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Title: Pathways to water security : exploring the impacts of irrigation investments in Madhya Pradesh, India
Author: Sinha, Ranu
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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Agriculture-dependent societies invest in irrigation infrastructure to enhance water security for agricultural production and improve farmers' livelihoods in the face of hydroclimatic risks. While these investments have historically contributed to food security and economic growth, we have an incomplete understanding of their distributional impacts. We lack evidence of the dynamic outcomes of investments in irrigated agriculture in specific contexts with respect to uncertain hydrological cycles, policy impacts, and socio-economic poverty. This thesis addresses this gap by exploring how investments in irrigation infrastructure influence agricultural, poverty, and behavioural outcomes. To do so, it uses a ten-year World Bank funded programme to modernise irrigation infrastructure in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) as a case study. The thesis builds upon prior work analysing the relation between infrastructure, water security, and the economy. In particular, it relates to the literature on: (1) the association between hydrological variability, rehabilitated irrigation infrastructure, and crop yields; (2) the distributional impacts of irrigation and links to poverty alleviation through well-being; and (3) the role of infrastructure and financial incentives in driving the irrigation choices of farmers. The overarching research question of the thesis is: do investments to modernise and rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure enhance outcomes related to agricultural water security in Madhya Pradesh? To answer this question, the thesis explores the impact of improved infrastructure by examining changes in crop yields, farmer well-being, and irrigation practices by taking into account contextual factors related to hydrological variability, crop price and subsidy policies, socio-economic characteristics of farmers, and social dynamics among farming communities. The thesis utilises a mixed methods approach combining analysis of rainfall anomalies at the district-scale supported by a cross-sectional survey of 918 farmers and consultations with stakeholders from government, donor, and farming communities. The results advance knowledge of the multiscale and multidimensional consequences of irrigation infrastructure investments with implications for water security. The thesis highlights that in the context of Madhya Pradesh: a) there is a positive correlation between infrastructure and crop yields in average rainfall areas and little to no effect of rehabilitation on yields in low or high rainfall areas after accounting for district-scale hydroclimatic variability; b) national food security policies such as the Minimum Support Price for cereal crops are strongly correlated with crop yields more so than hydrological factors; c) access to modernised surface irrigation is positively correlated with improvements in farmers' well-being, with evidence of higher gains among poorest segments of farming communities and where rainfall is low; d) in areas with improved irrigation canals there is reduced probability that farmers will use sprinkler or drip systems and instead prefer to flood irrigate; and, e) social networks strongly influence the irrigation practices of farmers. While findings remain contextual to the study area and the factors examined, the thesis concludes that a process-driven approach to irrigation investments in the state, focused on improving water supply based on rehabilitation of ageing canals, cannot adequately account for the risks associated with sub-basin hydrological variability and the consequential impacts on crop yields. The thesis calls for further analysis on whether integration of contextual factors related to district-scale rainfall variability data; knowledge of how policies and social norms shape farmer crop and irrigation choices, and well-being responses among different farmers into the design and appraisal of future infrastructure investments may enhance multiscale water security benefits to smallholders in the face of increasing climatic risks to agriculture in India.
Supervisor: Dadson, Simon ; Hope, Rob Sponsor: Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development at Somerville College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Water resources development--Government policy ; Agriculture water management ; Water security ; Hydrological variability