on irrigation are not necessarily repeated at the local level, where interventions are strongly driven by prioritization based on conflict and funding. We conclude that the policy concepts of traditional and modern irrigation do not do justice to the complexity of actual irrigation development in the Kahe case, and obfuscate its contribution to rural development and food security. We argue that a single irrigation technology does not lead to a single agricultural mode of production, and that irrigation policies and interventions should take into account the differentiation among irrigators.

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  • The Continuous Quest for Control by African Irrigation Planners in the Face of Farmer-Led Irrigation Development

    2018. Chris de Bont. Water Alternatives 11 (3), 893-915


    Although much has been written about the indigenous irrigation systems of Tanzania, there has been no comprehensive historical study of state irrigation planning. This article fills this gap by analysing irrigation development policy in Tanzania between 1935 and 2017. Based on archival research, and using the Lower Moshi area in Kilimanjaro Region as a case study, it contains an analysis of 80 years of irrigation policy and state intervention. It distinguishes between four periods, based on changes in the perceived role of irrigation and the different actors that were considered important. It notes that the belief in the necessity of state intervention and formal engineering for proper irrigation development ran through all the time periods, and that these were the key factors defining the state's attitude towards irrigation development planning, regardless of the political situation. This article argues that, ultimately, the development narrative of 'modern' irrigation as a driver for agricultural transformation has been successful in depoliticising irrigation interventions and has succeeded in closing the debate on whether state-controlled irrigation development is really the best way to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. To provide space for reflection on the possible role of governments in promoting, supporting, and regulating farmer-led irrigation development, future debates on African irrigation should start by recognising the unique contributions that can be made by farmers in realising the continent's development targets.

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  • Modernisation and farmer-led irrigation development in Africa

    2018. Chris de Bont (et al.).

    Avhandling (Dok)

    After years of relatively low investment, irrigation development in Africa has been put back on the policy agenda as a way of increasing agricultural productivity. In spite of existing evidence of farmers’ irrigation initiatives across the African continent, current policy prescriptions still revolve around (large-scale) state intervention. Farmers’ irrigation initiatives are generally considered traditional, backward, and unable to contribute to the agrarian transformation that many African nations are after.

    This study aims to problematize this narrow notion of farmers’ irrigation initiatives, and explores how underlying ideas of modernity/modernisation influence irrigation policies and interactions between farmers and the state. Focusing on Tanzania, this thesis consists of an introductory chapter and three separate studies.

    The first study is a historical analysis of the state’s attitude towards irrigation development and farmers’ irrigation initiatives in Tanzania. It shows how historically, the development narrative of ‘modern’ irrigation as a driver for agricultural transformation has been successful in depoliticizing irrigation interventions and their actual contribution to development.

    The second study engages with a case where farmers have developed groundwater irrigation. The study analyses how differentiated access to capital leads to different modes of irrigated agricultural production, and shows the variation between and within farmers’ irrigation initiatives. It also illustrates how an irrigation area that does not conform to the traditional/modern policy dichotomy is invisible to the government.

    The third study concerns a farmer-initiated gravity-fed earthen canal system. It shows how the implementation of a demand-driven irrigation development policy model can (inadvertently), through self-disciplining by farmers and a persistent shared modernisation aspiration, turn a scheme initiated and managed by farmers into a government-managed scheme, without actually improving irrigation practices.

    Together, these studies show how modernisation thinking has pervaded irrigation development policy and practice in Tanzania, influencing both the state’s and farmers’ actions and attitudes, often to the detriment of farmers’ irrigation initiatives.

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  • Differentiated Access

    2018. Hans C. Komakech, Chris de Bont. Water Alternatives 11 (3), 623-637


    Groundwater is an important resource for a large share of the global population and economies. Although groundwater dependence in most sub-Saharan African countries is relatively low at the national level, localized overexploitation is occurring, leading to a decline in groundwater levels and quality deterioration. Currently, the sustainable and equitable governance of groundwater, both through promotion and regulation, is turning out to be a key challenge in many sub-Saharan African countries. This paper uses case studies of urban groundwater governance in Arusha, and rural groundwater development in the Pangani basin, to analyse how the current policy and regulation inadvertently creates spaces for asymmetric access to (good quality) groundwater resources in Tanzania. It shows how the groundwater landscape is evolving into a situation where small users (farmers and households) rely on springs and shallow wells, while large users (commercial users and urban water authorities) are encouraged to sink deep boreholes. Amidst a lack of knowledge and enforcing capacity, exacerbated by different priorities among government actors, the water access rights of shallow well and spring users are being threatened by increased groundwater exploitation. Hence, the current groundwater policy and institutional setup do not only empower larger actors to gain disproportionate access to the groundwater resources, but presents this as a benefit for small users whose water security will supposedly increase.

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  • Irrigated agriculture using wells and pumps in Kahe ward, Kilimanjaro

    2018. Chris de Bont.


    This booklet was written to share research results with farmers and practitioners in Tanzania. It gives a summary of the empirical material collected during two months of field work in Kahe ward (Kilimanjaro Region), and includes maps, tables and photos. It describes the history of irrigation in Kahe, as well as current irrigation and farming practices and the challenges experience by different groups in the area. 

    Most importantly, we found that:

    • Using wells and pumps, farmers are less dependent on unreliable rain or limited river water
    • Farmers with a well harvest more maize, and are more likely to grow high value crops
    • The biggest challenge for farmers is the cost of agricultural inputs and fuel
    • Insufficient agricultural extension work means that farmers do not get the necessary support in dealing with pest and diseases
    • Not all farmers can benefit equally: those who are rich benefit more than those who are poor, because: 1) They can afford the agricultural inputs and labourers needed for high value crops such as onions and tomatoes. 2) They do not have to use middlemen and can take their crop to markets with better prices. 3) They often do not grow maize, and can plant early in order to sell their crops at higher prices.
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  • The Mawala irrigation scheme

    2018. Chris de Bont.


    This booklet was written to share research results with farmers and practitioners in Tanzania. It gives a summary of the empirical material collected during three months of field work in the Mawala irrigation scheme (Kilimanjaro Region), and includes maps, tables and photos. It describes the history of the irrigation scheme, as well current irrigation and farming practices. It especially focuses on the different kinds of infrastructural improvement in the scheme (by farmers and the government), and the challenges that farmers face.

    Most importantly, we found that:

    • Water is not enough for the current area and cropping schedule, with the area increasing and water decreasing due to water weeds and increased water use by TPC.
    • There are big inequalities in the scheme when it comes to water access, with the head-end benefiting more than the tail-end.
    • The system of water fee collection is not fair and needs to be reconsidered to become more effective
    • There are communication problems between the government and farmers leading to unnecessary disruptions in farming activities
    • The current method of constructing small bits of the irrigation scheme at a time is disrupting farming activities and not leading to major improvements in irrigation practices
    • Farmers' challenges are larger than only irrigation infrastructure, and more and better exentsion services could raise yields considerably
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  • The fluid nature of water grabbing

    2016. Chris de Bont (et al.). Agriculture and Human Values 33 (3), 641-654


    This article contributes to the contemporary debate on land and water grabbing through a detailed, qualitative case study of horticultural agribusinesses which have settled in Tanzania, disrupting patterns of land and water use. In this paper we analyse how capitalist settler farms and their upstream and downstream peasant neighbours along the Nduruma river, Tanzania, expand and defend their water use. The paper is based on 3 months of qualitative field work in Tanzania. We use the echelons of rights analysis framework combined with the concept of institutional bricolage to show how this contestation takes place over the full spectrum of actual abstractions, governance and discourses. We emphasise the role different (inter)national development narratives play in shaping day-to-day contestations over water shares and rule-making. Ultimately, we emphasise that water grabbing is not a one-time event, but rather an on-going struggle over different water resources. In addition, we show how a perceived beneficial development of agribusinesses switching to groundwater allows them to avoid peasant-controlled institutions, avoiding further negotiation between the different actors and improving their image among neighbouring communities. This development illustrates how complex and obscured processes of water re-allocation can be without becoming illegal per se.

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