Targeted Subsidies for Water Conservation in Smallholder Agriculture

Groundwater depletion threatens long-term food security in developing countries. Moreover, groundwater pumping contributes to climate change. We evaluate the effect of targeted subsidies for technology to use groundwater more efficiently in agriculture.

Using a randomized controlled trial across 360 villages in Bangladesh, we show that subsidies reduce electricity used for pumping by 38 percent, but only when targeted to water sellers. Subsidizing technology to individual farmers has smaller effects. Features of the groundwater market can explain this result. Natural monopolist water sellers charge fixed fees to farmers, but maintain a role in irrigation planning, incentivizing them to adopt conservation practices

Humnath Bhandari, Ujjayant Chakravorty, Muhammad Ashraful Habib, Kyle Emerick