Irrigation Water Use Efficiency in Collective Irrigated Schemes of Tunisia: Determinants and Potential Irrigation Cost Reduction

By Chebil, Ali; Frija, Aymen et al. | Agricultural Economics Review, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Irrigation Water Use Efficiency in Collective Irrigated Schemes of Tunisia: Determinants and Potential Irrigation Cost Reduction


Chebil, Ali, Frija, Aymen, Abdelkafi, Belhassen, Agricultural Economics Review


Abstract

This study aims to measure the farm specific irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE), through non parametric DEA model; and to evaluate the potential irrigation cost reductions and the main factors causing variations in IWUE among a sample of irrigated farms in Tunisia. Cross sectional data collected from a sample of 75 farms participating in the the WaDImena project in Nadhour region (northern Tunisia) was used. The results showed that the average level of IWUE across the farm sample was around 61.2%. Farmers would be able to reduce their actual cost by 5% if they adjust irrigation water to its efficient level. This low level of cost reductions is consistent with the existing literature about IWUE in Tunisia. Moreover, education level of farmers, access to credit and agricultural extension service showed a positive relationship with the IWUE in our case study.

Keywords: Irrigation, Water use efficiency, Data Envelopment Analysis, Tunisia.

JEL Classification: Q15

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Tunisian government has invested considerable amounts of resources in developing the water system infrastructure and the irrigated public perimeters (IPP). In fact, between 1971-1990, public investment in water systems comprised 40% percent of total investment in agriculture (Sghaier, 1995). This investment aimed to encourage irrigated agriculture and to improve the farm's income. Actually, irrigated area in Tunisia occupies only 8% of total agricultural surface but it generates 35% of the agricultural production value, 20%» of exports and 27 % of agricultural employment (Al Atiri R., 2007).

However, the increase of water demand, associated with the rapidly growing population and competition between industrial, domestic, touristic and agricultural sectors, amplified the need for a better management of the resource (Thabet, 2003) to avoid harming the performance of the irrigated sector. In 2030, the overall water demand in the country is expected to exceed its supply (MARH, 1998). To overcome the water shortage, especially in the future, several measures should be taken for conservation of water resources especially in the agricultural sector which consumes more than 80% of the total consumption in Tunisia.

In this respect, reforms were undertaken since the beginning of the 90' s in order to improve the irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) and to enhance the overall performance of the sector. Three important reforms are (i) the modernization of collective irrigation systems management by enhancing the role played by water users associations (WUA) and by promoting the participation of users in all management aspects, (ii) reformulating the water pricing system by introducing the cost recovery objective and (iii) developing incentives to enhance and promote the adoption of water saving technologies at farm level.

The national irrigation water saving program was furthered by the political decision to increase the rate of subsidy for the adoption of modern irrigation water saving equipment. The program sets out various actions to improve the IWUE. Despite the fact that the implemented of this program already contributed positively to significant results in terms of IWUE, some recent research studies (Chemak, 2010; Fry a et al. 2009; Dhehibi et al. 2007; Albouchi et al., 2007) concerning the IWUE at farm level show that a large potential for improvement of the IWUE exists in Tunisia.

IWUE study is a very important issue, especially for Groundwater resources. In fact, increasing signs of over-exploitation in Tunisia is causing threats to groundwater supplies in terms of depletion and groundwater quality deterioration. Dropping groundwater levels are observed in many parts of our study area located in the central semi-arid Tunisia (Ben Aliava et al., 2009, Abdelkhafi, B.H et al., 2010; Mchabet, 2008). However, major institutional innovations to manage groundwater are absent. …

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