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SEMINAR: Irrigation schemes as complex systems and the need for adaptive management QUESTION: Which factors and circumstances favour the selection of a.

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Presentation on theme: "SEMINAR: Irrigation schemes as complex systems and the need for adaptive management QUESTION: Which factors and circumstances favour the selection of a."— Presentation transcript:

1 SEMINAR: Irrigation schemes as complex systems and the need for adaptive management QUESTION: Which factors and circumstances favour the selection of a particular smallholder irrigation scheme development trajectory in South Africa? THESIS TITLE: Patterns and Possibilities: Development pathways on smallholder irrigation schemes in RSA

2 Principles, Approaches and Guidelines for the Participatory Revitalisation of Smallholder Irrigation Schemes Water Research Commission Jonathan Denison Siyabu Manona

3 Smallholder Schemes: 317 Schemes 49,800 ha 31,300 farmers 250,000 impacted Commercial irrigation 1.4 million ha Smallholders 3.8 % of area Former homelands Poorest areas High political priority Investment R300 – R400M annually Planning Commission 2012 !! 75 183 36


5 irrigation Irrigation is the artificial application of water to land for the purpose of enhancing plant production. irrigation scheme irrigated farming enterprise

6 Irrigation scheme - the agricultural project involving multiple farm units that depend on a shared diversion / storage / distribution system irrigation scheme irrigated farming enterprise






12 Catchment management perspective - IWRM


14 Cahora Bassa Reservoir (Mozambique) Zambezi Valley (Zimbabwe) Musengezi smallholder scheme Great dyke Musengezi Wilderness Area


16 Focussing more emphasis on the improvement of physical infrastructure is not sufficient. There is a need for a more comprehensive approach, encompassing the development of both physical capital and social capital that provide complex systems … to use irrigation water.(Neeraj et al., 1998). Smallholder irrigation is a highly case-specific, potentially complex, dynamic socio-biophysical entity influenced by a considerable number of internal characteristics and external driving forces and factors, and is a driver of considerable change on downstream sectors and users. Have we recognised this special nature of irrigation within livelihoods, food and cash production, river basins and the environment? (Lankford, 2001). Integration will be key in this new approach: integration across scales, components, stakeholders and disciplines (Merrey et al., 2003). Irrigation schemes are complex systems

17 systems thinking –> irri scheme While a genius must have more of the gray matter than a sparrow, the idiot may have just as much as the genius…The difference between them must be explained in how those substances are organised (ie. neural pathways) Systems must be treated as wholes with properties of their own Prof Ervin Laslow explaining general systems theory (1972) systems of organised complexity are everywhere (atomic, ORGANIC, SUPRAORGANIC) we cannot compute the behaviour of the system (ie. the whole) from behaviour of its parts complexity of the system can be understood by GROUPING and observing PAST BEHAVIOUR SIMPLIFY but not too much -> focus on STRUCTURE -> identify RELATIONSHIPS the system has a life of its own (ie components can change but system maintains character) systems degrade and disorganise – constantly needing energy to maintain

18 COMPLEXITY and SYSTEMS Accumulation of interconnections and adaptations over a long period of time gives the system depth, (ie. resilience – the ability to withstand shocks) Too few interconnections (e.g from rigid rules that prevent healthy interactions) result in stifling order leading to extinction. An absence of boundaries (rules and rights) leads to chaotic collapse. When complexity is too low, there is little incentive for learning. When complexity is too high individuals are barraged and tend to shut down. There is a layer of self-organising complexity that lies at the edge of chaos where creativity and productivity are greatest – choice is a critical element at this optimal point. Systems can be understood by looking at patterns that describe potential evolutions of the system. Rihania and Geyerb (2001); Dawkins (1989); Flynn (2004); Dooley and Johnson (1995)

19 COMPLEXITY and adaptive management Capability to experiment is more important than classical expertise. One must manage systems to be in-control and out of control (learning by experimentation) at the same time. A complex system is never in equilibrium – it lies in the middle ground between the predictable and chaotic. Day to day management – logical, analytical, procedural. Response to dynamic external forces calls for innovation – Inherently uncertain, dynamic and to some extent a random process. Dooley and Johnson (1995); Lemonick (1993); Knapp (1993)

20 Adaptive management across two domains with a feedback loop irrigation scheme irrigated farming enterprise

21 adaptive management - organisationally irrigated farming enterprise irrigation scheme GROUP in-control predictable INDIVIDUAL freedom out of control experimentation

22 THESIS: Factors - complex system - pathways Assess factors within the bio-physical system Develop scheme typology (survey/analysis) Classify 129 schemes with typology Refine farming typologies (previous work) Link scheme typology to likely farming typologies and establish appropriate development path

23 Scheme typology in progress Tomlinson Commission – 50s & 60s Bantu family unit for subsistence Gravity flood irrigation - furrows Very low running costs 1.6 ha based on maize needs per family Homeland development – 70s & 80s Modernisation – high tech and production oriented Macro-economics (multiplier effect and trickle-down) High yields High running costs – pumps and pipes Specialist management requirements New irrigation land-holdings conflicting with original PTOs Revitalisation post 1998 - technology type – costs - complexity - land holding arrangements - forced groups (WUA / co-op farming) - JV partnership dependency - land-exchange prevalence - proximity to urban markets - water reliability / availability

24 Business Farmer Commercially oriented farmers on larger farms Equity - Labourer Commercial partnerships, JVs or sharecropping MIX of styles in scheme reality and in plans Smallholder Farmer Lower risk, diversified livelihoods on smaller farms, sale, food Food producer Intensive gardens on small plots, high% poor, high% women Farming central to livelihoods Diversified livelihoods farming typology – established (2007) validated (RSA) & aligned to AgWA Partnership in Africa

25 listening and learning !

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