When Water Runs Out: Scarcity, Adaptation and Migration in Gujarat

@ATREE auditorium at 3.45 pm on 27th July, 2015

Increasing water scarcity will affect hundreds of millions of small-holder farmers in coming decades, and hypothesized adaptations range from smooth technological transitions to massive migration. We study farmers' responses to the gradual depletion of groundwater in India. We utilize plausibly exogenous geological variation that affects the rate of depletion, and find that greater water scarcity leads to declines in irrigated agriculture and enhanced migration to cities. We find no evidence of substantial compensating investments in water efficient technologies or in human capital, or of shifts to non-agricultural employment. These results suggest that smallholder agriculture may fail to adapt without intervention.

Ram Fishman is an assistant professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University, Washington D.C., and associate researcher at the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. Ram holds a M.Sc. in Physics from the Weitzman Institute of Science and a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development from Columbia University. Prior to coming to GWU, Ram was a Sustainability Science Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. Ram's research focuses on sustainable agriculture, improved technology adoption and water scarcity in developing countries.