Alternate wetting and drying in Bangladesh: Water saving farming practice and the socioeconomic barriers to its adoption

Karen A Pearson, Gearoid M Millar, Gareth J Norton, Adam H Price* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
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Water saving in irrigated agriculture is a critical issue for global food security and much research has suggested substantial benefits of management systems designed to achieve it. Yet there are likely to be socio-economic barriers which must be understood if these systems are to be adopted. Here we highlight one example, Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh almost half of the workforce is engaged in agriculture and many people are dependent on rice as their staple food, sometimes consuming it three times per day. Rice production, therefore, is central both to economic wellbeing and food security in Bangladesh. However, this sector also faces a number of troubling problems. These include an electricity supply over-stressed by irrigation pumps during the dry season, the gradual depletion of groundwater as a result of unsustainable use, the consumption of rice grains with elevated arsenic content, and the significant emission of rice-based methane into the atmosphere. Interestingly, for more than a decade evidence has indicated that AWD – an innovative farming practice – holds the promise of mitigating each of these threats to some degree, and has been promoted by the Bangladeshi government. However, evidence seems to indicate that it has not been widely adopted in Bangladesh. This paper reviews the existing literature on AWD, related policies in Bangladesh, and the barriers to its uptake among farmers. The complicated relationship between agricultural and socioeconomic systems represent a key barrier to the successful use of AWD among Bangladeshi farmers. Similar barriers to water saving strategies are likely to exist in other countries and regions and overcoming these barriers will be essential for AWD to be adopted. The case of Bangladesh provides important indications of how this might be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Article number00149
Number of pages12
JournalFood and Energy Security
Issue number4
Early online date27 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

The compilation of this review was funded by a grant given to the authors by the University of Aberdeen.


  • Rice
  • Irrigation
  • Alternate Wetting and Drying
  • Agricultural Systems
  • Socioeconomic Systems


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