Social Capital and Local Water

Dalia M. Gouda


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(2016) From the 1980s onward, billions of dollars were poured into irrigation improvement programs in Egypt. These aimed at improving local Nile water management through the introduction of more water-efficient technology and by placing management of the improved systems in the hands of local water user associations. The central premise of most of these programs was that the functioning of such associations could rely on the revival of traditional forms of social capital—social networks, norms, and trust—for their success. Social Capital and Local Water Management in Egypt shows how the far-reaching social changes wrought at the village level in Egypt through the twentieth century rendered such a premise implausible at best and invalid at worst. Dalia Gouda examines networks of social relationships and their impact on the exercise of social control and the formation of collective action at the local level and their change over time in four villages in the Delta and Fayoum governorates. Outlining three time frames, pre-1952, 1952–73, and 1973 to the present, and moving between multiple actors—farmers, government officials, and donor agencies—Gouda shows how institutional and technological changes during each period and the social changes that coincided with them yielded mixed successes for the water user associations in respect of water management. Social Capital and Local Water Management in Egypt is essential reading for anyone working in the field of community based natural resource management in Egypt, including policymakers and practitioners, donor agencies, and civil society organizations, as well as anthropologists and sociologists.