By Takashi Yamano; Architesh Panda; Sampriti Baruah

The mean temperature in India has seen a significant increase of 0.560C over the period of 1901-2007, with accelerated warming in the recent 1971-2007 period. It is expected to increase further due to climate change, although predictions vary under different scenarios (World Bank, 2012). Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and make the monsoon unpredictable. The majority of India's population is rural and agricultural production largely depends on the monsoon, with over 60 per cent of cropped area being rain-fed. Effective adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sector is increasingly recognized as a critical policy component for reducing vulnerability to and mitigating adverse climatic impacts (Rosenzweig and Parry, 1994; Bradshaw et al., 2004).

In this article, we discuss a rice establishment technology known as Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) which can help farmers in adapting to climate change and reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Under DSR technology, rice seeds are directly planted in the rice fields, rather than being first sown in nursery fields before transplantation to rice fields. Available evidence suggests that conventional puddling for transplanting rice is a major source of GHG emissions (Pathak et al., 2013). Apart from reducing GHG emissions, DSR reduces the labour requirements and can enable farmers to diversify their income sources by releasing labour from transplanting, as we discuss later in this article. It also reduces the use of underground water needed for growing seedlings in nursery fields. DSR is a feasible alternative for farmers to adapt to climate change by saving on labour and underground water use and enabling them to diversify their income sources. In this article, we present results from our recent survey of 341 farmers in Eastern India who adopted DSR at least once in the 2009-2012 period and show how DSR users can save labour costs and earn profit, by comparing DSR users and non-DSR users in 2012. We also present farmers' perception of DSR along with policy recommendations.

Climate change adaptation and DSR
Available evidence shows a significant drop in rice yields under different climate change scenarios (Dinar, 1998; Kumar and Parikh, 2001b; Sanghi et al., 2008). Previous studies have focused on different types of adaptation actions by farmers to address climate risks in Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Nepal and Mexico. However, adaptation strategies may differ from situation to situation (Frankhauser et al., 1999). Therefore, location-specific adaptation strategies need to be developed for different areas and technologies (Manandhar et al., 2011; Traerup et al., 2011; Noralene et al., 2011). To the best of our knowledge, few economic studies have examined DSR and its role in climate change adaptation in South Asia.

The dominant method of rice establishment is transplanting in the rice growing areas of Eastern India. However, rising labour costs of establishing nurseries, puddling fields and transplanting rice seedlings have increased costs of transplanting for rice cultivation in the region. Furthermore, concerns about underground water depletion have made transplanting less attractive to farmers (Timsina and Connor, 2001; Rao et al., 2007; Kumar and Ladha, 2011). DSR is an alternative method that can reduce the labour and irrigation water requirements as explained. Traditionally, farmers have used broadcasting of rice seeds in some areas of Eastern India, especially in upland areas. By broadcasting, farmers can save on the labour cost of transplanting rice. However, rice yields remain low under broadcasting. Broadcasting is not part of DSR technology as discussed in this article which defines DSR as the direct line-seeding of rice seeds by using machines. Because of line-seeding, rice plants receive soil nutrients and fertilizers evenly, and weeding becomes easier for farmers, compared to broadcasting of seeds. This is because under broadcasting, rice seeds are scattered randomly and thus difficult to identify among weeds. Farmers can use either dry or 'wet' rice seeds. Wet rice seeds are those where germination has begun before they are planted. In our survey areas, however, most farmers use dry seeds for DSR.

Because DSR is done with machines, it does not require labour and the reduced labour requirement can help farmers in adapting to climate change by allowing them to diversify labour, especially to non-agricultural activities. In rural India, farmers and landless agricultural workers have access to paid work opportunities under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act programmes. Other non-farm income opportunities are also expanding. Because non-agricultural income sources are less climate-sensitive than farm activities, diversification of labour into non-agricultural activities can be a promising adaptation strategy in the face of adverse climate change impacts.

To examine DSR technology as a means to adapt to climate change, we compare rice farmers with and without DSR. A comparison of DSR users with farmers who would never adopt DSR could be misleading. A possible place to identify a realistic counterfactual group is where farmers have discontinued the use of DSR. Therefore, we have compiled a list of farmers who adopted DSR at least once. The list comes from two sources: farmers who participated in DSR training provided by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA)1 project during the 2009-2012 period and farmers who obtained DSR services from CSISA-assisted service providers.

From the aggregated list of 2,386 farmers, we selected 342 farmers using a stratified sampling method as follows: First, we purposively selected seven districts where most of the CSISA DSR trainings were conducted in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states. Second, we stratified the sample by the year that the farmers were listed in the aggregated list for the first time because we wanted to study the continuous use of DSR among farmers who started using DSR in different years. The interviews were conducted using the Computer-Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) software called Surveybe that can be used to design surveys and collect data.


It may be noted that our sample households are not representative farmers in the survey areas. We randomly selected our respondents from a list of farmers who applied DSR at least once in the four-year period between 2009 and 2012. The selected respondents were mostly better-off and progressive farmers eager to learn new agricultural technologies. Therefore, we do not try to estimate an adoption rate of DSR in the target areas, but study the continuous use of DSR among farmers who applied it once to examine DSR technology as a means of adapting to climate change. Table 1 shows the distribution of sample farmers by district. On average, it has been three years since their first application of DSR. The farmers in Bihar are more experienced than farmers in Eastern Uttar Pradesh (EUP). The average plot size under DSR is also larger in Bihar (0.9 ha) than in EUP (0.7 ha). However, the average rice yield is much higher in EUP (4.8 tons per ha) than in Bihar (about 3.0 tons per ha).

Labour saving
Our data shows that total labour use, in person-days per ha, on a DSR plot is about 50 per cent less than on non-DSR plots. Table 2 shows that the total person-days of labour required per ha on a DSR plot is 68 person-days per ha as against 114 person-days per ha for a non-DSR plot. Thus, the total labour use is about 46 person-days per ha lower on a DSR plot than on a non-DSR plot. In the table, we find that a large share of this reduction in labour use comes from a reduction in hired female workers. This is because in Eastern India, manual transplanting of rice is mostly done by hired female workers. On a non-DSR plot, hired female workers worked about 50 days per ha on average, while they worked for only 23 days per ha on a DSR plot: the difference is about 28 days. Although the analysis is not presented in this article, we also find that the reduction in hired female workers comes from reduced labour use in the transplanting of rice. On a DSR plot, the amount of work by other workers is also less. Male and female family members work about 10 and 3.5 fewer days, respectively, on a DSR plot than on a non-DSR plot. Hired male workers also do slightly less work on a DSR plot than on a non-DSR plot.


Mostly because of the reduced labour costs, the average profit from DSR plots is higher by about Rs. 1,971 (USD 35.8) per ha compared to non-DSR plots (see Figure 1). The average total cost of DSR plots is Rs. 15,629 (USD 284.2) per ha while the average total cost of non-DSR plots is Rs. 18,868 per ha (USD 343.1). The difference is Rs. 3,239 (USD 58.9) per ha. Thus, we can say that the average total cost is lower on DSR plots than on non-DSR plots. But the revenue from DSR plots is also lower because yield is slightly lower on DSR plots which reduces the profit from DSR plots. The low costs on DSR plots are due to lower labour costs. The average hired labour cost is Rs. 5,114 (USD 93.0) on DSR plots and this is Rs. 3,157 (USD 57.4) less than the average hired labour cost on non-DSR plots. However, the difference between DSR and non-DSR plots shrinks when we add the costs of inputs and service providers because these costs are higher on DSR plots than non-DSR plots.

Perception of DSR among farmers
Lastly, we examine the perception of DSR among farmers. By using DSR, farmers not only save labour costs but also reduce water use and protect the soil. Thus, the profit covers only the partial benefits of DSR. To investigate how farmers consider the overall benefits of DSR, we have asked farmers about their perception of DSR, including non-monetary benefits. In the survey, farmers were asked if they agreed with 10 statements about DSR on a 5-point Likert scale: the score is 5 if respondents agree strongly with a statement, while the score is 1 if they strongly disagree with the statement. The 10 statements are grouped in three general categories: farmers' general attitude toward DSR, resource conservation of DSR and other characteristics of DSR.

In Table 3, we present average scores for the 10 statements from DSR users and non-users in 2012. As expected, we find that DSR users score higher on positive statements about DSR than non-DSR users. On both General Attitude and Resource Conservation, DSR users agree with positive statements about DSR more than non-DSR users. DSR users recognize that DSR is a good technology which can save resources, such as labour and water and protects the soil. In addition, DSR users agree that other farmers, including neighbours and friends, also think DSR is a good technology that is easy to adopt.

The positive perception of farmers that DSR saves water and further protects the soil indicates that it can help in adapting to climate change. DSR can help conserve water resources threatened by increasingly frequent droughts due to climate change. In the face of increasing population and growing demand for food, the upgrading of rain-fed areas through DSR can help in soil and water conservation and deal with risks arising from climate change. Further, DSR users also agree with Statement (7) which states that the technology helps reduce their labour requirements. This is probably because DSR users do not have to make seed preparations and carry out transplanting. They also agree that DSR allows them to plant Rabi crops early.


Our analysis shows that DSR can help farmers adapt to climate change in various ways. First, DSR is a labour saving technology which enables farmers to diversify labour allocation by releasing labour from agricultural activities. To the extent that non-agricultural income activities are less climate-sensitive than farm activities, further diversification of incomes out of agriculture could be a promising strategy to prepare farmers for climate change. Second, DSR requires less ground water, compared with transplanted rice. This is an added benefit from DSR that can help prepare farmers for climate change which is expected to increase incidence of drought.

Because climate change can have adverse impacts on farmers in different ways across place and time, it is important to provide farmers with more alternative agricultural technologies and practices. DSR can be such an option. To disseminate DSR, governments and public agencies need to engage in the following areas. First, as we find in this article, farmers recognize that DSR saves water and protects soil. Although some DSR benefits cannot be easily captured by economic parameters, farmers should be made aware of DSR benefits through extension services or public media. Second, most farmers need to rely on service providers to implement direct seeding because they cannot afford to buy the necessary machines. However, the number of service providers is still small. There is a great need for training of new service providers which can also promote entrepreneurship in rural areas. Farmers can prepare for climate change by increasing farming practice options and diversifying income sources, and need public support for this preparation.

(References available upon request)