Governments in developing countries and international agencies supporting them often employ two strategies to try to improve agricultural production. First, they invest in major public works projects such as irrigation schemes. Second, they organize extension services to try to improve the agricultural methods and technologies used by individual farmers, including those who benefit from irrigation projects. This project aims to study the relative importance of these two strategies in improving agricultural livelihoods and especially the prospective complementarity of these two strategies. We hypothesize that changes in the water resource environment brought on by irrigation improvements (or, similarly, changing water availability due to climate change) may prompt farmers to become more responsive to trying new agricultural methods, making extension and irrigation improvements more effective when they are combined with each other. We propose to study the effectiveness of these two strategies in the context of Nepal, where the World Bank and the Government of Nepal are supporting modernization of a large-scale irrigation works program alongside agricultural extension. This research will answer policy relevant questions about how to maximize public investments in agriculture, as well as behavioral questions about how farmers make decisions about adapting to changing environments.
We have three primary evaluation questions: 1. What is the impact of agricultural extension service provision of crop choice, yields and household welfare? 2. What is the impact of modernized irrigation infrastructure on crop choice, yields and household welfare? 3. What is the impact of both extension services and modernized irrigation infrastructure on crop choice, yields and household welfare?
The third evaluation question is the most original, and addresses issues of whether changing environments prompt farmers to take notice of extension programs and whether timely extension services can maximize adaptation in response to changing environments. We plan to assess this question through the interaction of two interventions, randomized agricultural extension programs and non-randomized placement of modernized irrigation systems. Groups of farmers who have been organized into training sessions will be randomly assigned to complete training in groups of 2 per year. We expect the irrigation system to differentially impact farmers living in different parts of the scheme with the primary difference being whether the farmer lives in the upstream or the downstream of existing canals. We can use differences in differences across upstream and downstream farmers to assess changes associated with irrigation and randomized timing of extension to assess changes resulting from irrigation. The randomization of extension will be stratified by upstream and downstream farmers to allow assessing the interaction of the two, the primary outcome of interest.
The ultimate outcome of interest both for irrigation, extension, and the interaction is improvement in farmer’s agricultural revenue. We will assess this outcome for at least one full year prior to the completion of the irrigation scheme and one full year following with a prospective second follow-up year pending constitution of the project’s interventions. Additional immediate outcomes will include farmers’ attendance in trainings and knowledge after extension programs as well as social learning across groups to assess mechanisms.