Environmental discounting and sustainable land management by smallholder farmers in Chibombo district, central Zambia.

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Mubanga, Chisanga Fiona
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The University of Zambia
Poor soil fertility management practices coupled with climate variability are among factors negatively impacting crop productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Promotion of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices among farmers has been one of the measures taken to improve and maintain crop productivity. Among SLM practices promoted are agroforestry and soil conservation. Despite extensive promotion of SLM practices among smallholder farmers in SSA and benefits that farmers can reap from them, adoption of SLM remains low. Continued low adoption of SLM can potentially result in irreversible soil degradation which can ultimately impact food security among the poor. One of the reasons for low adoption of SLM practices such as agroforestry has been the long time it takes for benefits to accrue. Preference for soon rather than later benefits could indicate discounting behaviour among farmers. The aim of this study was to investigate environmental discounting behaviour among smallholder farmers in Chibombo District. Objectives were to determine SLM practices implemented by farmers; why these practices are preferred; and to what extent farmers demonstrate environmental discounting in their SLM choices. The data were collected from Kalola Agricultural Camp in Chibombo District through semi-structured interviews with 158 randomly sampled farmers, three Focus Group Discussions, key informant interviews, and field observations. The data were analysed using content analysis and Z-proportional test at 95 percent confidence level. Results showed that practices commonly adopted by farmers were crop rotation (84.3 percent), planting of legume to fix nitrogen (57.4 percent), and mixed cropping (56.9 percent). Over 50 percent of farmers would continue using mineral fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides regardless of when soil infertility would occur; and that up to 53.7 percent of farmers would plant fertiliser trees if benefits would accrue to them within twenty years. It was concluded that crop rotation, mixed cropping, and planting of legumes were widely practiced because they are perceived easier to implement, yield fast results and provide food variety. Farmers demonstrated discounting behaviour in their choices to continue using mineral fertiliser and in planting fertiliser trees. Recommendations: investigating discounting behaviour by assessing if farmers would be willing to implement SLM practices given the time taken for benefits to accrue. Other aspect of discounting such as opportunity cost should be investigated to establish how they impact adoption. Materials for SLM implementation such as fertiliser trees should be ready available at district agricultural offices for access to those who want to plant fertiliser trees. Key words: Sustainable agriculture, Conventional agriculture, Agroforestry, Soil conservation, Environment.
Land use, Rural. , Sustainable agriculture. , Soil management--Environmental aspects.