This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book aims to understand the role played by social capital in irrigation water management generally, and in the recent creation and operation of water users' organizations (WUOs) in Egypt in particular. It examines networks of social relationships and norms and their impact on the exercise of social control and collective irrigation water management practices in Egyptian villages. It focuses on four villages in the Kafr al-Sheikh (KSH) and Fayoum governorates in Egypt, looking at informal water user groups and formal WUOs over two time periods—the 1950s and 1960s, and the 1970s onward—to understand how they function and change over time. The book draws on two main concepts, social capital and community-based natural resource management, which are discussed in the remainder of the chapter.
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