The powers of water-user associations: on multiplicity, fluidity, and durability in the Peruvian Andes.

In this article we use insights from institutional bricolage and actor network theory to make sense of an Andean water user association (WUA) and its bricoleurs in the Region of Ayacucho, Peru. Rather than being designed and clearly defined, we see natural resource institutions as continuously performed and patched together, through heterogeneous elements and practices, by those that live, experience and enact these institutions every day and by those who make sense of them. We present three cases, three supra-community efforts to secure water livelihoods, in which the Ayacucho water user association is enacted differently. Similar actors and practices like, water law, local customs, water bodies, and ecological services are performed in alternate ways for diverse purposes. It is this range of co-existing performances or enactments and the fluidity of actors and bricoleurs which enables an institution to adapt and adjust. We hold that an Andean WUA can be a bureaucratic imposition, but in many ways the WUA is something else too: a strategic ally; a prerequisite for subsidy consideration, a marketplace for exchanging goods and services and more. In the setting of the contemporary Peruvian Andes, the durability of natural resource institutions can be understood through the fluidity and multiplicity of performances and purposes. This has normative and political implications for researchers and policymakers as to what enactment they consider and target.

 

Download (pdf)