Caring for the canal: exploring water management and cuidar
Carolina Domínguez Guzmán
(University of Amsterdam)
Annemarie Mol (University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
Through an ethnographic visit to the Huallabamba canal in the Peruvian Andes, we learn that the function of the irrigation system depends on adaptable care as much as on masterful control, something made invisible in the modern vocabulary of water management officials.
Paper long abstract:
The Huallabamba canal is an inter-basin infrastructure in the Peruvian Andes that leads water from the Amazonian watershed to flow to the arid valley of Motupe on the Pacific coast, where it allows for agribusiness production and small holder sustenance and export cultivation. This canal is attended to by operators, water guards, locally called vigilantes. An ethnographic visit revealed that these men do not perform their task in the managerial, controlling way that modern irrigation professionals propose. Instead, they work in an improvising, tinkering way. Far removed from the irrigated command area, the vigilantes engage in daily canal walks and take on ad hoc repairs. They live with the canal: with its crumbling stones, its rapid waters and its unpredictable water creatures. In this way they keep the water flowing. It is the dedication of the vigilantes that allows for desert agriculture on the Peruvian coast. We therefore argue that the function of the irrigation system depends on adaptable care as much as on masterful control, something made invisible in the modern vocabulary of water management officials.
In other words: caring for water