1st Edition

Drip Irrigation for Agriculture Untold Stories of Efficiency, Innovation and Development

    358 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    402 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Initially associated with hi-tech irrigated agriculture, drip irrigation is now being used by a much wider range of farmers in emerging and developing countries. This book documents the enthusiasm, spread and use of drip irrigation systems by smallholders but also some disappointments and disillusion faced in the global South. It explores and explains under which conditions it works, for whom and with what effects. The book deals with drip irrigation 'behind the scenes', showcasing what largely remain 'untold stories'.

    Most research on drip irrigation use plot-level studies to demonstrate the technology’s ability to save water or improve efficiencies and use a narrow and rather prescriptive engineering or economic language. They tend to be grounded in a firm belief in the technology and focus on the identification of ways to improve or better realize its potential. The technology also figures prominently in poverty alleviation or agricultural modernization narratives, figuring as a tool to help smallholders become more innovative, entrepreneurial and business minded. Instead of focusing on its potential, this book looks at drip irrigation-in-use, making sense of what it does from the perspectives of the farmers who use it, and of the development workers and agencies, policymakers, private companies, local craftsmen, engineers, extension agents or researchers who engage with it for a diversity of reasons and to realize a multiplicity of objectives. While anchored in a sound engineering understanding of the design and operating principles of the technology, the book extends the analysis beyond engineering and hydraulics to understand drip irrigation as a sociotechnical phenomenon that not only changes the way water is supplied to crops but also transforms agricultural farming systems and even how society is organized. The book provides field evidence from a diversity of interdisciplinary case studies in sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean, Latin America, and South Asia, thus revealing some of the untold stories of drip irrigation.


    Andy Keller, Jean-Marc Faurès and Peter Mollinga

    Panda or Hydra? The Untold Stories of Drip Irrigation

    Marcel Kuper, Jean-Philippe Venot and Margreet Zwarteveen

    Section I: Setting the Scene: Diverse Perspectives on Drip Irrigation

    1. From Obscurity to Prominence: How Drip Irrigation Conquered the World

    Jean-Philippe Venot

    2. Decentering the Technology: Explaining the Drip Irrigation Paradox

    Margreet Zwarteveen

    3. The Practice of Designing and Adapting Drip Irrigation Systems

    Harm Boesveld

    Section II: Efficiency and Water Saving

    4. Re-allocating Yet-to-be-Saved Water in Irrigation Modernization Projects, the Case of the Bittit Irrigation System, Morocco

    Saskia van der Koiij, Marcel Kuper, Charlotte de Fraiture, Bruce Lankford and Margreet Zwarteveen

    5. Unraveling the Enduring Paradox of Increased Pressure on Groundwater Through Efficient Drip Irrigation

    Marcel Kuper, Fatah Ameur and Ali Hammani

    6. Sour Grapes: Multiple Groundwater Enclosures in Morocco’s Saïss Region

    Lisa Bossenbroek, Marcel Kuper and Margreet Zwarteveen

    Section III: Modernization and Agrarian Change

    7. Creating Small Farm Entrepreneurs or Doing Away with Peasants? State Driven Implementation of Drip Irrigation in Chile

    Daniela Henriquez, Marcel Kuper, Manuel Escobar, Eduardo Chia and Claudio Vasquez

    8. Conquering the Desert: Drip Irrigation in the Chavimochic System in Peru

    Jeroen Vos and Anaïs Marshall

    9. An Elite Technology? Drip Irrigation, Agro-Export and Agricultural Policies in Guanajuato, Mexico

    Jaime Hoogesteger

    10. Collective Drip Irrigation Projects between Technological Change and Social Construction: Some observations from Morocco

    Mostafa Errahj and Jan Douwe Van der Ploeg

    Section IV: Poverty and Development

    11. Historical Perspective on Low-Cost Drip Irrigation Design and Promotion

    Robert Yoder and Brent Rowell

    12. Low Cost Drip Irrigation in Zambia: Gendered Practices of Promotion and Use

    Gert Jan Veldwisch, Vera Borsboom, Famke Ingen-Housz, Margreet Zwarteveen, Nynke Post Uiterweer and Paul Hebinck

    13. The Conundrum of Low Cost Drip Irrigation in Burkina Faso: Why Development Interventions that Have Little to Show for Continue

    Jonas Wanvoeke, Jean-Philippe Venot, Margreet Zwarteveen and Charlotte de Fraiture

    14. The Mysterious Case of the Persistence of Donor-and-NGO-Driven Irrigation Kit Investments for African Smallholder Farmers

    Douglas J. Merrey

    Section V: Alliances, Networks and Innovation

    15. ‘Bricolage’ as an Everyday Practice of Contestation of Smallholders Engaging with Drip Irrigation

    Marcel Kuper, Maya Benouniche, Mohamed Naouri, Margreet Zwarteveen

    16. The ‘Innovation Factory’: User-Led Incremental Innovation of Drip Irrigation Systems in the Algerian Desert

    Mohamed Naouri, Tarik Hartani and Marcel Kuper

    17. Intermediaries in Drip Irrigation Innovation Systems: A Focus on Retailers in the Saïs Region in Morocco

    Caroline Lejars and Jean-Philippe Venot

    18. Drip Irrigation and State Subsidies in India: Understanding the Success of the Gujarat Green Revolution Company

    Janwillem Liebrand

    Postscript: A Dialectic Inquiry in the World of Drip Irrigation

    Henk van den Belt


    Jean-Philippe Venot is a researcher at the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD/UMR G-EAU) and is affiliated to the Water Resources Management group of Wageningen University, The Netherlands. He is currently based at the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

    Marcel Kuper is a senior irrigation scientist at the International Agricultural Centre for Research and Development (CIRAD/UMR G-EAU), France, and a visiting professor at the Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences Institute Hassan II in Rabat, Morocco.  

    Margreet Zwarteveen is professor of Water Governance at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, and at the Governance and Inclusive Development Group of the University of Amsterdam, both in the Netherlands. 

    Everything you always wanted to know about drip irrigation, but were afraid to ask. This fascinating volume uncovers untold stories that question the claims of efficiency, water saving, poverty alleviation and development. The book thus is obligatory reading not only for water engineers and agricultural scientists, but also for development workers, policy makers and social scientists.’ - Wiebe E. Bijker, Professor of Technology & Society, Maastricht University.

    For the first time, we must confront the complexity of drip irrigation: a water-supply revolution to safeguard food security or a cheap fix that prolongs simplistic supply-side thinking? This volume is a must-read for social scientists, irrigation engineers, and policymakers alike.’ - Christopher Scott, Professor and Distinguished Scholar, University of Arizona.

    A powerful antidote to the technocratic literature on drip irrigation, the analysis masterfully weaves together sociological, political, and philosophical threads. An important and original contribution to our understanding of the collective narratives at play as we enact complex changes to water governance in search of greater sustainability.- Karen Bakker, Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia.

    We all have much to learn before smallholders in the global South adopt drip irrigation at scale. That is where this book comes in and why it is so important.’ - from the Foreword, by Andy Keller, Keller-Bliesner Engineering and Utah State University, USA

    It is high time that more clarity be brought to the debate about drip irrigation, its specificities, and the role it can play in agricultural development strategies, and that is exactly what this book helps doing.’ - from the Foreword, by Jean-Marc Faurès, UN Food and Agriculture Organization

    This book makes a significant contribution to not only irrigation studies, but to interdisciplinary development studies more generally.’ - from the Foreword, by Peter Mollinga, SOAS, University of London, UK

    "Overall, the book is a must-read for anyone interested in agricultural water management in any part of the world. It challenges popular wisdom on drip irrigation and shows the complex dimensions of the technology from a wider set of vantage points." - Dawit Mekonnen in Water Alternative (2018)