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Cooperative Management of a Traditional Irrigation System in the Swiss Alps


  • Robert Finger

    () (Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy Group, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 16706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands)

  • Anna Borer

    () (ETH Zurich, Agri-Food and Agri-Environmental Economics Group, Sonneggstrasse 33, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland)


Traditional channel irrigation systems in Switzerland are managed on a community basis and have high cultural, touristic and ecological values. However, many irrigation communities disappeared in the last decades. This paper analyzes the factors contributing to the continuation of a still existent irrigation community. Our analysis thus provides insights into how to avoid further losses of these unique agricultural systems and to preserve the associated benefits. Based on hypotheses derived from game theoretical analysis, a survey was conducted in an irrigation community located in the canton of Valais. Our results show that the motivation of community members to remain in the traditional system is not a financial one. In contrast, factors such as long-term perspectives, system knowledge, communication and the institutional setting seem to be the basis for the continuation of the analyzed irrigation community. For policy makers, this example shows that the creation of institutions that enable self-governance, communication and knowledge transfer should be considered in this field of rural and agricultural policy making.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Finger & Anna Borer, 2013. "Cooperative Management of a Traditional Irrigation System in the Swiss Alps," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(1), pages 1-19, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jscscx:v:2:y:2013:i:1:p:1-19:d:23044

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin Beckenkamp & Heike Hennig-Schmidt & Frank P. Maier-Rigaud, 2007. "Cooperation in Symmetric and Asymmetric Prisoner's Dilemma Games," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2006_25, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    2. Matsushina, Hitoshi, 1990. "Long-term partnership in a repeated prisoner's dilemma with random matching," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 245-248, November.
    3. Kissling-Naf, Ingrid & Volken, Thomas & Bisang, Kurt, 2002. "Common property and natural resources in the Alps: the decay of management structures?," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 135-147, June.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:80:y:1986:i:04:p:1095-1111_18 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Elinor Ostrom & Roy Gardner, 1993. "Coping with Asymmetries in the Commons: Self-Governing Irrigation Systems Can Work," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 93-112, Fall.
    6. Fudenberg, Drew & Maskin, Eric, 1986. "The Folk Theorem in Repeated Games with Discounting or with Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 533-554, May.
    7. Okada, Akira, 1993. "The Possibility of Cooperation in an n-Person Prisoners' Dilemma with Institutional Arrangements," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 77(3), pages 629-656, November.
    8. Nikos Nikiforakis & Hans-Theo Normann, 2008. "A comparative statics analysis of punishment in public-good experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(4), pages 358-369, December.
    9. Betsy Jane Clary, 2007. "Broadening the concept of rational economic behavior: A case study of cheese making at the Abbey of Tamie," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 65(2), pages 165-186.
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    More about this item


    traditional irrigation systems; water channels; community based management; Valais; Switzerland;

    JEL classification:

    • A - General Economics and Teaching
    • B - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology
    • N - Economic History
    • P - Economic Systems
    • Y80 - Miscellaneous Categories - - Related Disciplines - - - Related Disciplines
    • Z00 - Other Special Topics - - General - - - General


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