Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Latin American Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Richard Weisskoff

Second Committee Member

Marten Brienen

Third Committee Member

Stephen Stein


Small holder irrigation projects have been cited as a strategy for poverty alleviation throughout the developing world by providing a mechanism to improve efficiency of water delivery, enhance income generation, and promote community organization (both economic and social). However, a paradigm of top-down transfer of technology has dominated the agricultural development discourse and practice, failing to take into account local knowledge systems and individual farmers’ capacity for innovation and experimentation. This in-depth case study of a community of small-scale farmers in a remote region in southern Peru examines a homegrown agricultural innovation in modern drip irrigation technology and the social innovation in community development that was triggered by this innovation. A comparison of the case study community with a neighboring village revealed that despite similar historical experiences under a series of national land reforms, legacies of the reforms manifested quite differently in each community. An analysis of factors such as geographic location, interactions with NGOs, and access to agricultural extension services, reveals that one community developed conventions of grass roots participation and entrepreneurship, while the other has come to suffer from a persistent, and perhaps deepening, sense of clientelism and dependency on outsiders. This case study offers a new way to understand local innovation as a key development process among agricultural smallholders with community-driven change as its main vehicle.


Peru; rural development; farmer innovation; drip irrigation