An Analysis of the Non-Adoption of an Introduced Conservation Agriculture (CA) Program by Village Farmers in Sāmoa.

O Connor, Stephanie
Natural Res & Environmentl Mgt
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With soil health declining in Samoa, interest in introducing Conservation Agriculture (CA) practices to improve crop yields and livelihoods has been ongoing since the 1970s. Despite the efforts of the institutions involved in the introduction of CA practices under different programs, village farmers have not adopted these CA practices. No universal theory explains why farmers adopt or reject a new idea. However, in the case of Samoa, labor issues due to out-migration and differences in perceptions of those involved in the implementation of programs could be hindrances to the adoption of these introduced programs. Thus, this study hypothesized that: (1) stakeholder differences impacted adoption and continued use of CA systems, and (2) labor availability constrained producers’ ability to use CA systems. Four specific studies were undertaken in order to test these hypotheses,: (1) an investigation of the rate of adoption and stakeholder participation in introduced CA programs in Samoa; (2) a comparison of the benefits and costs of the introduced systems relative to current practices; (3) an investigation of the socio-economic and cultural factors influencing farmers’ decisions to not adopt an introduced CA practice; and (4) the identification of stakeholders differences in goals, objectives and perceptions relative to an introduced CA practice. Ninety-one published and unpublished sources between 1970 and 2015 were reviewed, providing an overview of the introduced CA programs. Four CA programs have been introduced in Samoa, however, three were introduced so long ago that information on their effectiveness or ineffectiveness was extremely hard to find. Therefore, this study focused on the most recent program. i.e., the Soil Health Program utilizing mucuna (Mucuna pruriens) as a cover crop. In-depth interviews with farmers and key informants, participant observation, and focus group discussions were used to develop an understanding of the perceived issues with the introduced CA practice and an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) was used to illustrate differences in stakeholder perceptions. Although a variety of resources were used in the programs implemented, the farmers were not convinced about the potential benefits of the introduced CA practices. Mucuna as a cover crop did not provide any relative advantage, was too complex and was not compatible with current practices, thereby requiring farmers to change their mindset in order to implement the system. Furthermore, not all farmers were included in the outreach efforts and farmers were not given enough time to test the introduced system to observe its relative benefits and limitations. Uncertainties associated with the introduced CA practice made farmers unwilling to take the risk of changing their current practices. The risk was perceived as serious as they depend on agriculture for their food and for income to fulfill their cultural obligations. The final study shows that differences exist in the perceptions of extension officers who are responsible for program outreach efforts to that of the farmers. More involvement of all farmers needs to be considered in the future with CA programs being introduced through the village councils within the respective villages in Samoa. Donors, government agencies and research institutions involved in the implementation of CA programs need to consider spending more time demonstrating their proposals with farmers and comparing these systems with current practices to help farmers reduce their uncertainty. Farmers should be involved from the beginning of the programs so that better management strategies can be utilized to help adapt the mucuna to suit their needs.
Mucuna, soil health, conservation agriculture, introduced programs, Samoa
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