Agriculture and groundwater irrigation management in Central Iran

Forough Jafary, Chris Bradley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Groundwater as a common pool resource is currently being abstracted at unsustainable rates by many irrigation-dependent farmers in arid regions of the world such as Iran. The Iranian government is trying to address this problem but their policies are designed in a top-down manner and lack sensitivity to the local social, cultural and biophysical context. The governance around groundwater resources is complicated and requires both appropriate governmental policies on the one hand and community self-governance and collective action on the other, in order to achieve adaptive management. However, there has been limited research on groundwater governance and its social and economic impacts on irrigation management practices and local farmers’ livelihood in arid countries, although agricultural food security relies heavily on water supplied by groundwater abstraction. Management of water resources, and particularly groundwater irrigation, requires systematic and interlinked management plans which consider both technical and social aspects of complex irrigation systems. In many cases, and especially in developing regions where there is a lack of powerful regulation and monitoring systems on groundwater abstraction, the role of farmers as the main stakeholders is often neglected. However, policy decisions have a major impact on farmers’ agricultural practices, production and livelihoods, and it is essential first, to acknowledge the fundamental role of regional and local social, economic and political systems; and second, to integrate farmer community’s perspectives in groundwater governance and management. This paper utilises different qualitative and participatory research methods with local farmers in Iran (Kashan region) to elicit deeper knowledge around farming and irrigation practices. It also aims to gain a better understanding of existing challenges around groundwater management and those associated with a new government irrigation scheme. Farmer-led participatory research has fostered a discussion around irrigation management policies at a local level from farmers’ perspectives. This has also shed light on the underlying reasons why farmers fail to cooperate with a new government drip irrigation scheme. Our findings highlight the feasibility of different community-based rules and reveal why the top-down government policy of promoting technological solutions is not widely adopted by the local farmers and has failed to improve irrigation efficiency and productivity at a wider scale in the country.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring and optimizing agricultural landscapes
EditorsLother Mueller, Viktor G Sychev, Nikolai M Dronin, Frank Eulenstein
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9783030674489
ISBN (Print)9783030674472
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2021

Publication series

NameInnovations in Landscape Research


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