The Power of Agency: Evidence from a Participatory Agricultural Transformation
“Participatory” development emphasizes a “bottom-up” approach focusing on community control over planning and implementation decisions to improve development outcomes. We propose to assess the value of community participation in the location choice and implementation of local infrastructure projects by comparing a participatory “bottom-up” approach to the standard “top-down” approach where the community only plays a limited role in the planning and implementation. The context for the study is the construction of minor irrigation channels in the command area of small irrigation tanks in Telangana. The government has recently launched a program to rehabilitate the storage capacity of the tanks but has left the distribution of water from the tank to plots in the command area to the farmers. The research project thus varies the extent of community involvement over the choice and implementation of field channels and assesses its impact on the allocation of water for irrigation, agricultural outcomes, and maintenance of the channels.