Jeltsje Kemerink - Seyoum

Associate Professor of Water Governance & Justice


Jeltsje Sanne Kemerink-Seyoum is an interdisciplinary scholar who engages with critical theory to understand how injustices become manifest and how they can be challenged in and around water and agriculture.

Currently Jeltsje is particularly interested in understanding what water infrastructure is and does within socionatural relations in general, and processes of agrarian change in particular. For this purpose she studies in detail the everyday practices of engineers, operators and irrigators who engage with various forms of (surface and groundwater) irrigation systems to shed light on how the form and materiality of water infrastructure opens up space to renegotiate social relations of power. In her work, Jeltsje explicitly questions structures and hierarchies that are often assumed or presented as self-evident, in particular those based on gender, race and class.

In addition, Jeltsje is engaged in research that critically examines the implications of shifts in government policies on smallholder farming related to – amongst others - IWRM, land tenure, climate financing, and the covid19 pandemic. In this research, she aims to give especially voice to historically marginalized groups in society and study how rural communities are affected by, but also importantly renegotiated and rearrange, these policy interventions.

Besides her research activities, Jeltsje coordinates the third phase of the Water and Development Partnership Programme, the programmatic collaboration between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IHE Delft. As such, she steers the strategic directions of the programme, which aims to stimulate transformations to more socially inclusive and ecological sustainable societies through joint research and education with organizations in low- and middle-income countries. Moreover, she is – and has been – involved in several large-scale collaborative research projects and capacity strengthening initiatives in various African and Asian countries. Noteworthy is the ongoing transformations to groundwater sustainability (T2GS) project in which she works on case studies in Zimbabwe, India and Tanzania.

As lecturer Jeltsje has experience in delivering courses on various subjects including water governance, participation, gender, institutional analysis, and research methodology for qualitative social sciences. Jeltsje actively supervises MSc and PhD students in their thesis research on water governance related case studies.

In addition to her position at IHE Delft, Jeltsje is a visiting researcher at the Global and Inclusive Development Group at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research of the University of Amsterdam and she has been appointed as an affiliated faculty member of the Oregon State University in the United States of America. Since 2018 she is also the Subject Editor on water governance for the peer-reviewed journal Water SA.


PhD dissertation:

Kemerink, J.S. (2015) Policies lost in translation? Unravelling water reform processes in African waterscapes. PhD dissertation, Delft University of Technology. Leiden: Taylor and Francis. ISBN: 978-1-138-02943-9


Articles in refereed journals:

Chitata, T., Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S., and Cleaver, F. (2021) Engaging and learning with water infrastructure: Rufaro Irrigation Scheme, Zimbabwe. Water Alternatives 14(3): 690-716.

Zwarteveen, M., Kuper, M., Olmos-Herrera, C., Dajani M., Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S., et al. (2021) Transformations to groundwater sustainability: from individuals and pumps to communities and aquifers. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 49:88–97.

Leonardelli, I., Bossenbroek, L., Ftouhi H., Kadiri Z., Bhat S., Kulkarni, S., Hamamouche, M.F., Saidani, M.A., Zwarteveen, M., Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S. (2021) COVID-19 in rural India, Algeria, and Morocco: a feminist analysis of small-scale farmers’ and agricultural laborers’ experiences and inventive practices. Frontiers in Human Dynamics 3: 653979.

Silva-Novoa Sanchez, L.M., Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S., Waisa Batega, D. and Paul. R. (2020) Caught in the middle? Access to water in the rural to urban transformation of Bushenyi-Ishaka municipality, Uganda. Water Policy 22(4).

Sara J. Marks, S.J,  Clair-Caliot, G., Taing, L., Bamwenda, J.T., Kanyesigye, C.,  Rwendeire,  N.E.,  Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S., Kansiime, F., Waisa Batega, D., Giuliana Ferrero, G. (2020) Water supply and sanitation services in small towns in rural–urban transition zones: The case of Bushenyi-Ishaka Municipality, Uganda. njp Clean Water 3 (21).

Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S.; Chitata, T.; Dominguez Guzman, C.; Novoa-Sanchez, L.M.; Zwarteveen, M.Z. (2019) Attention to Sociotechnical Tinkering with Irrigation Infrastructure as a Way to Rethink Water Governance. Water 11, 1670.

Silva-Novoa Sanchez, L.M.; Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S.; Zwarteveen, M. (2019) Water Infrastructure Always In-The-Making: Distributing Water and Authority through the Water Supply Network in Moamba, Mozambique. Water 2019, 11, 1926.

Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S., T.M. Tadesse, W.K. Mersha, A.E.C. Duker, C. De Fraiture (2018) Sharing benefits or fueling conflicts? The elusive quest for organizational blue-prints in climate financed forestry projects in Ethiopia. Global Environmental Change 53: 265–272

Duker A.E.C., T. M. Tadesse, T. Soentoro, C. de Fraiture and J. S. Kemerink-Seyoum (2018) The implications of ignoring smallholder agriculture in climate-financed forestry projects: empirical evidence from two REDD+ pilot projects. Climate Policy [DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2018.1532389]

Zwarteveen, M., J.S. Kemerink-Seyoum, et al. (2017) Engaging with the politics of water Governance. WIREs Water, e01245 [DOI: 10.1002/wat2.1245]

Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S., N.L. T. Chinguno, S.D. Seyoum, R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2017) Jumping the water queue: changing waterscapes under water reform processes in rural Zimbabwe. Water SA 43(3): 423-432 [DOI:]

Mendez, L. E., J.S. Kemerink, P. Wester, F. Molle (2016) Commercial farmers’ strategies to control water resources in South Africa: an empirical view of reform. International Journal on Water Resource Development, [doi:10.1080/07900627.2016.1253544]

Kemerink, J.S., S.N. Munyao, K. Schwartz, R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2016) Why infrastructure still matters: unravelling water reform processes in an uneven waterscape in rural Kenya. International Journal of the Commons 10(2): 1055–1081.

Di Baldassarre, G., J. S. Kemerink, M. Kooy, L. Brandimarte (2014) Floods and Societies: the Spatial Distribution of Water-related Disaster Risk and its Dynamics. WIREs Water 1(2):133-139.

Di Baldassarre, G., M. Kooy, J. S. Kemerink, L. Brandimarte (2013) Towards understanding the dynamic behaviour of floodplains as human-water systems. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss. 10: 3869–3895. [DOI:10.5194/hessd-10-3869-2013]

Kemerink, J.S., L. E. Mendez, R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2013) The question of inclusion and representation in rural South Africa: challenging the concept of Water User Associations as a vehicle for transformation. Water Policy 15: 243–257. [DOI:10.2166/wp.2012.127]

Komakech, H.C., P. van der Zaag, M. L. Mul, T.A. Mwakalukwa, J.S. Kemerink (2012) Formalization of water allocation systems and impacts on local practices in the Hingilili subcatchment, Tanzania. International Journal of River Basin Management, 10 (3): 213-227. [DOI:10.1080/15715124.2012.664774].

Kemerink, J.S., R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2011) Contested water right in post-apartheid South-Africa: the struggle for water at catchment level. Water SA, 37 (4): 585-594. [DOI:

Mul, M.L., J.S. Kemerink, N.F. Vyagusa, M.G. Mshana, P. van der Zaag, and H. Makurira (2011) Water allocation practices among smallholder farmers in the South Pare Mountains, Tanzania; can they be up-scaled? Agricultural Water Management 98(11): 1752-1760. [DOI:10.1016/j.agwat.2010.02.014]

Kemerink, J.S., R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2009) Assessment of the potential for hydro-solidarity in plural legal condition of traditional irrigation systems in northern Tanzania. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 34: 881-889. [DOI:10.1016/j.pce.2009.06.012]


Chapters in books:

Kemerink, J.S., D. Mbuvi, Schwartz, K. (2012) Governance shifts in the water services sector: a case study of the Zambia water services sector. In Katko T., Juuti P.S. and Schwartz K. (eds) Water Services Management and Governance: Lessons for a Sustainable Future. IWA Publishing: 3-11.


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