Programme  Poster session 3  abstract 600

The role of irrigation in farmer’s risk management strategies: a French case study

Author(s): Cathrine Golden, Katrin Erdlenbruch, Sophie Thoyer, Jean-Laurent Viviani
Cemagref UMR G-EAU, SupAgro UMR Lameta (Prof), Université Montpellier I UMR EFRI (Prof)

Keyword(s): economics, irrigation, drought risk management, moments

Poster: abs600_poster.pdf
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Session: Poster session 3
AbstractVariability in crop yields due to stochastic weather events impacts the profitability of farming

activities. Farmers adopt a wide array of strategies to manage risk, from investments in risk-reducing practices and

technologies to financial instruments such as crop insurance. Irrigation is often used to supplement erratic or

insufficient rainfall: it is expected both to increase yields and to decrease their variability. However irrigation comes at

a cost: financial costs are born by farmers who need to pay for irrigation equipment, maintenance and pumping.

There are also social costs in regions where water is scarce and could be allocated to more profitable uses from the

viewpoint of society. An analysis of French farms accounts shows that in a number of regions cultivating irrigated

maize, the gain in yields is often offset by irrigation costs. In other words, the expected net revenue is only marginally

improved by irrigation. The massive recourse to irrigation, in such case, can only be explained by: (i) the Common

Agricultural Policy additional premia paid to irrigated farms. This was true until 2005. However they are now being

progressively phased out and are not anymore an explanatory factor; (ii) the role that irrigation plays in the farmer’s

risk management strategy. We wish to investigate in more depth the latter point. In particular, we want to assess to

what extent irrigation contributes to reduce the risk of exceptional big losses (also called downside risk exposure),

compared to other risk-reducing technologies, and what are the risk preferences of farmers. Such analysis could then

be useful to help designing other ways of managing farming risks – ie through a carefully designed insurance system

or through a more generous natural disaster national fund. It would allow then to redirect irrigation water to more

essential uses, which is crucial in the context of global warming and increased weather instability.
We analyse

farm-account data of a sample of crop farms in France over the period 2002 to 2005. We use a flexible moment-

based approach to estimate farmers’ risk preference and to analyse the impact of irrigation on the mean, variance

and skewness of yields and farm profits for different types of crops (mainly maize and wheat).
We show that

irrigation has a beneficial effect on the distribution of yields and profits: it decreases the variance and reduces the

skewness. Our results indicate that irrigation is a tool to reduce downside risks. Based on these results, we can also

measure how risk-averse farmers actually are, by calculating the average risk premiums for different types of

Overall, we can confirm that farmers use irrigation to reduce the risk of undergoing potentially big losses.

This may indicate that farmers do not have access to other –more efficient and less environmentally costly –

instruments to manage risks. It is planned to conduct a follow-up survey with farmers to test the robustness of our

results and assess the feasibility and acceptability of other risk management tools, such as insurance contracts,

allowing farmers to get equivalent coverage against downside risks and reducing at the same time irrigation water


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