Collaborative Blogs: Adoption of Micro-irrigation

-By Jayant Singh, (PGP-FABM batch of 2023, IIM Ahmedabad)

In the few thousand years that homo sapiens have existed, we have learnt to do and established our control over many great things, invention of the wheel, discovery of fire, the industrial revolution is certainly the most talked about milestones in human history. But perhaps the most important feature enabling the success of our species is the ability to produce food, having learnt a skill that we now call agriculture.

To master this skill and control the process, humans slowly began to understand and control the factors of production. Early humans understood well that water is the most important factor in production and thus emerged the idea of irrigation. The earliest form of irrigation probably involved people carrying buckets of water from wells or rivers to pour on their crops. As better techniques developed, societies-built irrigation canals, dams, dikes, water storage facilities drippers and sprinklers.

In India, the area under irrigation saw a major jump during the 1960’s. Primarily fuelled by public sector projects building dams and canals in combination with numerous wells and tube wells dug privately around the same time. Micro-irrigation till date accounts for 20% of the total irrigated area in the country.


Multiple studies have discussed the state-to-state disparity in the development of micro-irrigation, financial viability, and challenges in adaptation of micro-irrigation systems. While researchers have extensively worked on the factors influencing micro irrigation adaptation, the focus has mostly been on terrain, ecosystem or cropping pattern related variables. Our study is unique in attempting to find correlation between adaptation of micro-irrigation to variables that capture the development on agricultural markets and demographics of the region along with other traditional variables such as annual rainfall or groundwater levels.The case in point studies the adaptation of micro-irrigation across the districts of Gujarat.


The adaptation of Micro-irrigation across district was defined numerically as below:

With a level of significance (Alpha) of 0.10 simple linear regression was performed between the dependent variable (MI adaptation index) and 8 different independent variables.

Table: 1 Summary of the linear regression model
Dependent variableIndependent variables
MI adaptation indexAvg. annual rainfall (mm)
 Avg. groundwater level (mbgl)
 % Literacy
 Sex ration (females per 1000 males)
 Ag. Market infrastructure (proxy: # of functional APMCs)
 Per capita milch animal population
 No. of electrified ag. Wells per village
 % of villages with regional water supply
Level of significance0.90 of 90%

Of all the 8 independent variables assumed to have a significant relationship influencing the adaptation of micro irrigation, only two hold a statistically significant relationship. The quality and strength of market infrastructure (# of functional APMCs) in the district and the coverage of regional water supply across villages of the district have the most significant influence of the rate of micro irrigation adaptation in the district.   Graphs 1 shows the scatterplot and regression derived trendline equation relating market development and MI adoption index.

The results emerging above once again highlight the importance of an efficient and functioning market for agriculture produce. The R-sq value of 0.26 indicates that as much as 26% of the variation in adaptation of MI across different districts in Gujarat is explained just by the level of market development. The negative correlation between the variables indicate that MI adaptation is higher where markets are underdeveloped. In fact, In districts with less than 0.01 functional APMCs per village the adaptation of micro irrigation is as high as 5 times the identified potential for the district.
This indicates that most of the current MI adoption in the state is not driven by production improvement effort, but it is rather a stress induced forced adoption by farmers in order to sustain the system of production.
This stress or market forced adoption of MI is a major reason for poor financials returns on such systems for farmers across the country. Further, since these forced adopters of technology are unable to set an attractive precedent in most cases, other farmers do not buy the idea, which in turns limits the adoption of micro-irrigation systems in areas where it can be most profitable not just financially but also ecologically.
Believe it or not every small investment decision the farmer makes is strongly linked to the market for his/her produce. It is important to appreciate the strong link the markets hold with almost all factors of production. The need of the hour is for policy makers (and other stakeholders) to appreciate this interlinked system and fine-tune technology adoption incentives accordingly.

Note: This write up is based on a project done by Jayant and team under Prof. Vidya Vemireddy’s guidance.

Published by Vidya Vemireddy

I am a faculty at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and I hold a PHD in Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. I research on issues related to agriculture, nutrition, food policy and gender.

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