Rice productivity in Bangladesh: What are the benefits of irrigation?

Andrew Reid Bell, Elizabeth Bryan, Claudia Ringler, Akhter Ahmed

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Green Revolution technologies transformed Bangladesh's agricultural system through the introduction of high-yielding rice and wheat varieties, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and the expansion of tubewell-irrigated area, enabling crop production during the dry season. However, serious challenges continue to plague the agriculture sector, including scarcity of land due to high population density, unbalanced use of fertilizers and pesticides, and great variation in water supply across seasons - from drought to stagnant flood conditions. Further expansion of irrigated area - including through the continued development and improvement of surface water systems - is being eyed by Bangladesh's Ministry of Agriculture to address many of the remaining challenges facing the country. However, such expansion is not without risks or consequences, and a careful analysis of who benefits from irrigation, and how, must guide development priorities.We examine plot-level data for rice production during Bangladesh's three rice seasons - aus, boro, and aman - across a nationally-representative household survey in Bangladesh. While rainfall is the most important determinant of rice yield during aus and chemical inputs are most important during aman, access to irrigation has the greatest influence on boro rice yield during the dry season, particularly for the coastal south. The government of Bangladesh is planning massive investments in the southern region for the improved provision of surface water irrigation. The expected decline in groundwater, coupled with our econometric findings, suggests that expanding boro production in the south may not be a good strategy to promote, for the region. Whether brackish shrimp aquaculture can provide an equitable and sustainable livelihood alternative should continue to be a focus of research.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalLand Use Policy
    StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


    • Bangladesh
    • Groundwater
    • Irrigation
    • Rice production

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Forestry
    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Nature and Landscape Conservation
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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