Environment - Food and Water

Reviewing the Decision-Making Behavior of Irrigators

Irrigators’ decisions to follow best management practices or implement a policy change, to accept a technology, or even to exit farming, all affect society.

Irrigators’ decision-making behavior should be taken into proper consideration when planning any intervention related to agriculture. Any intervention, irrespective of its intended benefits to the farming community, would eventually fail if famers’ decision-making behavior was not considered.

A recent WIREs Water review observes that irrigator decision-making behavior has not been adequately considered when planning many interventions related to farming communities. This has caused irrigators to under-engage with proposed changes, which has reduced the scope and scale of intended intervention benefits. This is unfortunately true for many agricultural policy decisions that introduce new technologies to improve farming efficiency and manage resource allocation among irrigators.

The authors of the study have undertaken an extensive review of over 150 research articles using a systematic method to identify key articles and qualitative data analysis to analyze article content. To help inform future interventions, the authors propose a high-level decision-making framework that captures relevant drivers of decision-making in highly dynamic and complex environments.

This review also highlights the benefits of integrating qualitative and quantitative methods. This combined approach helps gain a complete picture of irrigators’ decision-making without compromising the dynamics of the associated processes in a highly changing and complex environment.

While this is extremely challenging, there are already approaches available for integrating qualitative and quantitative data. Better knowledge of irrigators’ decision-making process allows regulators to shape improved agricultural policy and increase acceptance by irrigators of technologies and practices that allow water managers to allocate resources fairly among different stakeholders.

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