Understanding discourses on technological interventions to tackle soil salinity : a case study from Khuzestan, Iran
Abstract: Soil salinity is an environmental hazard in arid and semi-arid regions in the world, diminishing crops growth and, hence, affecting agricultural production. One scientifically accepted solution to contrast the problem is the practice of leaching, consisting in the application of an extra amount of water, in addition to that used for irrigation, which can remove salts from the root zone, washed away through drainage. In the province of Khuzestan, Iran, the issue of soil salinity adds to and is fed by the bad quality and poor quantity of water sources, and it seems to be worsened by a lack of appropriate drainage system, so that leaching has not been adopted yet. This thesis has a dual goal: besides assessing if interventions such as leaching are feasible in the context of Khuzestan, it sheds new light on the underlying existing socio-economic factors that constrain their adoption. More specifically, it explores the discourses on the adoption of technical interventions needed to address soil salinity developed by the different stakeholders involved in the improvement of irrigation networks in the region, namely farmers, scientific experts, and the governmental authorities. This is done by combining interviews with local farmers carried out in Khuzestan with scientific reports drafted by experts of the Humboldt University of Berlin for the Khuzestan Region and Power Authority. The results show how not only is soil salinity an environmental hazard, but also it can represent an important economic constraint. Power relations among stakeholders affect which and whose opinions get the possibility to be materialized into practice, what actions to be taken and what priorities to be given. Ultimately, it is shown that limited finances represent an important variable to farmers' experiences, and that this influences greatly the adoption and shaping of technologies. It is highlighted that the designing of technological interventions to prevent and tackle soil salinity in irrigation networks should take into account local socio-economic constraints, to allow a successful adoption of new strategies. This work concludes that issues faced by the local populations need to be fully understood, to realize what solutions may match their needs.
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