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Enabling smallholder farmers to sustainably improve their food, energy and water nexus while achieving environmental and economic benefits


  • Gathala, Mahesh K.
  • Laing, Alison M.
  • Tiwari, T.P.
  • Timsina, J.
  • Islam, Md. S.
  • Chowdhury, A.K.
  • Chattopadhyay, C.
  • Singh, A.K.
  • Bhatt, B.P.
  • Shrestha, R.
  • Barma, N.C.D.
  • Rana, D.S.
  • Jackson, Tamara M.
  • Gerard, B.


Traditional cropping practices in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, South Asia, are resource intensive, requiring large inputs of water, energy and human labor. They are also inefficient, with relatively low productivity for the inputs used although the climate, soil and water resources of the region indicate that greater productivity is achievable. In on-farm experiments conducted across three countries (Bangladesh, India, Nepal) we compared the performance of traditional and improved management practices to understand which better facilitated the production of food-grain crops while reducing energy and water demands, thus improving the sustainability of cropping system energy requirements. Benefits of improved over traditional management practices included increases of up to 10% in crop grain yields; up to 19% in water productivity; up to 26% in energy productivity; and reductions of up to 50% in labor. These metrics combined to reduce the cost of production under improved management by up to 22% and to increase gross margins by up to 100% (although in most instances gross margins increased by 12–32%). CO2-equivalent emissions reduced by 10%–17% compared to traditional practices.

Suggested Citation

  • Gathala, Mahesh K. & Laing, Alison M. & Tiwari, T.P. & Timsina, J. & Islam, Md. S. & Chowdhury, A.K. & Chattopadhyay, C. & Singh, A.K. & Bhatt, B.P. & Shrestha, R. & Barma, N.C.D. & Rana, D.S. & Jacks, 2020. "Enabling smallholder farmers to sustainably improve their food, energy and water nexus while achieving environmental and economic benefits," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 120(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:rensus:v:120:y:2020:i:c:s1364032119308524
    DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2019.109645

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timsina, J. & Wolf, J. & Guilpart, N. & van Bussel, L.G.J. & Grassini, P. & van Wart, J. & Hossain, A. & Rashid, H. & Islam, S. & van Ittersum, M.K., 2018. "Can Bangladesh produce enough cereals to meet future demand?," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 36-44.
    2. Biggs, Stephen & Justice, Scott, 2015. "Rural and agricultural mechanization: A history of the spread of small engines in selected asian countries:," IFPRI discussion papers 1443, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. M L Jat & Yadvinder Singh & M L Jat & MK Gathala & YS Saharawat & JK Ladha & YS Saharawat, 2019. "Conservation Agriculture in Intensive Rice-Wheat Rotation of Western Indo-Gangetic Plains-Effect on Crop Physiology, Yield, Water Productivity and Economic Profitability," International Journal of Environmental Sciences & Natural Resources, Juniper Publishers Inc., vol. 18(3), pages 88-102, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dutta, S. K & Laing, Alison M. & Kumar, S. & Gathala, Mahesh K. & Singh, Ajoy K. & Gaydon, D.S. & Poulton, P., 2020. "Improved water management practices improve cropping system profitability and smallholder farmers’ incomes," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 242(C).
    2. Akter, Shaheen & Gathala, Mahesh K. & Timsina, Jagadish & Islam, Saiful & Rahman, Mahbubur & Hassan, Mustafa Kamrul & Ghosh, Anup Kumar, 2021. "Adoption of conservation agriculture-based tillage practices in the rice-maize systems in Bangladesh," World Development Perspectives, Elsevier, vol. 21(C).

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