Dealing with messy problems: lessons from water harvesting systems for crop production in Burkina Faso

Despite the identification of areas exhibiting successful adoption and use of water harvesting technologies (WHTs) by small-scale farmers in SSA, on the whole WHT use remains low and hence impacts on crop production and livelihoods marginal. Past research has determined the importance of social factors in the adoption and use of WHTs, but little attempt has been made to fully understand their role. This paper presents qualitative, micro level research conducted in Botswana and Burkina Faso that has increased understanding of the effect of social factors. The main lesson learnt is that WHTs sit within a highly complex and dynamic system and the problem of low adoption and use cannot be solved using approaches that attempt to over-simplify it. Ensuring the sustainability of WHTs into the future requires that the complexity and messiness of the system is fully embraced by researchers and practitioners seeking solutions.