Institutions under construction: Resolving resource conflicts in tanzanian irrigation schemes

Els Lecoutere*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Water governance in Tanzania's small-scale irrigation schemes has become ever more challenging because of increasing market penetration, declining predictability of water availability and widening institutional pluralism. Despite these trends, resource conflicts at the local level have generally been avoided. Instead, one observes processes in which actors involved in conflicts make and remake institutions. This renders these irrigation schemes interesting for studying water governance institutions under construction. By documenting how conflicts over water are solved in small-scale irrigation schemes in rural Tanzania, we show that resource conflicts do not necessarily lead to violence, but motivate actors to pragmatically search for solutions. Institutional pluralism is turned into an asset because it increases the potential for creativity. As such, pragmatic conflict resolution and institutional pluralism contribute to the development of more sophisticated and locally adapted resource governance institutions. However, despite its potential, actor-driven development of resource governance institutions can also reproduce deeply entrenched power imbalances and gender roles. As such, it can hinder inclusion of less powerful resource users because the latter do not always have the capability to engage in creative conflict resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-273
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa
  • Irrigation
  • Power
  • Resource governance institutions

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