Sustainable Agriculture on Slopes: The Effectiveness of International Development Projects in Fostering Soil Conservation in North Thailand

Harper, Dave E.
Street, John M.
Geography and Environment
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 1986]
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This study evaluates the performance of three international development assistance projects in controlling soil erosion, increasing sustainable yields, and improving farmer welfare in hilly lands of Chiang Mai and Nan Provinces, Thailand. A team of seven researchers gathered primary data on 138 project-treated fields and 82 non-project controls. Interviews with each farmer provided information on yields and project participation, perception of erosion and conservation, and household welfare. Staffs and managers of assistance projects supplied information on project goals and activities. The study hypothesized that (a) soil conservation leads to improved sustainable yields, and (b) projects effectively transfer soil conservation technology to farmers. The main findings are: 1. Projects have succeeded in reducing erosion rates 33 to 75 percent using control structures, but they have failed to teach farmers agronomic conservation methods necessary to limit soil degradation on or between structures. Mean erosion rates exceed creation rates in all sample villages. 2. Exposure of subsoil during construction of bench terraces has led to declining yields and reduced farmer acceptance of soil conservation. 3. Lack of maintenance limits the effective life of structures and indicates limited commitment by farmers to conservation. 4. Projects tend to use only one type of conservation method, regardless of site conditions and prevailing agricultural practices. 5. Yield levels do not correlate well with conservation, erosion rates, or project participation. However, sustainable production correlates with high yields and with agronomic conservation benefits such as increased organic matter and reduced sheet erosion. 6. Projects have succeeded in replacing swidden cultivation with settled farming in project villages, although most farmers still favor exploitive rather than conservative farming techniques. 7. Sustainable production is close to being achieved on farms practicing agronomic conservation. Swiddens (which are rarely tilled more than 4 years) and fields using only structural conservation display declining yields. Optimally, a combination of structural and agronomic conservation should be used. 8. Success of assistance projects varies according to integration of social and technical aspects of soil conservation, farmer involvement, and project design and organization.
PhD University of Hawaii at Manoa 1986
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 442–469).
Thailand, agricultural assistance, soil conservation, Chiang Mai, Nan, sustainable agriculture, crop yields, agricultural development projects
xv, 469 leaves, bound : illustrations ; 29 cm
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Geography.
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