Transformation to Sustainability - T2S

Transformations to Groundwater Sustainability : joint learnings from human-groundwater interactions – T2GS

Transformations to Groundwater Sustainability: Joint Learnings from Human-Groundwater Interactions

Billions of people around the world rely for their everyday existence on groundwater. Its invisibility, however, makes groundwater notoriously difficult to govern, also complicating efforts to avoid depletion or pollution. There is an urgent need to creative insights about ways of dealing with the intrinsic tensions that characterize groundwater governance: between individual and collective interests and between short-term gains and longer-term sustainability.

The comparative study of promising initiatives of people organizing around groundwater in places where pressures on water are acute

The project set out to comparatively study promising grass-roots initiatives of people organizing around groundwater in places where pressures on water are acute (India, Algeria, Morocco, USA, Chile, Peru, Tanzania). As these often defy conventional wisdom, the project's hypothesis is that these initiatives contain creative insights about ways of dealing with the intrinsic tensions that characterize groundwater governance: between individual and collective interests and between short-term gains and longer-term sustainability. Our aim was to enunciate and normatively assess their logic and functioning in view of tracing patterns that allow them to serve as more generic models for transformations to groundwater sustainability. Our overall goal was to create global action-research collaborations to generate new inspirations for thinking about and dealing with interconnections and interdependencies between humans and groundwater.

The overall research question of the project was: What characterizes and explains emerging bottom-up forms of organization around the collective use, protection and sharing of groundwater resources? We answered this question through the systematic study and comparison of 7 initiatives of societal organization around groundwater. The ANR-funded part of the project studied 2 initiatives in Algeria (M’Zab valley) and Morocco (Drâa valley) and compared them with the 5 other initiatives in India, Peru, Tanzania, USA and Zimbabwe. The initiatives consist of technological or institutional innovation and bricolage or of creative forms of resistance against extreme forms of depletion. Using a grounded anti-colonial and feminist approach, we combined an ethnographic documentation of groundwater practices with hydrogeological and engineering insights to assess and jointly learn from the knowledges, technologies and institutions that characterize such initiatives. Doing this usefully shifts the focus of planned efforts to regulate and govern groundwater away from government efforts to control individual pumping behaviours, to the identification of possibilities to anchor transformations to sustainability in collective action.

The project has engaged several field studies in the different countries concerned. More specifically, the French/North African team has focused on oasis environments in Algeria and Morocco. In Algeria, the main focus of the team is on the principle of circularity in the oases of the M’Zab Valley. In Morocco, the team focuses on a string of six oases, 200 km long but less than 8 km wide, in the upper part of Wadi Drâa. At the level of the overall project, seven initiatives of societal organization around groundwater were documented and are available on the project website (https://www.t2sgroundwater.org/narrative-reports). This enabled the sharing of and joint learning from these initiatives. The lessons learnt were documented in an educational open resource (EOR) platform on groundwater governance, which is available on the project website. This platform is intended for scholars, students and practitioners interested in the subject. It has already been successfully tested by undergraduate students in several universities (Amsterdam, Montpellier, Stockholm, Santa Cruz). The societal initiatives studied in Algeria and Morocco were documented in 3 scientific papers (Bekkadour et al., 2021; Ftouhi et al., 2021; Saidani et al., 2022). These initiatives were compared with societal initiatives in the other countries of the project in 3 scientific papers (Hamamouche et al., 2022; Saidani et al., forthcoming; Kuper et al., forthcoming). On the basis of the joint learning from these societal initiatives, 2 scientific papers were written. The first one to engage with current debates in the literature on groundwater governance (Zwarteveen et al., 2021). The second one to present methodological advances in view of tracing patterns that allow the societal initiatives to serve as more generic models for transformations to groundwater sustainability (Mayaux et al., forthcoming).

The project has created action research collaborations around the world to rethink and address groundwater governance based on societal initiatives. Documenting and assessing the knowledge, technologies and institutions that characterise community groundwater initiatives provides the basis for creating new conversations and learning about groundwater. Documenting these initiatives has generated new insights into the interconnections and interdependencies between humans and groundwater, validating our original hypothesis. We have seen that it also helps to create a sensitivity to the day-to-day work involved in restoring, maintaining, or enhancing aquifers, and is a strong reminder of how part of the motivation for engaging in such work comes from historical attachment to territories and people.

The results show interesting initiatives to care for, share or recharge aquifers, for example in the M'Zab valley in Algeria with its water recharging and sharing system, or in the Drâa valley where the community has set up a regulation of irrigated agricultural areas. However, water is a deeply contested resource, the governance of which is always imbued with politics. Examples of unsustainable trajectories of agrarian systems and water are found everywhere and are often analysed as such by the societies concerned, as is the case in Ravangoan, India. This means that groundwater governance arrangements, even if community-based and characterised by concern for the aquifer and each other, will often be negotiated, requiring sub-optimal compromises that may not satisfy everyone.

International journals
1. Zwarteveen, M., Kuper, M., Olmos-Herrera, C., Dajani, M., Kemerink-Seyoum, J., Frances, C., ... & De Bont, C. (2021). Transformations to Groundwater Sustainability: from individuals and pumps to communities and aquifers. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343521000439
2. Leonardelli, I., Bossenbroek, L., Ftouhi, H., Kadiri, Z., Bhat, S., Kulkarni, S., ... & Kemerink-Seyoum, J. S. (2021). COVID-19 in rural India, Algeria and Morocco: a feminist analysis of small-scale farmers' and agricultural laborers' experiences and inventive practices. Frontiers in Human Dynamics, 3, 17. www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fhumd.2021.653979/full
3. Ftouhi, H., Saidan, M.A., Bossenbroek, L., Hamamouche, M.F, Kadiri, Z. (2021). Entre vulnérabilité et résilience?: le vécu de la pandémie de Covid-19 dans deux sociétés oasiennes du Maghreb. Cah. Agric. 30: 30. www.cahiersagricultures.fr/articles/cagri/fullhtml/2021/01/cagri210021/cagri210021.html
4. Bekaddour S., Ait-Mouheb N., Hartani T. (2021). Re-emergence of dry toilets and fecal nutrient reuse in M’zab cities. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, 11(6): 983-993.
5. Hamamouche MF, Faysse N, Kuper M, Lejars C, Errahj M, Kadiri Z, Ben Aissa N, Ben Mihoub A. (2022). Local development organisations in Saharan regions of North Africa: Expanding horizons. The Journal of International Development. DOI: 10.1002/jid.3675.
6. Saidani, A., Kuper, M., Hamamouche, M.F., Benmihoub, A. (2022). Reinventing the wheel: adapting a traditional circular irrigation system to ‘modern’ agricultural extension areas in the Algerian Sahara. Newmedit. agritrop.cirad.fr/601442/1/2022%20Saidani%20circularity%20New%20Medit.pdf
Ouvrages ou chapitres d’ouvrage
1. Kadiri, Z., Bekkar Y. 2021. Jeunes ruraux et entrepreneuriat, quelle articulation des politiques et dispositifs d’appui ? In : Les jeunes du Maroc, comprendre les dynamiques pour un nouveau contrat social. Eds: F. Ait Mous and Z. Kadiri.

Communications for conferences
Seven communications in international conferences

Billions of people around the world rely for their everyday existence on groundwater. Its invisibility, however, makes groundwater notoriously
difficult to govern, also complicating efforts to avoid depletion or pollution. This project sets out to comparatively study promising grass-roots
initiatives of people organizing around groundwater in places where pressures on the resource are particularly acute (India, Algeria, Morocco, USA,
Chile, Peru, Tanzania). As these often defy or challenge conventional wisdom, the project's hypothesis is that these initiatives contain creative insights
about ways of dealing with the intrinsic tensions that characterize groundwater governance: between individual and collective interests and between
short-term gains and longer-term sustainability.
Focusing on groundwater practices - of knowing, accessing and sharing - we combine qualitative ethnographic methods with hydrogeological and
engineering insights to explore the knowledges, technologies and institutions that characterize these initiatives. Our aim is to enunciate and normatively
assess their logic and functioning in view of tracing overlaps or patterns that allow them to serve as more generic models for transformations to
groundwater sustainability. This effort is inspired by theorizations of water as simultaneously social and natural, builds on recent critical scholarship on
institutions, and has a particular sensitivity to how the distribution and use of groundwater is mediated by technologies.
Our overall aim is to create global action-research collaborations to generate new inspirations for thinking about and dealing with interconnections
and interdependencies between humans and groundwater.

Project coordination

Marcel KUPER (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour Le Développement (CIRAD) - Département Environnement et Sociétes (ES))

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Stockholm University, Department of Human Geography
University of Sheffield, Department of Geography
UC Santa Cruz, Sociology Department
Society for Promoting Participative Eco-system management (SOPPECOM)
CIRAD-ES Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour Le Développement (CIRAD) - Département Environnement et Sociétes (ES)

Help of the ANR 299,766 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2018 - 36 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés

 

 

ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter