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Smallholder farmers' motivations for using Conservation Agriculture and the roles of yield, labour and soil fertility in decision making

Baqir Lalani, Peter Dorward, Garth Holloway and Erwin Wauters

Agricultural Systems, 2016, vol. 146, issue C, 80-90

Abstract: Conservation Agriculture (CA) has been widely promoted as an agro-ecological approach to sustainable production intensification. Despite numerous initiatives promoting CA across Sub-Saharan Africa there have been low rates of adoption. Furthermore, there has been strong debate concerning the ability of CA to provide benefits to smallholder farmers regarding yield, labour, soil quality and weeding, particularly where farmers are unable to access external inputs such as herbicides. This research finds evidence that CA, using no external inputs, is most attractive among the very poor and that farmers are driven primarily by strong motivational factors in the key areas of current contention, namely yield, labour, soil quality and weeding time benefits. This study is the first to incorporate a quantitative socio-psychological model to understand factors driving adoption of CA. Using the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), it explores farmers' intention to use CA (within the next 12months) in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique where CA has been promoted for almost a decade. The study site provides a rich population from which to examine farmers' decision making in using CA. Regression estimates show that the TPB provides a valid model of explaining farmers' intention to use CA accounting for 80% of the variation in intention. Farmers' attitude is found to be the strongest predictor of intention. This is mediated through key cognitive drivers present that influence farmers' attitude such as increased yields, reduction in labour, improvement in soil quality and reduction in weeds. Subjective norm (i.e. social pressure from referents) and perceived behavioural control also significantly influenced farmers' intention. Furthermore, path analysis identifies farmers that are members of a Farmer Field School or participants of other organisations (e.g. savings group, seed multiplication group or a specific crop/livestock association) have a significantly stronger positive attitude towards CA with the poorest the most likely users and the cohort that find it the easiest to use. This study provides improved understanding relevant to many developing countries, of smallholder farmers' adoption dynamics related to CA, and of how farmers may approach this and other ‘new’ management systems.

Keywords: Conservation Agriculture; Adoption; Theory of Planned Behaviour (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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