Revealing what makes community in an irrigated system by analyzing conflict dynamics
Community irrigation systems are often acclaimed for putting in practice the principles of participation and management of the commons. However, these systems are also arenas characterized by internal antagonisms and external intervention, which generate a redefinition of space, social organization and of water sharing. We studied an irrigation system in the province of El Hajeb where long-standing conflicting dynamics can be observed. The analysis of four conflicting dynamics, involving different social groups, allowed us to identify the moments and spaces of emergence and decline of the community. These conflict dynamics resulted in the appropriation and new creation of water resources, rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure or by opportunistic mobilization of the community rules for sharing water. Through these dynamics, the community can be seen in all its complexity and contradictions. The irrigators’ community is a social construct that is not immutable. It changes depending on the individual and collective interests and mobilized references: social, territorial, cultural or historical. The multitude of references and their use by different groups in conflict situations illustrate the strong social restructuring experienced by the community of irrigators. This shows the fragility of the roots of this community due to external interventions since the protectorate.
Keywords: Conflict dynamics, community of irrigators, Bittit, Morocco.