October 14, 2011 by
Unsustainable land use decisions and agricultural practices by landholders are responsible for watershed degradation. However, landholders have little or no incentive to change their ways by adopting sustainable land use practices.
That much is already known.
Little is known about landholder attitudes and preferences related to alternative land management schemes. Which practices do landholders prefer, and why? How much of their land can they set aside in a payments for environmental services (PES) scheme?
A recently published journal paper describes how researchers have adopted market research techniques to answer these questions and more.
The paper, published in the Journal for Environmental Management, is titled “A conjoint analysis of landholder preferences for reward-based land-management contracts in Kapingazi watershed, Eastern Mount Kenya.” It was written by Dr. Bedru Balana of the James Hutton Institute in the United Kingdom with Thomas Yatich and Miika Mäkelä, both formerly with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).
ICRAF is running a project known as Pro-poor Rewards for Environmental Services in Africa (PRESA) to support and facilitate reward mechanisms. PRESA is working in Guinea, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. One of its sites in Kenya is at the River Kapingazi watershed in the eastern Mount Kenya region. There, losses in forest cover, land use changes and unsustainable agricultural practices are causing surface run-off and soil erosion.
The Kapingazi River has a strong influence far downstream.“Kapingazi is a major tributary of the larger Rupingazi River, which in turn feeds into the Tana River, Kenya’s largest river. The Tana River powers a series of hydroelectric stations important for Kenya’s energy needs. The major problem at the Kapingazi watershed is siltation of streams which in turn affects downstream reservoirs, including those that generate hydroelectricity,” reads an excerpt from the paper.
The area surrounding the Kapingazi basin has a population density of 402 persons per square kilometre, which is higher than Kenya’s national average of 68 persons per square kilometre. As a result of high population pressure, the catchment is characterized by small landholdings and increasing agricultural intensification.
With landholders identified as the providers of watershed environmental services, PRESA carried out a survey in October 2009 to assess their preferences towards alternative land management schemes. Another important objective was to draw policy implications in designing reward-based local resource management schemes.
Focus group discussions and a conjoint survey were administered in 3 community groups, locally described as Focal Development Areas (FDAs). The FDAs were previously demarcated by the Mount Kenya East Pilot Project for Natural Resource Management (MKEPP), a state-run programme that promotes sustainable natural resource management within the Kapingazi watershed and the larger Upper Tana region. The FDAs selected for the study were Kiriari, Kairuri and Muthatari in the upper, central and lower part of the catchment respectively.
125 sampling points were generated using geo-spatial information systems (GIS) mapping techniques. Enumerators went into the household nearest to each sampling point.
The study used conjoint analysis to evaluate landholder preferences. Conjoint analysis has long been associated with research in marketing, psychology and transport, where it has been used to evaluate and understand consumer preference for products or services.
Results indicate that, as long as appropriate incentive schemes are put in place, the size of landholdings may not be a major constraint in implementing soil and water conservation and other environmental management programmes. Farmers could implement environmental management programmes despite having smallholdings, as is often the case in village economies of developing countries, where land degradation and fragmentation of landholdings increases over time.
People with prior experience of environmental management practices were twice as likely to adopt a given contract compared to those without such prior experience. Other characteristics that had significant effect on preferences included: gender, experience in environmental management practices, a high school education and the level of household from agricultural sources.
The probability of adopting a given land management scheme decreases for schemes that require the commitment of larger land areas, longer contract periods, and greater restriction of harvest rights.
The incidence of poverty, population pressure and lack of alternative energy sources were identified as the underlying drivers of local environmental problems. The authors of the study recommend that concerned governmental and non-governmental agencies taking part in environmental management activities in the Kapingazi Basin focus on ways of easing these problems, and integrate environmental objectives with local developmental concern. “Investment in technologically and economically feasible sources of rural energy would make alternative energy sources available and could play an important role in mitigating forest degradation.”
Another recommendation is that stakeholders, such as farmers and local leaders, government units and intermediary players (for example PRESA), need to be fully engaged in the design and implementation processes of reward schemes. As long as such schemes are designed in a participatory environment and appropriate incentive mechanisms are put in place, environmental management programmes could be realized despite small landholdings.
To read the paper, please visit the Journal of Environmental Management by clicking here.