Opponent: Professor Margreet Zwarteveen, Integrated Water Systems & Governance, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Water Education (UNESCO-IHE).

Huvudhandledare: Docent Lowe Börjeson, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet. Handledare: Professor Gunnel Forsberg, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

Ordförande vid disputationen: Docent Ilda Lourenco-Lindell, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

Betygsnämndens ledamöter: Docent Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt, Institutionen för kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi, Lunds universitet, docent Seema Arora-Jonsson, Institutionen för stad och land, Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, och professor Bengt G. Karlsson, Socialantropologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet. Reservledamot: Docent Peter Schmitt, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

Abstract: This thesis examines the local waterscapes of two smallholder irrigation farming systems in the dry lands of East African in a context of socio-ecological changes. It focuses on three aspects: institutional arrangements, gender relations and landscape investments.
Flexible irrigation infrastructure in Sibou, Kenya, and Engaruka, Tanzania, allow farmers to shift the course of water and to extend or reduce the area cultivated depending on seasonal rainfall patterns. Water conflicts are avoided through a decentralized common property management system. Water rights are continuously renegotiated depending on water supply. Water is seen as a common good the management of which is guided by mutual understanding to prevent conflicts through participation and shared information about water rights.
However, participation in water management is a privilege that is endowed mostly to men. Strict patriarchal norms regulate control over water and practically exclude women from irrigation management. The control over water usage for productive means is a manifestation of masculinity. The same gender bias has emerged in recent decades as men have increased their engagement in agriculture by cultivating crops for sale. Women, because of their subordinated position, cannot take advantage of the recent livelihood diversification. Rather, the cultivation of horticultural products for sale has increased the workload for women who already farm most food crops for family consumption. In addition, they now have to weed and harvest the commercial crops that their husbands sell for profit. This agricultural gender divide is mirrored in men´s and women´s response to increased climate variability. Women intercrop as a risk adverting strategy, while men sow more rounds of crops for sale when the rain allows for it. Additionally, while discursively underestimated by men, women´s assistance is materially fundamental to maintaining of the irrigation infrastructure and to ensuring the soil fertility that makes the cultivation of crops for sale possible.
In sum, this thesis highlights the adaptation potentials of contemporary smallholder irrigation systems through local common property regimes that, while not inclusive towards women, avoid conflicts generated by shifting water supply and increased climate variability.