Irrigation and smallholder resilience in Nepal

What is the challenge?

Empirical evidence on the impact of irrigation on ecosystem services and smallholder resilience is lacking, with a few existing studies showing mixed results. For example, while some studies argue that irrigation contributes to crop diversity by extending the growing season and broadening crop choices, others show that irrigation leads to reduced crop diversity due to mono-cropped high-yield varieties replacing local varieties. Moreover, while some have argued that irrigation reduces pressure on the surrounding forest resource, grazing and marginal lands because of increased cropping intensification, others have suggested a reverse trend. Furthermore, a deeper look is needed to understand how irrigation has contributed to farmers’ resilience to natural and social shocks by examining important factors such as access to irrigation, seasonality of irrigation, and multiple use of water,

Key research questions

The overarching goal of this research is to improve our understanding of the impact of irrigation on ecosystem services and smallholder farmers’ resilience to natural and socio-economic changes in Nepal. Specifically, our research questions are:

  • How has irrigation changed farmers’ behavior in terms of crop selection, crop diversity and risk management by season?
  • How has irrigation impacted land use change, in particular, deforestation, in the last 3 decades?

Basic information about activity

We use three rounds of the Nepal Living Standards Survey (NLSS) data (1995/96, 2003/04, 2010/11), supplemented by 1) secondary data on irrigation schemes that are compiled by collaborators at the Department of Irrigation (DOI) and 2) weather station data that are obtained from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), to examine how irrigation has changed farmers’ behavior in terms of crop selection, crop diversity and risk management by season using a panel-data econometric analyses.

Collaborators

Outputs

  • Literature review on the impact of irrigation on risk management, resilience, and land use change.
  • Econometric analysis results on how irrigation has changed farmers’ behavior in terms of crop selection, crop diversity and risk management by season
  • Econometric analysis results on how irrigation may have played a role in land use change in relation to deforestation
  • Project briefs for outreach and dissemination

This project is implemented under the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).