Irene Leonardelli

Host Institute

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in The Netherlands

Irene Leonardelli photo Topic
Virtual water flows: re-articulating gendered structures of accumulation along emerging agro-food commodity chains in Maharashtra, India.


Margreet Zwarteveen,
Jeltsje Kemerink-Seyoum

Secondment 1
Centre for Social Studies-University of Coimbra (CES-UC)


Stefania Barca

Secondment 2
Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management


Seema Kulkarni



Irene Leonardelli holds a MSc in Social Sciences from the University of Amsterdam and a bachelor in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Bologna.

 She is passionate about exploring the interaction between the global and the local, looking at how people resist, re-shape and adapt to social and environmental changes. She worked for two years for the IOM´s Global Migration Data Analysis contributing to several projects, including the “Migration, Environment and Climate Change: Evidence for Policy” (MECLEP) project and the Migration Governance Indicators. She also collaborated with NGOs conducting advocacy work and providing direct support to refugees and communities at risk of displacement both in Europe and in South America. 

Progress update

Irene Leonardelli started her PhD at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Department of Water Governance, in September 2018. She just finished her first period of ethnographic fieldwork in Maharashtra, India, where she collaborated with the WEGO partner institution SOPPECOM. Unfortunately, her fieldwork had to be interrupted one month ahead of schedule due to COVID19. She is now working on her data analysis and writings, partly continuing her data collection through phone interviews. A beautiful and important moment during her fieldwork was the week spent with Wendy Harcourt, Enid Still, Seema Kulkarni (WEGO members) in Pune and Chennai, networking with local organizations and universities, thinking through and practicing together feminist political ecology.

Before leaving for her first period of fieldwork, in November 2019, Irene successfully defended her research proposal at IHE Delft. At IHE Delft, Irene has been following several classes on water governance and creative writing, actively engaging with both master students and other PhD fellows. She also attended many seminars and workshops organized at IHE Delft, eager to contribute to interdisciplinary discussions around water with a critical feminist perspective. The monthly meetings with other WEGO PhDs and professors based at other Dutch universities gave her the opportunity to share ideas and learn about feminist political ecology through the experience and work of others, feeling part of an incredibly inspiring and diverse network. ​​​​​

During her first year of PhD, from May to August 2019, Irene conducted her first secondment at SOPPECOM (Pune, India), collaborating on several action-research projects to support farmers, and particularly women farmers, in rural Maharashtra and conducting preliminary fieldwork for her research project. She also attended a two weeks course titled “Training and Facilitation in Hydrogeology to enhance civil society capabilities in watershed and groundwater management”, organized by a local NGO, ACWADAM, with whom she is also closely collaborating.

She presented her research at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference in London in August 2019, at a panel titled “New and Emerging Research in Gender and Feminist Geographies”. In October 2019, she also attended the PhD course “Theories of agrarian transformations and modernization” at Stockholm University and Uppsala University, in Sweden.

At IHE Delft, she is also involved in several projects including “Transformations to Groundwater Sustainability” (T2GS), co-coordinated by her WEGO promotors, Margreet Zwarteveen and Jeltsje Kemerink – Seyoum. In the context of this project she participated in an international workshop held in Pune (India) in December 2018, with water professionals from India, Morocco, USA, Algeria, Peru, Chile, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and others. The second international workshop for this project, which was supposed to happen in March 2020 had to be postponed due to COVID19.

Blogs by Irene Leonardelli

Reimagining, remembering, and reclaiming water: From extractivism to commoning
A new open Series co-organized by the Undisciplined Environments and FLOWs blogs looks at struggles over more just and ecological ...
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A pandemic of blindness: uneven experiences of rural communities under COVID-19 lockdown in India – Part II
In part II of our series on the uneven experiences and everyday challenges of lockdown conditions in India, activist-researchers Seema ...
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A pandemic of blindness: uneven experiences of rural communities under COVID-19 lockdown in India – Part I
A two part series on the uneven experiences and everyday challenges of lockdown conditions in India. Reflections and insights from ...
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feminist entanglements of care
Feminist entanglements of care
Thinking with care does not mean romanticizing, idealizing isolated stories. On the contrary, it means taking seriously the troubled dynamics ...
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Flower farmers in a dry land
Irene Leonardelli recently defended her research proposal at lHE Delft Her research entitled 'Flower Farmers in a Dry Land: A ...
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Notes from the field: Between drought and monsoon: the embodied hardship of seasonal work in Maharashtra’s sugar cane plantations
At the end of a too-long, extremely dry summer, rural women from the drought-prone district of Beed, Maharashtra, finally return ...
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Reflecting on the intersections between water flows and people flows
At the moment I am doing my secondment at SOPPECOM, an NGO based in Pune (India). SOPPECOM is committed to ...
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Irene Leonardelli on secondment in India
Big hug and good luck also from Seema and myself... in the 42° of Beed, one of the driest areas ...
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