Economic Analysis Of Soil Conservation Practices Among Crop Farmers

Project and Seminar Material for Agricultural Economics and Extension

Economic Analysis Of Soil Conservation Practices Among Crop Farmers


Abstract


This study was carried out in some parts of the South Western s of Nigeria with the objective of identifying the traditional soil conservation options available to farmers in the area. The study subsequently assessed the economics of the use of stone bunds as a conservation technology. To achieve the above objectives structured questionnaires were administered in selected villages from the Oyo and Ogun states. Descriptive statistics and a partial budget analytical tools were employed here. In Ogun state Nigeria high intensity rains, extensive land clearing and tree felling for fuel wood, overgrazing, uncontrolled burning of bush, poor farming practices and population pressures have resulted in severe erosion problems. The gradual soil degradation has affected crop productivity. Stone bunding, Ridging, and Crop residue management are some techniques that fanners have adopted to check soil erosion. Among the numerous fertility restoring methods, Composting, mulching, crop residue management and shifting cultivation are those currently being used by farmers. Others include the use of crop rotation, household refuse, animal/farmyard manure and fertilizer. Results of the partial budget analysis for the use of stone bunding indicate that an additional benefit of 03,122,860.00 was realised by putting in 35 extra man-days at a total cost of 0374,150.00. In other words, it is worth adopting this strategy where possible since the profitability ratio of 9.3 is substantial. A more participatory approach to extension programme formulation and implementation is therefore recommended since farmers are already aware of the problems.


Chapter One


Introduction

Background

Tanrl is an important natural resource of every country, and particularly for a developing country like Nigeria, where agriculture is the main source of livelihood to the majority of the people. Since the dawn of time, soil has been on the move. Rain and wind have transported soil particles from place to place, resulting in loss of fertile topsoil from agricultural lands. This problem of land degradation through soil erosion has been a major concern to mankind but still continues to pose a threat to food production. Again, attempts to achieve rapid increase in food production in many African countries including Nigeria have basically relied on the extension of the area of land under cultivation The cleared lands have continuously been exploited through various ecologically unfriendly and unproductive systems. Considering these, and increases in the rate of use of new agricultural lands, it is imperative that adequate attention be focused on arresting the situation.

Nigeria is richly endowed with natural resources such as land and forests and the growth of the economy is to a large extent linked to the utilization of these resources. However, current production technologies are in conflict with conditions for sustainable development. The most pressing environmental issues in Nigeria today are soil degradation, deforestation and pollution from mining industries. Studies in Ogun state Nigeria have revealed that high intensity rains, extensive land clearing and tree felling for fuel wood, overgrazing, uncontrolled burning of bush, poor farming practices and population pressures have resulted in severe erosion problems.1 These problems include drastic decline in soil productivity, drying out of streams, depletion of soil water reserves and pollution of natural waters.

Research shows that the causative agents of soil degradation in Ogun state Nigeria are water and wind. Wind erosion becomes serious as the area of bare land increases as a result of vegetation degradative processes. Agricultural production in the area, characterized by small farm units and relying almost solely on land and labour as factor inputs, have been suffering from the hazards of low rainfall and poor soils. Livestock rearing, mainly cattle and small ruminants, which constitute vital sources of income to farmers, equally suffer.


Problem Statement

Soils are more vulnerable than is generally thought. Yet they remain the very basis of human existence and the foundation of our food chain.3 Traditionally, farm household production strategy has revolved mainly around extensive shifting cultivation, which allows the farmland to fallow in order to improve its quality. In other words, the traditional production strategy is a way of reducing pressure on the land and therefore averting soil degradation. According to Boserup,4 when demand for agricultural products rise as a result of population growth and economic development, there are two ways to raise output to meet it. The first is to apply more labor to land by: (a) bringing forest and wasteland under cultivation; (b) reverting to fallow and natural grazing land (and) producing fodder for the livestock; (c) reducing the fallow period; (d) extending the use of multiple cropping system The second way is to increase the use of industrial and scientific inputs such as fertilizers, insecticides, improved seeds and mechanized equipment. Options such as cultivation of marginal lands and reducing fallow periods, which farmers have already adopted increase pressure on the land. Al-hassan et al5 indicate in a study of household
food security that, unless agricultural land use becomes more intensive in terms of frequency of cultivation, and the use of productivity enhancing factors such as fertilizers and irrigation, as well as adoption of improved soil management practices, the contribution of own food production to the attainment of household food security may reduce. Adoption of improved productive techniques and soil management practices will therefore be essential for achieving sustainable and increased agricultural production. Sheng6 defines soil conservation as the scientific use and protection of land, including wise choice of land use and pursuits of necessary measures of soil management and erosion control. This definition reemphasizes the fact that conservation is a resource and time consuming activity with apparently little or no long-term benefits to the private interest. Therefore the attitude of the small farmer towards its adoption is likely not to be encouraging. It was therefore observed rightly that the short-term goals of small farmers (private returns) heavily outweigh that of long-term social benefit of soil conservation7.

Agricultural officers (working in the area of soil conservation) several years ago noticed the potentially damaging consequences of land degradation in Ogun state Nigeria.8 Despite the long-standing concern about these problems, little evidence exists on their magnitude.

Conservation measures were meanwhile adopted to deal with the problems. However, the non-sustainable nature of these measures in post-independent Nigeria has resulted in considerable damage to the soils. The use of the slash and bum method of cultivation with low or no use of fertilizer especially nitrogen and phosphorus negatively affects crop yields. As soil is degraded and crop yields decline, any attempt at restoring productivity will mean higher levels of input utilization (and hence cost). The present situation could degenerate further if adequate and sustainable measures are not put in place to ensure effective soil conservation.

In spite of the numerous constraints facing farmers with regard to practicing soil conservation on their farms, it is observed that some farmers still commit some resources into the practice while others do not. This study therefore seeks to find out what factors directly or indirectly influence farmer’s decision to or not to invest in soil conservation. It is necessary to, (a) investigate whether the problem of soil erosion on farmlands has anything to do with cultural practices on the farms (b) find out what soil conservation means to farmers (c) research the yield implications of soil conservation , and (d) inquire about what needs to be done to enable farmers to invest in soil conservation.

The farm household decision-making is primarily directed towards crop and livestock production with the purpose of satisfying its different goals. By letting farm households pursue their own objectives, society expects that our common interest of environmental sustainability will is promoted as well. However in soil and water conservation, private and public interest may differ considerably. It is possible that even in situations where the soil erosion problem exists, farmers will not perceive the need to conserve the soil It has however been argued that if erosion will impose serious on-site productivity effects, it would be in the interest of the farmer to conserve his resource.9 In situations where farmers are seen to under-invest in conservation, it is not unusual for governments to try and redress the problem by introducing intervention packages based on the premise that conservation technology works. This approach generally sets out to persuade and/or coerce farmers into adopting soil conservation. Persuasion and/ or coercion alone, on the grounds of environmental concern was never likely to be effective, in the face of private costs.10 Thus by trying to address the research issues above, it is possible to find a better alternative to the traditional approach whereby persuasion and coercion become participation and cooperation respectively.
Objectives of the Study.

The main objective of this study is to identify the traditional soil conservation options available to farmers in Ogun state Nigeria and to investigate the yield implications i,e. whether the practice is beneficial or otherwise in terms of crop yields.

The study has the following specific objectives.

  1. To identify the major causes of soil erosion on farm lands.
  2. To investigate the extent to which farmers use these conservation and fertility maintenance techniques on their farmer.
  3. To analyse the yield implications, hence the profitability of use of these measures.
  4. To make recommendations on how to encourage the adoption of conservation methods among small-scale formers who may for some reasons not use them

Justification of the study.

The performance of Nigeria’s agricultural sector has generally influenced the performance of the economy as a whole. Since the soil serves as a very important medium for crop production (supplying vital micro and macronutrients), its destruction poses a serious threat to maintaining agricultural production and national development. Given Nigeria’s need for food and fuel, current rates of soil degradation jeopardize the soil’s life supporting potential, and hence, its capacity to provide the present and future population with the essential food requirements. This study is therefore relevant in the light of the existing problems relating agriculture and soil fertility maintenance. For soil conservation programs to be effective, it is important to be clear whether formers see erosion as a serious problem and know what they could do about it. By so doing, certain fundamental factors that influence farmer’s decisions comes to light and also make provision for measures that fall within their means, in terms of acceptability and affordability. Three of such reasons are referred to below.

Firstly, it has been documented that farmer’s inability to adopt modem technologies is a result of high input costs and subsidy removal which have contributed to a declining trend in domestic food supply.11 Since the end of the 1970s the frequent failure of soil conservation interventions is increasingly noted.12 It has again been reported by most performance measures that conventional conservation programmes have seen remarkable failures13. These failures have been attributed to an inefficient/ineffective mode of intervention, especially in developing countries. Secondly, although the disastrous effects of soil degradation/erosion were noticed decades ago, little empirical analysis has so far been carried out on the causes and severity of these problems and on the best ways to address them. Thirdly, it has become obvious that future planning of soil conservation strategies need to draw on past experiences so as to ensure its effectiveness and sustainability.


Organization of the Study.

Chapter Two reviews the relevant literature. In it, literature on definitional concepts of conservation, evidence of degradation and conservation policies are reviewed. Chapter Three deals with the methods employed in data collection and analysis. In Chapter Four the empirical results of the study and discussion of results are presented. The final Chapter presents the summary, conclusions and policy recommendations.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

Summary

The land use pattern in the study area suggests that the traditional farm household production strategy that has revolved mainly around extensive shifting cultivation with the aim of improving the soil quality is no more. Other husbandry methods, which were able to cope with the past, are equally ineffective due to rapid increase in population.

In the face of the low resource/capital base of most farm households, much could still be done with improvement in the use of crop residues, crop rotation and cultivation practices to maintain or improve fertility, reduce run-off and thereby enhance crop yields. Again, improvement on the use of such traditional methods will also mean some form of replacement of the existing over reliance of artificial inputs, the price of which cannot be afforded by the farmer.


Conclusions

One major factor that has exacerbated land degradation and for that matter erosion is the wanton destruction of vegetation through bush burning. Apart from destroying soil nutrients, bush burning destroys small seedlings and big trees thus making it difficult for forests to re-establish themselves thereby exposing the soil to erosion The recurrence of the bush burning problem could be partially attributed to some socio­ cultural practices of the people. The people of Oyo state for example, have an annual practice of sacred bush burning during which the youth hunt game. Other groups in the Ogun state have similar practices. The important issue here is the effect such practices has on the youth rather than the festival itself. They are taught (unconsciously though) to burn and destroy without any sense of guilt

Virtually all farmers in the study area are aware of the need for soil conservation Four main erosion control techniques and seven fertility maintenance techniques are known and are being practiced by farmers. Of the four anti-erosion techniques, ridging is the common practice in both the Oyo state and Ogun state s (51 percent and 58 percent respectively). Under normal terrain conditions ridging across the slope is enough to check soil erosion. The next fairly prominent technique is the use of grass strips and crop residue management. Strip cropping is basically used to reinforce ridges.

Household refuse utilization, animal manure, composting, crop residue management, crop rotation, shifting cultivation and fertilizer are the seven fertility maintenance techniques used. Pressures from rapidly rising population have virtually eliminated the age-old system of shifting cultivation. Apart from animal/farmyard manure and household refuse use, the remaining five methods of fertility maintenance are poorly patronized in the study area especially the Oyo state .

Non-use or poor patronage of composting, mulching and crop residue management as these fertility maintenance techniques is mainly the result of bush burning which consumes every organic residue on the field. Even though extensive use of stone bunding, as a soil conservation measure is limited to some areas in the Oyo state (Bongo area), it is worth committing resources into programmes that will encourage its adoption elsewhere. With its high profitability ratio of 9.3 and the more permanent nature of stone bunds, farmers stand to gain eventually.


Recommendations.

Prolonged drought certainly tips the balance in favour of desertification, which aggravates the already bad situation created by misuse of the land. Misuse of the land is however likely to be a result of the high incidence of drought in the area. An ecosystem that is fragile and which is only capable of supporting limited range of crops and livestock for example, leaves the people with no other option than to continue producing with little regard to the carrying capacity of the land.

In view of the above situation, there is an urgent need for an articulate soil conservation policy for the South Western s of Nigeria. Techniques used for maintaining soil fertility and preventing erosion on continuously cropped lands are already known to farmers. What is required presently is a more participatory approach to programme formulation and implementation. In other words, farmers/farming communities should be made to feel responsible for the sustenance of their land’s productivity. Enforcement of laws on bush fires should be entrusted in community leadership with strong support from government.

Control of water erosion with the use of contour ploughing and maintenance of field cover is vital. Farmers should be given the necessary institutional support (a reformed extension effort) in the area of education on effective conservation. Conservation practices involving trees species, should be included in Pastureland development should also feature on agriculture as well as financial assistance extension packages to formers. prominently in future government policies (various forms of subsidy) to farmers.


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