Call for papers

Irrigation management in East Asia: Institutions, socioeconomic transformation and adaptations

With the financial support of the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), China

Irrigation has a long history in East Asia. The ways in which water is organised, allocated and utilised demonstrate endogenous responses to the conditions of natural habitats such as rainfall, topography, population density and amounts of farmland. Although the development of irrigation has significantly sustained the prosperity of rural communities, traditional irrigation management in East Asia [China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan] has been confronting a series of new challenges in the past few decades.

Among these challenges, the most arduous include:

  • an ageing and decreasing rural population as a result of rural–urban migration,
  • increasing competition for water among different regions and sectors,
  • incentive changes in agricultural water supply and food production that are associated with the growing influence of neo-liberalisation, and
  • shifting water, land and food policies that reshape the relationships between the state, the market and rural communities.

These new challenges, combined with increasing environmental pressure, have changed the characteristics of collective action in irrigation and rural affairs, thus presenting novel institutional and policy problems for rural communities and decision makers.

This special issue aims at revisiting irrigation management in East Asia against the backdrop of rapid socio-economic transformation. We particularly welcome papers that probe into the institutional dynamics, policy processes, social relations and power struggles that are related to the co-management of irrigation systems by public, communal and private actors.

Key questions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What is the performance of irrigation management in terms of water use efficiency, productivity, equity and sustainability?
  • What are the trade-offs and implications involved in water allocation and distribution among different individuals, communities, regions and sectors?
  • What new forms of water institutional arrangements and policies – in particular in terms of co-management by state and users and the introduction of intermediary entrepreneurs or market-driven instruments – have emerged and evolved in response to rapidly changing socio-economic settings?
  • How have the combinations of broader governance frameworks, policy instruments, political economy and social norms influenced irrigation management?
  • How have external shocks, policies and institutions been translated into everyday practices of irrigation management in specific socio-ecological settings?
  • Why have irrigation institutions succeeded – or failed – to adapt to, and cope with, the new challenges of socio-economic transformations?

For this special issue, we are looking for contributions that are based on empirical work in a specific locality and/or comparatively across regions or countries, and which engage in theoretical discussions on the institutions, policies and practices of irrigation management in East Asia. We also welcome papers that take stock of historical changes in irrigation-based socio-ecological systems in the longue durée. Contributions may be grounded in fields and disciplines such as institutional and agricultural economics, human geography, political ecology, political economy, political science, sociology and anthropology. Abstracts should be approximately 500 to 1000 words long and should briefly present the analytical framework, methodology, main findings and arguments.


Guest editors:

Raymond Yu Wang (Southern University of Science and Technology, SUSTech)

Jinxia Wang (Peking University, PKU)

Wai Fung Lam (The University of Hong Kong, HKU)



Call for papers: May 10, 2020

Deadline for abstracts: June 30, 2020

Decision on abstracts: July 30, 2020

Deadline for full submissions: December 31, 2020

Review process: until April 30, 2021

Publication: June, 2021

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