Implications of complex social-ecological interactions for sustainable irrigation management

COBA theory (cooperation) meets case (Balinese irrigation)

Project aim. Reflecting on the level of detail/complexity in models to be able to advance understanding of social ecological systems. By iteratively combining an abstract model with a rich case study we aim to develop understanding of the dynamics of social-ecological systems at ‘suitable’ level of complexity and learn about the importance of different contextual factors for the success of cooperation.
Approach. Combining theory (on cooperation) and case knowledge (Balinese irrigation and rice farming) with agent-based modelling to demonstrate the need and implication of introducing more complexity in social-ecological models.
Why? Understanding and managing social dilemmas is one of the major challenges of SES research with respect to sustainable use of natural resources. Theories often say everything and at the same time nothing about particular cases. Case knowledge is rich, detailed, but not necessarily generalisable. There is a need for integrating knowledge and making use of the strength of both theories and case towards context-sensitive theories, i.e. a generalised understanding that can be used to draw implications for cases with similar characteristics.
Context. Bali irrigation is one of the well-know examples of a self-organised ‘escape’ of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ (Ostrom et al., 2002). The tragedy of the commons describe the inevitable outcome of overexploiting shared resources in absence of a central authority (Hardin, 1968). Rice paddy farmers in Bali are part of a community-level organisation devoted to the management of the rice terraces, a subak, apart from being part of a village community. The rice paddy farmers in Bali demonstrate effective management of their rice fields in a bottom up manner by agreeing on an irrigation schedule within and between Subaks (Lansing, 2006). The irrigation schedule synchronises the cropping patterns to avoid pests and provides water for all the subaks. The success of the rice paddy farmers lie in their ability to adapt to the ecological circumstances, in other words, their capacity to engage in collective action.
Keywords: in-between, theory, case, empirics, irrigation, common pool resource dilemma, Bali
People: Nanda Wijermans, Maja Schlüter, in interaction with Steve Lansing (University of Arizona, USA)
Methods: Agent-based modelling, Synthesis knowledge (literature, data, conversations)
More info:
  • Wijermans & Schlüter (Paper in prep). Beyond a single interaction in social-ecological systems; integrating cooperation theory and Balinese irrigation dilemma case in a social-ecological agent based simulation.
  • Wijermans, N., & Schlüter, M. (2014). Agent-Based Case Studies for Understanding of Social-Ecological Systems: Cooperation on Irrigation in Bali. In B. Kamiński & G. Koloch (Eds.), Advances in Social Simulation Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the European Social Simulation Association(Vol. 229, pp. 295–305). Springer Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-39829-2_26
  • COBA model software – will be made available on openABM (in prep)