Environmental, Economic and Social Efficiencies of Irrigated Farming Systems: Using Water Footprint Indicators to Compare Farm Income and Labor Generated per Volume of Water Available in Irrigated Farming Systems in Campania, Italy
Abstract:Agriculture is not only producing food and other products. It is also a major economic sector, representing, especially in developing countries, an important part of GDP; and a major employer, with often more than half of the total workforce in many low income countries. In many of these countries irrigation plays a key role to increase and stabilize income, and it is likely to increase with climate change and increased variability of rain patterns. It is also a crucial mean to increase productivity of small holdings. In many countries, where holdings are small and even in some cases decreasing it is essential to enable farmers to ensure their food security and a decent income. In some countries, including India and many African countries, the workforce is expected to grow, with an important part of it to be employed in agriculture. At the same time many of the regions where agriculture is the most important from an economical and social point of view, are experiencing increasing water scarcity. In many cases, as has been noted for instance for the Mediterranean area, water availability is the main limiting factor to agricultural development. Increasingly agriculture is also in competition for water use with other economic activities.
This calls for means to assess and compare agricultural productions systems and irrigation projects not only in terms of physical production of agricultural products but also in terms of income and jobs generated by the activity. In this study, we propose a methodology based on the blue water footprint for assessing and comparing different agricultural productions and farming systems in terms of economic and social outcomes for a given volume of blue water. Examples are drawn from the Campania region of Italy and based on data extracted from the Italian Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN). This database contains, among other, data on crop production, irrigation management (irrigated surface, length of irrigation season, volumes of water, etc.), as well as on income and labor.