Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Melle Jochem Nikkels

Date: 20 May 2020
Time: 13:30 - 15:00
Location: Online

Dissertation title: 

Farmers as water managers? Challenges in assessing farmers’ influence on regional water systems

Group: Water Resources Management, Wageningen University
Promotor: prof. dr PJGJ Hellegers
Co-promotor: dr. PR van Oel


Farmers influence the water system through on-farm interventions. Reversely, farmers are influenced by the water system in which they operate, through the coupled dynamics of human-water interactions. This thesis first identifies both technical and socio-economic challenges in assessing the regional impacts of local interventions and then further explores farmers’ reasoning and personal perspectives on (not) investing in additional water for irrigation. A participatory approach, to elaborate on the personal and evolving valuation of irrigation water, was developed, applied in distinct settings, and evaluated on both drivers of success and on outcomes in three domains. In workshop settings, farmers discussed whether and why their demand for water, their need for reliable water of high quality, and also their willingness to pay for water evolved over the years. Their personal reasoning turned out to be diverse and beyond short-term (economic) gains. This holds strong policy implications for the information provision to farmers, which should focus more on information exchange, and so learning from and with others. In addition, it was found that facilitated discussions between farmers and water managers can create opportunities to appreciate diversity, foster social learning, and enable the identification of potential improvements for management and governance of water systems.

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