skip to main content

Title: Spatial and Ecological Farmer Knowledge and Decision-Making about Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity
Amid climate change, biodiversity loss and food insecurity, there is the growing need to draw synergies between micro-scale environmental processes and practices, and macro-level ecosystem dynamics to facilitate conservation decision-making. Adopting this synergistic approach can improve crop yields and profitability more sustainably, enhance livelihoods and mitigate climate change. Using spatially explicit data generated through a public participatory geographic information system methodology (n = 37), complemented by spatial analysis, interviews (n = 68) and focus group discussions (n = 4), we explored the synergies between participatory farmer-to-farmer agroecology knowledge sharing, farm-level decisions and their links with macro-level prioritization of conservation strategies. We mapped farm conditions and ecosystem services (ES) of two village areas with varying knowledge systems about farming. Results of the farm-level analysis revealed variations in spatial perception among farmers, differences in understanding the dynamics of crop growth and varying priorities for extension services based on agroecological knowledge. The ES use pattern analysis revealed hotspots in the mapped ES indicators with similarities in both village areas. Despite the similarities in ES use, priorities for biodiversity conservation align with farmers’ understanding of farm processes and practices. Farmers with training in agroecology prioritized strategies that are ecologically friendly while farmers with no agroecology training prioritized the use of strict regulations. Importantly, the results show that agroecology can potentially contribute to biodiversity conservation and food security, with climate change mitigation co-benefits. The findings generally contribute to debates on land sparing and land sharing conservation strategies and advance social learning theory as it pertains to acquiring agroecological knowledge for improved yield and a sustainable environment.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The study aims to analyze climate variability and farmers’ perception in Southern Ethiopia. Gridded annual temperature and precipitation data were obtained from the National Meteorological Agency (NMA) of Ethiopia for the period between 1983 and 2014. Using a multistage sampling technique, 403 farm households were surveyed to substantiate farmers’ perceptions about climate variability and change. The study applied a nonparametric Sen’s slope estimator and Mann–Kendall’s trend tests to detect the magnitude and statistical significance of climate variability and binary logit regression model to find factors influencing farm households’ perceptions about climate variability over three agroecological zones (AEZs). The trend analysis reveals that positive trends were observed in the annual maximum temperature, 0.02°C/year ( p < 0.01 ) in the lowland and 0.04°C/year ( p < 0.01 ) in the highland AEZs. The positive trend in annual minimum temperature was consistent in all AEZs and significant ( p < 0.01 ). An upward trend in the annual total rainfall (10 mm/year) ( p < 0.05 ) was recorded in the midland AEZ. Over 60% of farmers have perceived increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall in all AEZs. However, farmers’ perception about rainfall in the midland AEZ contradicts with meteorological analysis. Results from the binary logit model inform that farmers’ climate change perceptions are significantly influenced by their access to climate and market information, agroecology, education, agricultural input, and village market distance. Based on these results, it is recommended to enhance farm households’ capacity by providing timely weather and climate information along with institutional actions such as agricultural extension services. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The sustainability of agriculture in the American West depends on the capacity of farmers to adapt to water resource constraints. Most US studies of agricultural adaptations measure farmers’ willingness to adopt various water use reduction strategies, meaning we have little empirical data on which strategies farmers implement and how these decisions impact their farms. We use survey data from 265 farmers in southeastern Idaho who, beginning in 2016, were required to cut annual groundwater withdrawals by 4%–20% to identify (1) the adaptation practices farmers implemented; (2) how reported crop yields and farm income were impacted; and (3) how adaptation practices varied by farm and farmer characteristics. We found the most commonly used adaptations were reduced spending, installation of more efficient irrigation systems or less frequent watering, and changing crop rotations. Farmers reported losing on average 7.6% of their yield and 8.4% of their income over the first two years of the water cuts. We found no systematic variation based on specific farm or farmer characteristics. Drawing on these results and prior research, we present a typology of adaptation categories intended to inform future research, allow comparisons to adaptation strategies elsewhere, and assist policymakers in designing effective policy interventions.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract People’s observations of climate change and its impacts, mediated by cultures and capacities, shape adaptive responses. Adaptation is critical in regions of rainfed smallholder agriculture where changing rainfall patterns have disproportionate impacts on livelihoods, yet scientific climate data to inform responses are often sparse. Despite calls for better integration of local knowledge into adaptation frameworks, there is a lack of empirical evidence linking both smallholder climate observations and scientific data to on-farm outcomes. We combine smallholder observations of past seasonal rainfall timing with satellite-based rainfall estimates in Uganda to explore whether farmers’ ability to track climate patterns is associated with higher crop yields. We show that high-fidelity tracking, or alignment of farmer recall with recent rainfall patterns, predicts higher yields in the present year, suggesting that farmers may translate their cumulative record of environmental knowledge into productive on-farm decisions, such as crop selection and timing of planting. However, tracking of less-recent rainfall (i.e., 1–2 decades in the past) does not predict higher yields in the present, while climate data indicate significant trends over this period toward warmer and wetter seasons. Our findings demonstrate the value of smallholder knowledge systems in filling information gaps in climate science while suggesting ways to improve adaptive capacity to climate change. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Crop seeds are a factor of production that can be produced on farm or bought, commodified in varying ways and degrees, and that can change slowly or rapidly—all of which directly impact the crucial process of farmer “skilling.” Seed choices also offer a unique empirical window through which farmer knowledge may be studied. Although other studies have examined the differences between cash and food crops, this research provides new insights into varyingly commodified crops within the same agrarian system. When planting rice, genetically modified hybrid cotton seeds, and garden vegetables, farmers in Telangana, India, face different constraints and opportunities to learn about their seeds and practice that knowledge in the field. These differences arise from agronomic properties of the seeds themselves as well as from the sociocultural meaning that structures the context in which farmers buy, grow, and save them. This measurable discrepancy in farmer knowledge and experience presents an opportunity to examine the variable impact of seed commodification as it is experienced by the same group of farmers across several different crops. Building on theories of commodification and agricultural knowledge, we propose that the different ways in which farmer knowledge operates in these crops reflect a spectrum on which knowledge and commodification are inversely related.

    more » « less
  5. Extreme weather events have cost lives and financial losses across the United States. Moreover, they are expected to increase in frequency, and this will exacerbate their impact on vulnerable sectors such as agriculture. But how farmers could adapt to extreme weather events by adopting different conservation practices has received slight attention in the literature. This study examines how farmers' perceptions of drought and flooding influence their decisions to implement conservation practices in their conventional crop fields. Out of the 350 farmer responses we received, fewer than half indicated a likelihood to adopt no-tillage/reduced tillage (43%), cover crops (40%), crop diversification (37%), and integrated crop-livestock grazing (29%). Using this data and a multivariate probit modeling framework, we show that farmers’ decisions can be partly explained by their perception of drought but not by their perception of flooding. Specifically, the perceived number of drought years significantly increases the likelihood of adopting no-tillage/reduced tillage and diversified cropping in the future. However, the number of drought years is not significantly associated with the use of cover crops and integrated crop-livestock grazing. These results suggest that the effects of extreme weather events on adoption of conservation practices as adaptive measures vary across different practices. Therefore, adaptation policies that make use of conservation practices must be tailored to farmers’ needs and priorities to be effective. 
    more » « less