Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Legitimacy and cooperation: A framed field experiment

Bouma, Jetske A. and Joy, K.J. and Paranjape, Suhas and Ansink, Erik (2013): Legitimacy and cooperation: A framed field experiment.

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Abstract

Decentralization of irrigation management to local communities is often claimed to improve performance. The argument is that decentralization enhances the perceived legitimacy of irrigation management, which in turn increases the willingness of water users to cooperate and contribute to irrigation management. To test this hypothesis, we collected information about water users’ legitimacy perceptions in five villages alongside an irrigation channel in Maharashtra, India. In two of the villages, the irrigation department is in charge of irrigation management, while in the other three villages, this task has been decentralized to local water users associations (WUAs). To assess the impact of legitimacy perceptions on cooperation, we used survey-based indicators of perceived legitimacy to explain three outcomes, each of which partly reflects the willingness of water users to cooperate and contribute to irrigation management: (1) water users’ self-reported charge payments, (2) WUA-reported charge payments, and (3) water users’ behavior in a field experiment that was framed in terms of irrigation management. Our results show that legitimacy perceptions differ between the two types of villages as well as between WUA members and non-members, but these differences do not explain any of the three outcomes. Non-members contribute significantly less under the irrigation frame as compared to WUA members, but game behavior is not correlated with (self-reported or WUA-reported) charge payments. We conclude that decentralization of irrigation management may enhance legitimacy perceptions but this has no effect on the willingness of water users to contribute to irrigation management.

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