Politics and power: government intervention in the Muda irrigation scheme, Malaysia

Johnson, Clare Louise (1999) Politics and power: government intervention in the Muda irrigation scheme, Malaysia. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This research examines the intended and unintended outcomes of government intervention policies in the Muda irrigation scheme, Malaysia. It focuses on the process by which the farmers and government staff manipulate these policies to secure their individual and collective needs. This process is manifested in the informal actions of these actors when contrasted with the formal rules and regulations of system governance and management. This is explored through the detailed analysis of one particular government policy - tertiary intervention. It is argued that because the irrigation management concepts and models fail to address the nature of the relationship between governments, irrigation agencies and irrigators they are unable to incorporate the objectives of all actors in the intervention process. To facilitate such an integration, the theoretical focus explores the appropriateness of actor-oriented research in a coercive/cooperative framework. Such an approach recognises the power, knowledge and agency of all actors engaged in government intervention at the macro, meso and micro spatial scales. The research design incorporates both quantitative and qualitative methods within the context of case-study research. The use of these methods in combination enables the analysis to express causality and generalisations in addition to depth and meaning. These methods are utilised through the logic of triangulation, including; data, investigator and methodological triangulation. The findings presented in this thesis indicate that the government policy of tertiary intervention is not facilitating the water saving, or productivity increase, expectations of the federal government and MADA. Instead, tertiary intervention has increased the capacity for the farmers to diversify into other sectors of the economy whilst still retaining access to the rice farming culture. This is illustrative of the mis-match of expectations between policy implementors and policy recipients. Such a situation has emerged because of the powerful position of the farmers vis-a-vis MADA and the federal government. In particular, because the farmers are powerful actors in the national political arena, this influences both their actions at the local level and the policy options available to the federal government. By contrast, because MADA are 'powerless' to enforce rules and regulations they are unable to restrict the unofficial actions of the farmers. These unofficial actions significantly diverge from the formal rules of system management. The research concludes that the policy of tertiary intervention is a valuable policy if the focus of its performance is improvements in the livelihoods of farmers as opposed to improvements in yields. However, the water saving potential of tertiary intervention can only be realised if a cooperative framework is applied to system governance whereby the farmers are active decision-makers rather than consultative partners.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Flood Hazard Research Centre
B. > Theses
Item ID: 13371
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 15:20
Last Modified: 30 May 2019 19:16
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/13371

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