Assessing the Factors Influencing the Adoption of Soil Conservation Practices in Hakha Township, Chin State of Myanmar

Assessing the Factors Influencing the Adoption of Soil Conservation Practices in Hakha Township, Chin State of Myanmar

Published: 2020.08.26
Accepted: 2020.08.18
27
Deputy Staff Officer
Department of Agriculture, Myanmar
Deputy Director
Advance Centre of Agriculture and Rural Education, Yezin Agricultural University

ABSTRACT

Land degradation in the form of soil erosion is a major issue in ensuring food security and sustainability in agriculture. The reduction of soil erosion depends a lot on the use of soil conservation practices. The study attempted to assess the factors influencing farmer’s adoption of soil conservation practices in Hakha township, Chin State, Myanmar. The specific objectives of the study are to find out the socioeconomic status of farmers, to assess the extent of soil conservation practices and factors influencing the adoption of soil conservation practices and to identify the limitations for the adoption of soil conservation practices by farmers. The data were collected from 110 respondents in which 68 adopters and 42 non-adopters are from 5 villages in Hakha township, Chin State. Methodology used is through simple random sampling and conducting a personal interview with a set of structured interview schedule. The collected data included demographic, socio-economic, physical and institutional factors. Among these factors, the number of family labors, farm income and degree of slope land influenced the adoption of soil conservation practices. Soil conservation practices such as terracing, contour bunds construction, crop residue management, intercropping with pulses, practicing minimum tillage, leaving long fallow land period, hedgerow, windbreak planting, mulching and composting were used by adopters. Among them, terracing and crop residues management were the most common practices by adopters. The major constraints include lack of investments, high cost, huge amount of labor, inability to respond and less training on soil conservation. In order to overcome the limitations of adopting soil conservation practices, appropriate interventions should be made. Therefore, education and training, and extension service programs related to soil conservation should be set up by the Department of Agriculture in collaboration with NGOs, INGOs, and private sector.

Keywords: land degradation, Adoption, soil conservation practices, Chin State, limitations

INTRODUCTION

The induced problems of soil erosion are the main threats for the current and future food production efforts. Soil erosion is the most severe problem in the hilly regions. The major causes of soil loss are cultivation on steep and unprotected slopes, overgrazing and indiscriminate felling of forest trees and extreme weather condition. In addition, the cultivation of crops is carried out without necessary soil conservation measures and allowing eroded practices such as irregular terraces, sloping outwards to drain excess water that aggravates the problems of erosion in the hilly region. Then, farmers from the hilly region still have to practice shifting cultivation. Shifting cultivation is the hill cultivation or farming system, which is a form of shifted farming system in upland areas, and has been practiced by about 2.6 million people in Chin and Shan States for centuries (UNCCD, 2005). Their traditional or taung-yar cultivation had shortened the fallow period which resulted in yield decline and decreased soil fertility. It is also considered as a consequence of soil erosion and land degradation. Due to slash and burn cultivation, it also releases greenhouse gas such as CO2, increases the degradation of soil fertility, the loss of forest vegetation and threatens the survival of wild flora and fauna and therefore leads to negative effects on climate change. Land degradation due to soil erosion and nutrient depletion is one of the major challenges in food security. According to these conditions, soil conservation is vital to achieving food security, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability in the country (Bewket, 2007).

Soil conservation practices have been taken as a very important aspects for sustainable agriculture in conserving the water resources and the maintenance of a stable ecosystem. The consideration of conservation practices is still poor because the cultivation of the crop is mostly under the traditional inappropriate farming systems in the non-adopted areas. Therefore, a more efficient, economical, and integrated system of nutrient management and soil conservation practices are needed to develop for achieving higher yield without causing the decline in soil fertility. Improving soil fertility would lead to rural and nationwide economic development, increase productivity, and attain continuing food security. The adoption of sustainable land management technologies depends on the adaptive economic capacity of households. The main characteristics in the decision-making of individual farmers could be considered according to personal, economic, institutional, and physical factors. Individuals experiencing these factors could influence the final decision-making procedure on whether or not to implement soil conservation.

IMPORTANCE OF SOIL CONSERVATION PRACTICES IN MYANMAR

Myanmar is one of the developing countries in Asia which is severely faced by land degradation and desert-like formation mainly resulting from improper land-use practices. Over the past decades, many watersheds had suffered from serious degradation due to shifting cultivation, population increase, encroachment, unsuitable land-use practices. The effect of shifting cultivation on soil organic matter, permeability, texture, and structure indirectly affected the inherent susceptibility of the soil, i.e. soil erodibility. An estimated two million families or 10 million people are involved in shifting cultivation (Htun, 2009). Shifting cultivation causes not only land degradation but also environmental pollution due to slash and burn. Myanmar government derives to cease the shifting cultivation. However, shifting cultivation (or Taung-ya) cannot be completely done away. Therefore, the taung-ya cropping system must be upgraded and applied scientifically with the integration of traditional processes to enable and sustain increased production and simultaneously assist in environmental conservation and forestry development. Mainly due to deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices, soil degradation in upland areas is widespread. Both soil erosion and nutrient depletion posture constraints to upland agriculture production (LIFT, 2015). The land degradation can also be seen noticeably in the central dry zone of Myanmar.

Moreover, Myanmar is one of climatically most various countries in Southeast Asia, where sheet, rill, and gully erosion distress crop yields as well as livelihood tactics of many people (Htwe, Brinkmann & Buerkert, 2015). Much of Myanmar's agricultural land is vulnerable since agriculture has intensified and poor management that is reducing soil fertility. Also, with development and modernization and GDP growth, the sectoral share percentage of GDP will decrease in the case of agriculture and an increase in the case of industries and services. Nowadays, the current policy of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI) is focused on improving production and productivity, promoting sustainable and climate-smart agriculture, encouraging the transition from conventional to mechanized agriculture (Myo Thant & Win, 2016).

According to these conditions, soil erosion measurement and monitoring approaches are becoming increasingly important for land management in order to effectively avoid erosion and soil degradation. To achieve maximum benefit, it is essential to treat various areas on a complete watershed basis for rational use of forestry and agriculture. In the hilly regions, soil conservation requires a proper land use program combined with cultural and engineering measures. A combination of engineering measures such as bench terracing and stone terracing of hill slopes along with afforestation, torrent and slip corrections, and silvicultural practices would not only control erosion but also increase crop yields of farmers in the hilly region. Moreover, using other alternative conservation practices such as crop rotation, intercropping, cover crops, mulching, crop residues management increases yield and improves soil fertility for sustainable agricultural development.

THE STUDY AREA

In hilly regions, soil erosion and shifting cultivation are major causal factors for land degradation. Soil erosion is one of the major problems in ensuring the food security of Chin State because the soil is very soft and vulnerable to erosion. Also, 80% of farming was shifting cultivation in this region, and most of the rural households depend on it for food production and income, but the sloping agricultural land technology (SALT) was not observed anywhere, only a demonstration site was observed. Taung-ya farmers reduced their fallow land periods for their subsistent living that create a very high rate of deforestation and soil erosion. This, in turn, results in the loss of soil and nutrient depletion, which leads to low productivity of agriculture, food insecurity, and worsening poverty. Thus, farmers need to manage land degradation by using soil conservation practices. It may be necessary to consider the most ecologically effective approach, appropriate traditional, and improved management practices. Hakha, the capital of Chin State, is situated in the Northern Chin State, which has very steep mountains that form continuous ridges with very narrow valleys and vegetation. A sad story of landslides happened in Hakha in 2015. Therefore, this study - “Assessing on factors influencing adoption of soil conservation practices in Hakha township, Chin State” was undertaken.

Socio-economic characteristics

The socio-economic characteristics of households play a role as the main factors that seriously influence the adoption of soil conservation practices. The socio-economic characteristics were shown in Table 1. Among the socio-economic characteristics, the age of the household head plays an important role in explaining farmers’ technology adoption behavior through influencing farmers’ information access and shaping their ability to change the available information into action. The farmers were categorized into young (22 – 35 years), medium (36-50 years) and old age of farmers (above 50 years). Among three groups of age, 8.8% adopters and 19% non-adopters were in the age group of “22 to 35 years” while 32.4% adopters and 40.5% non-adopters were in the age group of “36-50 years”. Moreover, 58.8% of adopters and 40.5% of non-adopters were observed with a high proportion in the age group of “above 50 years”. The majority of the adopter and non-adopter farmers were of medium and older age. It was found that older farmers used soil conservation practices because they had more experiences about their farm conditions and in resource management that would make them more willing to adopt soil conservation practices.

The level of education of the farmers was important for the decision making of the adoption of conservation technology. The education level of the farmers was categorized into five groups: “Illiterate, primary level, secondary level, high school level and graduate”. The schooling year (education) is the number of years in which the farmers attended the school along with their life. Illiterate adopters and non-adopters were 11.8% and 14.3%. A majority of adopters (36.8%) and non-adopters (54.8%) were in primary education while 25% of adopters and 21.4% of non-adopters were in secondary education. Also, 25% of adopters and 7.1% of non-adopters had high education while 1.5% of adopters and 2.4% of non-adopters had graduated, respectively. According to the results, the majority of the adopter and non-adopter farmers had finished primary, secondary, and high school education level. Then, although more educated farmers were more likely to adopt soil conservation practices, the majority of farmers did not graduate in the study area.

The farming experience is the number of years that the farmers practiced farming as a means of livelihood. According to their farming experiences, the farmers were differentiated into low (1-15 years), medium (16-28 years), and high level of experience (above 28 years). Among those groups, the number of adopters who had low farming experience was 17.6% and followed by medium level (20.6%) and high farming experience (61.8%). About 26.2% of non-adopters had low farming experience, which was followed by a medium level (35.7%), and high farming experience (38.1%). The majority of adopter farmers had higher farming experience than non-adopters. The farmers had more knowledge about their farm conditions had positive thinking toward the adoption of soil conservation practices.  

Family size would affect the amount of labor available for farm activities, household activities, and demand for food, which in turn directly or indirectly influenced the adoption of improved soil conservation practices. The farmers were categorized into small (1-3 persons), medium (4-6 persons) and large family (above 6 persons). The largest family size was 12 members, and the smallest family size was 1 member. Adopters had a small family (17.6%), followed by medium family (54.4%), and large family (27.9%). Non-adopters had a small family (11.9%), medium family (73.8%), and large family (14.3%), respectively. The majority of households had a medium and large family size, and they would like to have big family members in the study area.

The land in the study area is scarce mainly due to their topography and population pressure. About 41.2% and 47.6% of adopters and non-adopters occupied their land below 1.28 acres (small land size). Medium land size between 1.28-2.75 acres was possessed by 29.4% of adopters and 33.3% of non-adopters and that of above 2.75 acres, large land sizes, were possessed by 29.4% of adopters and 19% of non-adopters, respectively. Most farmers usually owned small-land sizes that would be at least 0.5 acres. Moreover, 48.5% of adopter farmers and 66.7% of non-adopter farmers had shifting cultivation in their farming. Thus, the non-adopter farmers were found to be more practiced in shifting cultivation than adopter farmers in the study area. Fallow lands are not common because of the small farm size.

The annual income of households was presented in Table 2. The average of adopters’ farm income was   2,208 USD/year while those of non-adopters were 1,713 USD/year. The non-farm income of adopters was an average of 593 USD/year, whereas non-adopters had 442 USD/year. The remittance of adopters was an average of 569 USD/year, while the remittance of non-adopters was an average of 297 USD/year, respectively. The off-farm income of adopters was a mean of 108 USD/year, and that of non-adopters was 57 USD/year. The income of the rural households was composed of different income-generating activities shown in Figures 1 and 2. If the household’s incomes were decomposed, the result showed that the major income of the adopters and non-adopters is obtained from farming, i.e., 64% of total income in adopters, and 68% of it in non-adopters, and followed by others income like non-farm, remittance, and off-farm, respectively.

Table 1. Socioeconomic characteristics of households in the study area

Items

Adopters (n = 68)

Non-adopters (n = 42)

Age of household head (year)

 

 

  Young (22 to 35 years)

6 (  8.80)

8 (19.00)

  Medium (36-50 years)

22 (32.40)

17 (40.50)

  Old (Above 50 years)

40 (58.80)

17 (40.50)

Education (schooling year)

 

 

  Illiterate (0 year)

  Primary school (1-6 years)

  Secondary School (7-9 years)

  High School (10-11 years)

  Graduate (Above 11 years)

8 (11.80)

25 (36.80)

17 (25.00)

17 (25.00)

 1 (1.50)

6 (14.30)

23 (54.80)

9 (21.40)

3 (7.10)

1 (2.40)

Farming experience (year)

 

 

  Low (1-15 years)

12 (17.6)

11 (26.2)

  Medium (16-28 years)

14 (20.6)

15 (35.7)

  High (Above 28 years)

42 (61.8)

16 (38.1)

Family size (no.)

 

 

  Small (1-3 persons)

  Medium (4 – 6 persons)

  Large (Above 6 persons)

12 (17.60)

37 (54.50)

19 (27.90)

5 (11.90)

31 (73.80)

 6 (14.30)

Total land size (acre)

 

 

   Small (0.5-1.28 acres)

   Medium (1.28-2.75 acres)

   Large (˃ 2.75 acres)

28 (41.20)

20 (29.40)

20 (29.40)

20 (47.60)

14 (33.30)

8 (19.00)

Shifting cultivator

33 (48.50)

28 (66.70)

Note: Value in the parentheses indicates percentage.

Table 2. Annual Income of households in the study area (USD/year)

Items

Adopters (n = 68)

Non-adopters (n = 42)

1. Farm income

 2,208

  1,713

2. Non-farm income

  593

  442

3. Remittance

  569

  297

4. Off-farm income

 108

    57

Extent of soil conservation practices

Coverage of diverse soil conservation practices included 52.9% of households who used terracing, 48.5% of households who used crop residues management, 16.2% of households who used composting, 14.7% of households who used long fallow land period, each 8.8% of households who used intercropping with pulses and minimum tillage; 7.4% of households who used contour bund construction, each 5.9% of households who used windbreak plantation and mulching; and 4.4% of households who used hedgerow, respectively (Table 3). The majority of adopters used terracing and crop residues management, and then this result is consistent with the topography in the study area.           

Table 3. Extent of soil conservation practices by adopters

No.

Items

Adopters (n = 68)

Rank

Frequency

Percentage

1

Terracing

36

52.9

1st

2

Crop residues management

33

48.5

2nd

3

Composting

11

16.2

3rd

4

Long fallow land period

10

14.7

4th

5

Intercropping with pulses

6

8.8

5h

6

Minimum tillage

6

8.8

6th

7

Contour bunds construction

5

7.4

7th

8

Windbreak planting

4

5.9

8th

9

Mulching

4

5.9

9th

10

Hedgerows

3

4.4

10th

Note: Totals over 100% are due to multiple responses.

Factors influencing adoption of soil conservation practices

The factors considered were socio-economic characteristics, physiological and institutional factors. The explanatory variables included age and education of household heads, family labor, total cultivated land size, farm distance, degree of sloping land, amount of annual farm income, access to training of soil conservation practices and access to credit (Table 4). The dependent variable was adoption or not adoption of any strategies of soil conservation practices of the farmers in the study area.

In this study, the mean of the dependent variable was an average adoption score, and it had an average of 0.62 and ranged between 0 and 1. An average age of household heads was found to be 51.35 years with the range of 22-85 years and average schooling year was 6.22 years ranging from 0-14 years. An average number of family labors were found to be 2.99 persons with a range of 1-5 members. Total cultivated land size had an average of 2.01 acres and ranged between 0.15 and 8.5 acres. The farm distance from homestead had an average of 43.51 minutes and was ranged between 1 and 240 minutes. An average degree of slope land was found to be 31.38 degrees with a range of 6-60 degrees. An average annual amount of farm income had 2,019 USD ranging from 90-12,027 USD. Also, 25.5% of farmers accessed the training of soil conservation practices and 40.9% of them accessed the credit facility, respectively. Among the variables, family labor availability, farm income and degree of slope land had influenced the adoption of soil conservation practices.

Table 4.  Descriptive variables in adoption of soil conservation practices

Variables

Unit

Mean

Min.

Max.

Std.

Dependent variables

Adoption

 

Dummy

 

0.62

 

1.00

 

0.00

 

0.48

Independent variables

Age

 

Year

 

51.35

 

22.00

 

85.00

 

13.63

Education

Year

6.22

0.00

14.00

3.44

Family labor

Number

2.99

1.00

5.00

1.09

Total cultivated land size

Acre

2.01

0.15

8.50

1.47

Farm distance from home

Minutes

43.51

1.00

240.00

38.32

Degree of slope land

Degree

31.38

6.00

60.00

15.01

Annual amount of farm income

USD

2,019.00

90.00

12,027.00

2,091.00

Access to training of soil conservation practices

Dummy

1 =Yes (25.5%)

0 = No (74.5%)

Access to credit

Dummy

1 = Yes (40.9%)

0 = No (59.1%)

Constraints for adoption of soil conservation practices

Most of the farmers had many constraints concerning the adoption of conservation measures in their farming. The data in Tables 5 and 6 were related to the constraints faced by the farmers for adopting soil conservation measures. The common constraints for using soil conservation practices were high cost, lack of investments, required a huge amount of labor, not easy to use, not aware of soil problem, and not patient for the long-term benefits for both adopters and non-adopters. These common constraints made delays in decision-making for adoption of soil conservation practices. Thus, these constraints were important factors for the lower rate of adoption for soil conservation technologies in farming.

Table 5. Constraints for soil conservation practices faced by adopters

No.

Items

Adopters

(n = 68)

Rank

1

 High cost

53 (77.9)

1st

2

 Lack of  investments

49 (72.1)

2nd

3

 Required huge amount of labor

48 (70.6)

3rd

4

 Not easy to use

47 (69.1)

4th

5

 Lack of effective exposure to extension services

44 (64.7)

5th

6

 Not enough for soil conservation trainings offered

43 (63.2)

6th

7

 Not aware  of soil problem

32 (47.1)

7th

8

 Not patient for the long-term benefit

27 (39.7)

8th

Note: Value in the parentheses indicates percentage. Totals over 100% are due to multiple responses.

Table 6. Constraints for soil conservation practices faced by non-adopters

No.

Items

Non-adopters (n = 42)

Rank

1

Lack of  investments

33 (78.6)

1st

2

High cost

31 (73.8)

2nd

3

Lack of knowledge

29 (69.0)

3rd

4

No motivation for learning the soil conservation practices

27 (64.3)

4th

5

Lack of effective exposure to extension services

27 (64.3)

5th

6

Not aware the benefits of soil conservation

26 (61.9)

6th

7

Required huge amount of labor

26 (61.9)

7th

8

Not easy to use

24 (57.1)

8th

9

Not aware of soil problem

21 (50.0)

9th

10

Not foreseeing the benefits for the future

21 (50.0)

10th

11

Lack of innovation on new technology

19 (45.2)

11th

12

Not patient for the long-term benefits

12 (28.6)

12th

Note: Value in the parentheses indicates percentage. Totals over 100% are due to multiple responses.

CONCLUSION

Currently, soil fertility management and conservation practices are inadequate to control the soil nutrient mining and physical degradation hazards and addressing problems of food insecurity and poverty facing farmers in the hilly region. Adopted farmers in the study area used a range of current soil conservation practices for land management. Although the extent of technology adoption is generally reasonably high, there were farmers who used the technologies on smaller scales. From the foregoing, we concluded that more efforts are needed to ensure that all farmers begin to use soil erosion control technologies and on a full scale. Among soil conservation practices, terracing and crop residues management practices were widely used in the study area and other practices were less applied in their farm yet. Therefore, the promotion of these practices and improvement in their effectiveness will provide more options to farmers. Accordingly, a familiar understanding of land management practices and their criteria for selection of soil conservation practices were crucial to reduce soil erosion problems and to bring sustainable use of soil conservation practices by farm households. Moreover, based on this study, understanding the socio-economic, personal, institutional and biophysical factors would put up to the design of appropriate strategies to achieve technical change in soil and water conservation process in the study area and other similar areas of the region and as well as the whole country.

Policy implementation

In order to overcome land degradation in the form of soil erosion, the suitable policies and mechanisms for the effective implementation of adaptation strategies have to balance among economic, societal and environmental aspects. By this study, soil conservation practices should be set up by the Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the private sector, NGOs and INGOs. The findings of the study indicated that extension institution services such as soil conservation training and education program, other subsidies and credits availability and participation of farmer organization at farm level are also needed to increase adoption rate of technologies because most of the farmers obtained fewer training related to soil conservation practices; and faced some common constraints in the adoption of soil conservation practices. The experts such as extension agents are needed to give soil conservation training and education program for land management. Farmer to farmer learning had to enhance the adoption of soil conservation technologies. Farmers must be convinced and given a strong incentive to adopt conservation measures for the long-term productivity of their farms as the farmers in the study area had economic motivation behavior. Income from crop production would be the main incentive for technology adoption and it should be noticed by extension institutions for the technology dissemination. Crop insurance should be initiated for farmers and risk management systems should be motivated among farmers. Government bodies should also give  greater attention in conserving the soil. Moreover, as some of the study areas have poor transportation, the extension agent could not visit those villages frequently. Thus, good transportations were needed in the study area.

REFERENCES

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Myo Thant, Y. Z., & Win, H. H. (2016). Myanmar Agricultural and Rural Statistics System and Development Plans.

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