Irrigation remains a critical input into farming and, therefore, it remains a proxy for food security and poverty alleviation in developing countries. Despite their role in economic growth and the received investment, irrigation schemes are still underperforming. Among many irrigation schemes, transferring more management responsibilities to farmers proved to be a viable path toward improving performance. However, the large diversity of implementation strategies makes evaluation difficult, while its well-demonstrated benefits have paramount importance to convince reluctant smallholders to take additional roles. In order to address this gap, we analyze the effects of participation on farming outcomes (yield, revenue, net profit) by estimating the treatment effect. We present the case study of a Mubuku small-scale irrigation scheme, Uganda. We provide a framework to construct the Farmers Participation Index while distinguishing farmers into participating and not participating groups. The effects of participation are investigated through econometric methods including nonparametric and semiparametric estimation methods such as a difference in means, a regression adjustment, propensity score matching, and entropy balancing. The analysis reveals a positive and significant treatment effect of participation on farming outcomes. The obtained results endorse the efforts of governmental programs to foster responsibility transfer and the farmers’ role in irrigation management. A strong causal relationship between management and profitability provides incentives for farmers to engage in participation.
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