University of Connecticut

Events Calendar

Dissertation Defense Of Ezana Atsbeha

Tuesday, July 27, 2021
9:00am – 11:00am


Crafting a Hybrid: Water, Infrastructure, and Conflict in Irrigation Institutions in Ethiopia

Ezana Amdework Atsbeha

Dissertation Defense Tuesday, July 27, 2021 Via WebEx at 9:00 am -11:00 am

Committee Members Dr. Elizabeth Holzer (Chair) Dr. Bandana Purkayastha Dr. Manisha Desai Dr. Phoebe Godfrey Dr. Abeje Berhanu

Abstract Irrigation schemes as a form of common-poor resources have received significant attention from development agencies and governments over the last several decades. The inefficiency of many of the schemes constructed between the 1950s and 1980s and increasing recognition of the need for community participation in development programs encouraged the transfer of the ownership and management of these schemes to institutions designed based on a logic of limited exclusion and clear boundaries. However, once deployed, such externally designed institutions encounter a different logic of resource management. In this dissertation, I investigate how institutions of irrigation management are shaped by actors who operate based on different institutional logics. From January – September 2020, I conducted fieldwork in the Amhara region, Ethiopia. I used a combination of ethnographic methods, semi-structured interviews, and textual analysis in a comparative case study of three irrigation schemes with formal, semi-formal, and informal institutions of governance. The study found that actors in the three irrigation schemes crafted institutions based on hybrid logics. In the formal irrigation scheme of Koga, a hybrid logic of boundary enforcement based on altruism and efficiency was assembled to accommodate water uses not sanctioned by the official rules. The study also found that a hybrid resource allocation regime based on two logics framed as “science”’ and “need” was crafted in this scheme. In the semi-formal system of Upper Quashni, a hybrid logic of organizational boundary was in use. A resource-based logic is used to “poke a hole” in the exclusivist infrastructure-based boundary. The study also found that both in the formal and semi-formal schemes official bylaws were largely ignored, and lean and context-specific laws, both written and unwritten, were developed to govern water. In practice, admonishments, mediation, and threats were used as often as rules. Conflict resolution was a hybrid of informal mechanisms that aimed to reduce confrontation and a formal mechanism that used fines to discourage offenses. In the Alizaba informal scheme, local formal authority is occasionally involved in solving conflicts, and this has led to some formalization of rules in the form of written agreements.


Dr. Elizabeth Holzer ( for WebEx link

Sociology Department (primary), College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UConn Master Calendar

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