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Can Smallholder Farmers Adapt to Water Scarcity? Evidence from Karnataka, India

Ram Fishman

Much of the literature that examines the impacts of environmental change utilises high frequency (typically annual) shocks. This approach yields cleanly identified effects, but has been criticised for failing to account for adaptations to more gradual long-term changes. We study adaptations by smallholder farmers to growing water scarcity in the drought stricken, but rapidly growing Indian state of Karnataka. We exploit two types of variation in the intensity of exposure to water scarcity: small-scale variation in the intensity of drought across villages, deriving from the high degree of precipitation variability in the area, and based on high quality rainfall data; and variation in the probability of well failure across farmers, even within villages, presumably deriving from hard-rock geology. Detailed survey data on cultivation and employment suggests against adaptation within agriculture, and that shifts to non-agricultural employments fail to fully buffer income losses resulting from losing access to water.

Speaker: Ram Fishman, Tel Aviv University

Wednesday, 02/28/18

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Giannini Hall

UC Berkeley
Room 248
Berkeley, CA 94720