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The landing of parachuted technology: Appropriation of centralised drip irrigation systems by irrigation communities in the region of Valencia (Spain)

Noemí Poblador
CIRAD, Montpellier, France; noepoblador@hotmail.com

Carles Sanchis-Ibor
Centro Valenciano de Estudios del Riego, Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia; csanchis@upv.es

Marcel Kuper
CIRAD, University of Montpellier, UMR G-Eau; marcel.kuper@cirad.fr

ABSTRACT: Drip irrigation technology in existing collective surface irrigation schemes is frequently implemented through top-down policies and black box projects, causing significant changes in agricultural water management, uneven effects on local practices and organisations, and very different reactions in the social structures of irrigation. In this paper, we analyse the institutional co-production of technological change in the case of irrigation for fruit production in the Region of Valencia (Spain) following the implementation of drip irrigation systems in two irrigation communities. The State conceived public subsidy schemes promoting drip irrigation that had to be implemented rapidly. The private sector designed and implemented the new subsidised standardised infrastructure with a logic that was disconnected from collective-action principles. Farmers’ representatives opted for a centralised fertigation model that introduced significant rigidity into the irrigation system, hindering the development of polyculture and organic farming. Irrigation communities were then obliged to redesign the irrigation system to make it compatible with their needs and to recover social control over drip irrigation. Our results highlight the importance of human capital and social control in processes of technological change in collective irrigation institutions.

KEYWORDS: Drip irrigation, water users associations, adaptation, centralised fertigation, organic farming, Valencia, Spain