Keywords: direct action, irrigation community, irrigation management, local control, participation, representation
Giving way to the elephant: the dynamics of participation in the management of a Balinese subak
Irrigation Communities, a common reference point for Water Users' Associations, are corporate groups that manage irrigation systems under local or indigenous charters. This paper begins by pointing out that local control in irrigation does not necessarily imply effective participatory management. It then undertakes a detailed examination of the internal dynamics of participation in an Irrigation Community (IC) in Indonesia, revealing that participation in government has direct as well as representative aspects. Direct participation ? or direct action ? enables ordinary members of the IC to keep in check leadership councils, which exercise conciliar control. The paper concludes that, under the constant threat of abuse of conciliar control, the ability of members to hold the IC's leaders responsible for their deeds via direct action is what ensures democracy or participation at the local level. Thus, direct action, not local control, is the ultimate guarantor of participation.