The meeting was hosted by Mr. Md. Nasiruzzaman, Secretary In-charge, Ministry of Agriculture, with Special Guest Dr. Md. Abdur Rouf, Additional Secretary (Research) at the premise of MoA. Professor Dr. Lutful Hassan, Consultant, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) chaired the meeting.
Other special guests participating in the workshop were eminent policymakers from multiple institutions working in the field of agriculture research & development and rural development.
Researchers Dr. Kyle Emerick and Dr. Ujjayant Chakravorty from Tufts University, Boston, USA participated along with scientists from IRRI India, Ms. Swati Nayak and others. With funding support from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3IE), IRRI and the researchers from Tufts University had conducted two Randomized Control Trials (RCT) in Rangpur, Rajshahi, and Mymensingh divisions of Bangladesh and tested the AWD technology in 7600 farmers’ plots.
The AWD technology consists of a plastic PVC pipe, open at both ends, which when embedded in a rice field allows farmers to flood the field only when the water level falls below ground to a marked level in the pipe. Farmers spent large sums of money for pumped irrigation water during the dry (boro) season. The Ministry of Agriculture of the Government of Bangladesh and IRRI have made major efforts to promote this water-saving technology, supported by field evidence around farmer adoption behaviour, opportunities, challenges for uptake.
The research team discussed their main findings from the two RCTs with the delegates present. In the first experiment, farmers in the Treatment group were given AWD pipes while the Control group irrigated without the pipe. AWD was found to only save water and increase farm profits in areas where farmers paid for water by volume, but had no measurable effect in areas where farmers pay fixed seasonal charges for water.
With volumetric pricing, the average height of water in AWD fields was about 20% less, and fields were more likely to be dry. AWD reduced water use by about 20 percent and increased profits by 8 percent (1870 taka per acre). No negative effect on yield was found. However, there were no such effects when farmers paid fixed charges for water.
In areas where the Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) had installed tube wells that use debit cards, the researchers conducted a second RCT, in which they assisted farmers to obtain debit cards. Farmers can charge these cards and obtain water from the tube well. Introducing prepaid debit cards as a form of hourly pricing increased the demand for AWD pipes. This hourly water billing led farmers to put more value on the AWD technology. However, AWD usage was relatively low. Some farmers who bought the pipe did not install it on any of their plots.
Researchers used additional data to calculate the social benefits of AWD in terms of reducing carbon emissions and water savings. The annual benefits from reduced carbon emissions were estimated to be 80 taka, and the value of water saved was much higher at about 1,115 taka. The cost of a pipe is about 135 taka.
The participants concluded that AWD should be encouraged in areas where the saturation of individual card ownership is already high. Moreover, individual ownership of prepaid cards should be increased in areas where farmers do not use their own cards. After making AWD available to farmers, assisting them with installation will help ensure that the full benefits of the technology are realized.
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