Measuring the economic impact of conservation agriculture adoption in rural India using linear programming and economic surplus analysis
Despite its proven ability to increase yields, improve soils and reduce pollution, conservation agriculture (CA) adoption remains low among smallholders in many regions of South Asia due in large part to a lack of information regarding the full range of benefits it offers to farmers and local economies. Agriculture in Odisha, India is characterized by smallholder subsistence farming (average farm size of 1.25 ha) which contributes to one of the highest rural poverty rates in India and makes Odisha a prime target for adoption efforts. This study uses farmer preference data, experimental plot results and a multi-objective linear programming model to identify the combination of regionally-adapted CA practices that optimizes profitability, soil quality and labor cost savings. Economic surplus analysis is used to predict the impact adoption of such practices would have on the Indian state of Odisha. Model results indicate that adoption of reduced tillage with maize and cowpea intercropping in the first growing season and a combination of mustard cover crop and fallow treatments (on 60% and 40% of cultivated area, respectively) in the second growing season will maximize profit and soil quality while minimizing labor costs, given weighted farmer preferences for each objective. Adoption of this CA production system would increase profit by 140%, improve soil quality by 34% and reduce labor costs by over 30%. Adoption rates of 1%, 3% and 5% would net the state of Odisha $19.8 million, $59.8 million and $100.2 million in consumer and producer surplus. This study not only presents a flexible and simple methodology for determining which CA practices have the highest likelihood of long-term success and the economic impact of adoption, but also provides incentive for adoption at the farm level and for the formulation of pro-adoption policy at the state level.