In India and other South Asian countries that rely on rain-fed agriculture, weather shocks remain a persistent challenge. Shocks adversely affect both yields and labor markets. For landless laborers with limited mobility, shocks can decrease yields, the demand for labor and subsequently wages. While research has previously shown that risk-mitigating crops – such as stress tolerant seeds – improve yields and benefit landholding farmers, little research has been done on the impact they have among landless laborers.
In Jharkhand, severe droughts can lead to crop losses of up to forty percent. A new variety of rice – IR64 Drought – is drought tolerant and has no other trade-offs when compared with the traditional IR64 variety. In test plots, IR64 Drought has had yield advantages ranging from 20-115 percent. This study, in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) evaluates the impact of IR64 Drought on landowners and landless laborers.
In 200 villages in Jharkhand, India, researchers will identify 20 cultivators (400 total) and 10 landless laborers (200 total.). Villages will then be randomly assigned to either the treatment or comparison group. Farmers in the treatment village will receive a 2kg packet of IR64 Drought seeds. Each packet is expected to yield at least 100kg of new seeds for the new growing season, and farmers are expected to trade a portion of these seeds with at least two other farmers in their village. Farmers in the comparison villages receive 2kg packets of the basic IR64 seeds and have the same expectation of seed distribution as those in treatment villages.
Over the next three years, researchers will conduct 2-3 phone interviews with laborers and cultivators during four peak points of the season to determine the impact on local labor markets. Researchers will keep track of daily wages, hours worked, employers, and tasks completed. Data will also be collected on crop yields and the dissemination of seeds to other village farmers.
Results and Policy Implications
Study ongoing, results forthcoming.
Photo credit: International Rice Research Institute