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Small-scale irrigation dams, agricultural production, and health - theory and evidence from Ethiopia

  • Ersado, Lire
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    The author looks at the feasibility and potential of instituting small-scale irrigation dams to reduce Ethiopia’s dependence on rainfed agriculture and the associated food insecurity. He develops a theoretical framework to assess the welfare implications of irrigation development programs and provides empirical evidence from microdam construction and reforestation projects in northern Ethiopia. The author pays particular attention to health-related costs of establishing small-scale irrigation dams in areas prone to waterborne diseases. While the theoretical analyses imply that the net welfare impacts of irrigation dams cannot be known a priori due to potential health costs, the empirical evidence shows that current agricultural yield and farm profit have increased in villages with closer proximity to the dams than in those more distant. The increased disease incidence due to standing pools of water has, however, led to significant declines in the returns from investment in irrigation water. Households with poor health are less likely to adopt productivity-enhancing as well as resource-conserving technologies, which are crucial for achieving the ultimate goal of sustainable agricultural development. The ensuing sickness has also led to reduction in labor allocation to off-farm activities. The findings underline the importance of weighing beforehand the magnitude of potential economic benefits against health costs of water development programs. The overall evidence, however, suggests that carefully designed irrigation dams could significantly improve agricultural production and food security, particularly in areas where waterborne diseases pose negligible risk to health or can be cost-effectively controlled.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 3494.

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    Date of creation: 01 Jan 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3494
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    1. Shiferaw, Bekele & Holden, Stein, 1999. "Soil Erosion and Smallholders' Conservation Decisions in the Highlands of Ethiopia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 739-752, April.
    2. Grepperud, Sverre, 1996. "Population Pressure and Land Degradation: The Case of Ethiopia," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 18-33, January.
    3. Lampietti, Julian, 1999. "Do husbands and wives make the same choices? Evidence from Northern Ethiopia," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 253-260, February.
    4. Frank Ellis, 1998. "Household strategies and rural livelihood diversification," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(1), pages 1-38.
    5. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Binswanger, Hans P., 1989. "Wealth, Weather Risk and the Composition and Profitability of Agricultural Investments," Bulletins 7455, University of Minnesota, Economic Development Center.
    6. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1, December.
    7. Jacoby, Hanan G, 1993. "Shadow Wages and Peasant Family Labour Supply: An Econometric Application to the Peruvian Sierra," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(4), pages 903-21, October.
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