The landscape technology of spate irrigation amid development changes: Assembling the links to resources, livelihoods, and agrobiodiversity-food in the Bolivian Andes

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Abstract

Spate irrigation is increasingly recognized as contributing to potential of accessible water-resource use, local food production, and resource sustainability. This study constructs an approach to spate irrigation as a landscape technology by selectively fusing concepts of resilience ecology, political ecology, and actor-network theory. It is applied to a case study of the Calicanto area (Cochabamba, Bolivia) with emphasis on the 1990-1993 period. Calicanto spate irrigation provided an effective landscape technology over more than 15km2 and 3500 fields via a 65-km canal network, thus comprising the largest spate-irrigated area of Latin America. Use of this irrigation technology was linked to climate variability and environmental variation as well as landscape features, livelihood diversification including widespread migration, and innovative high-agrobiodiversity land use, in addition to community resource management, settlement patterning, population density, and production intensity. Notwithstanding social-ecological resilience and versatility, the trajectory of this irrigation underwent major change with new waterworks launched in 1993. Key lessons for the related social-ecological sciences, development policy, and sustainability perspectives include: (i) versatility and viability of spate irrigation hinges on multiple social-ecological links; and (ii) its limitations include eclipse via irrigation trajectories lacking social-ecological analytic and conceptual capacities, and widespread albeit largely unacknowledged biases against the landscape technology of spate irrigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-934
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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