Science, technology and agency in the development of droughtprone areas: a cognitive history of drought and scarcity

Vincent, Linden Faith (2004). Science, technology and agency in the development of droughtprone areas: a cognitive history of drought and scarcity. PhD thesis The Open University.



Drought and scarcity are two frameworks in common use to study the relationships between natural phenomena creating lack of water (drought) and the lack of access to water for human security and economic development (scarcity). This thesis studies how these frameworks have shaped public action in droughtprone and scarcity regions over time, in the agencies created for water development, and their cognitive and technical norms used in analysis of drought and scarcity and design of development programmes. These public agencies have relied on science and technology both to generate new understanding of drought mechanisms and social and environmental dynamics shaping scarcity, and also mobilise water sources to reduce vulnerabilities in droughtprone regions. It explores two hypotheses: that scientific, technological and political elites build their power - or struggle to remain prominent actors - through the cognitive and technical norms that they build; and that a cognitive framework linking drought and scarcity can transform options to assess, allocate and use water resources in droughtprone areas. The thesis presents case studies from three droughtprone regions, India, Yemen and Zimbabwe. These regions have different patterns of drought risk and intensity, which manifest themselves in different dependencies and risks on different water sources - soil moisture, groundwater and surface water - to support agricultural production. They are also very different types of state in terms of their commitment to public action for development. The countries show differing dependencies on techno-scientific networks, technoeconomic networks and district and community level management in shaping livelihood security in the face of drought, and have had different performances in mitigating drought impacts and creating equitable institutions to mediate scarce water resources. Future public action will be better informed by the emergence of critical science with a stronger commitment to shared knowledge and participatory debate.

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