The decline of agriculture in Taiwan has adversely affected the incentives of farmers and the government to engage in irrigation management. Despite that, Taiwan's irrigation systems have shown a high degree of robustness. This study seeks to understand how institutions have contributed to the robustness of Taiwanese irrigation. Conceptualizing an irrigation system as a social-ecological system (SES), this study examines the development and design of Taiwanese irrigation institutions, and how these institutions have enabled farmers and irrigation managers to cope with the dynamics in the SES, and hence contributed to the system's robustness.
The study has found that the robust systems are built upon institutions that allow effective coordination of the activities of a multitude of farmers, enhance the development and sustenance of a repertoire of ideas, and nest the problem-solving efforts of various scopes and scales in a complementary manner. The institutions enable individuals and organizations at different levels to engage in continuous learning and adaptation that, in turn, facilitates the systems' adaptation to the changing environment.