We designed and implemented an action-research programme in large-scale irrigation schemes in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, aiming to develop a regional network of competences by conducting research, training and development activities, and involving local actors. We worked on three issues: (i) the sustainability of North Africa's growing groundwater economy, (ii) the integration of environmental constraints in the management of irrigated agriculture, and(iii) the analysis of new coordination modes of agricultural production and rural development in traditionally centrally managed irrigation schemes. Based on 11 empirical studies, we contributed to operationalizing a new praxis in irrigation management; this learning-oriented and network-based approach enables mobilization of the knowledge of a wide range of actors, as well as linking local knowledge systems to more universal ones. This approach is necessary to support family-based agriculture to continue to face recurrent droughts, feed the urban and rural populations, develop rural territories and integrate the rural youth
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