Energy efficiency in smallholder agriculture: Do micro‐irrigation systems deliver?

  • Promoting energy efficiency is a global priority, as it has promise to slow carbon emissions, aid in expanding energy access, and spur economic growth. However, investments in energy efficiency do not always deliver the expected benefits.
  • Micro-irrigation systems are a widely promoted efficient technology with the potential to improve both water and energy efficiency in irrigated agriculture.
  • A novel dataset linking irrigation hours, pump power, cultivation, and farm and household characteristics for 400 smallholder farmers in 44 villages in Gujarat, India shows that farmers using micro-irrigation systems (MIS) not only use more total energy, but also use more energy per area planted.
  • Results from regression and matching methods suggest the increase in energy consumption is not explained by higher MIS adoption among high water-users. Alternative explanations include the failure to adjust pump power downwards for reduced irrigation needs or the poor maintenance of MIS pipes.
  • Policymakers may benefit from dedicating resources to the efficient operation of MIS systems.