The Downgrading Effect of Abuse of Power on Trust and Collective Action in Bulgaria’s Irrigation Sector

  • Insa Theesfeld


Bulgaria’s irrigation facilities have largely deteriorated, property rights over the infrastructure are ambiguous and water loss in the system at present amounts to 70%. Thus, the Bulgarian government is currently attempting to formally reform the sector by implementing collective action management schemes. In analyzing the possible success of this envisaged local cooperation, I draw on Ostrom’s (2007) development of collective action theory. In her theoretical framework, Ostrom posits variables affecting the likelihood of undertaking diverse forms of collective action leading to positive or negative results for others. The core relationships affecting cooperation are between reputation, trust, and reciprocity. In turn, eight structural variables influence these core relationships: one of them being the “heterogeneity of participants“. In the following, empirical evidence from Bulgaria’s irrigation sector is provided to explain how incongruity of rules helps to maintain opportunistic strategies, how various transactions in the foundation of a water user association are affected by abuse of power, and how low the level of trust in formal actors actually is. Based on that, I examine one detailed link in Ostrom’s theory, namely between heterogeneity of participants and trust, showing in particular that the interdependency between abuse of power and decrease in trust produces a downgrading effect on collective action.


Bulgaria Collective action theory Heterogeneity of participants Irrigation Trust 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Insa Theesfeld
    • 1
  1. 1.Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO)06120 Halle (Saale)Germany

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