Agricultural technologies are widely promoted as a tool for poverty alleviation in countries where the rural poor rely primarily on agriculture. This dissertation considers two related factors that can greatly impact agricultural productivity: technology choice and the role of natural resource management in agriculture. Water and the infrastructure to manage water effectively are inputs into agricultural production that can be necessary for farmers to adopt potentially beneficial technologies. I study the introduction of a new agricultural technology that relies on a well-functioning irrigation system, focusing on the household impacts of the technology and possibilities for local farmer-led institutions to provide and manage the irrigation infrastructure.
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a rice cultivation method that promises yields far greater than those of the traditional technology. The first essay examines the household impacts of SRI, finding increased yields but failing to detect an impact on either farm profits or household-level income. We do find a small but significant negative impact on self-reported food security, driven primarily by food insecurity during the planting season, when the high cost of implementing SRI may prevent families from being able to purchase enough food. Adoption of the full technology package is low, but farmers exposed to the technology adopt some components of the technology in a form of partial adoption, moving toward SRI-like practices. Farmers exposed to SRI training are also more likely to be able to describe the specifics of their cultivation practices, indicating that the training may have focused attention to farmers' specific techniques.
Public goods are often crucial inputs into agriculture, and their availability may be an important factor in farmers' decisions regarding technology choice. When the provision of a public good relies on farmer participation, as is often the case for local irrigation systems, farmers have to make complex decisions regarding technology choice and participation in public goods provision. The second essay explores whether the introduction of SRI, a technology that depends on precise water management, shifts farmers' decisions about their contributions to management of the shared irrigation system. I use public goods experiments, conducted before and after the introduction of SRI, that offered farmers the opportunity to form institutions to manage public goods after several rounds of providing the public goods by voluntary contribution. I find that farmers who adopted the new technology contribute the same amount as non-adopters during the voluntary contribution rounds, but that they were more likely to vote for costly institutions to promote public goods provision when the institutions were offered in the experiment.
Informal institutions and norms can play an important role in farmer-led management of public goods, and the development community has focused attention on how such institutions emerge and evolve. The third essay examines whether exposure to the strategic considerations of a collective action dilemma in an experimental setting can change behavior in the real world when they face similar strategic trade-offs. Farmers participated in public goods games framed to mimic the real trade-off they face between private work and participation in the management of shared canals, and over the subsequent planting season, were invited to participate in voluntary canal-cleaning work days. Farmers who participated in the experiments were 69\% more likely than the control group to volunteer. The mechanism through which the experiments seem to operate is by shifting participants' expectations of others' contributions to the public good, suggesting that experiments provide a setting in which to learn about one's neighbors and develop common norms of behavior.
|Adviser||Travis J. Lybbert|
|School||UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS|
|Subjects||Agronomy; Economics; Agriculture economics|
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