Conservation agriculture on steep slopes in the Andes: Promise and obstacles

M. Barrowclough, R. Stehouwer, J. Alwang, R. Gallagher, V. H. Barrera Mosquera, J. M. Domínguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Small-scale farming in Ecuador's highlands is associated with excessive soil erosion, degradation of soil health, and agricultural productivity loss. Conservation agriculture (CA) offers promise in these areas. Minimum disruption of soil and maintenance of permanent groundcover, two CA pillars, reduce erosion and can increase soil health and productivity. Despite its promise, CA has not been widely adopted by Andean region farmers, and factors such as uncertainty about CA benefits, risk aversion, and high discount rates have been offered as explanations for lagging adoption. This paper combines an analysis of CA trial data from farmer fields and an analysis of two farm-household surveys to measure potential benefits from adoption and identify correlates of adoption. The analysis reveals actions to promote more widespread adoption of CA. Data are from a unique five-year research project in Bolivar Province, Ecuador. Yield and cost of production data from on-farm trials are used to estimate costs and benefits of CA, household data are used to analyze the determinants of CA adoption, and data from a choice experiment help estimate willingness to pay for CA attributes, such as increased yield and reduced erosion. We find that CA practices yield more and cost slightly less (over five years) than conventional practices, but differences are not large. The adoption analysis shows that farm size and labor access are not associated with adoption, but farmers who perceive soil loss on their farm to be severe are much more likely to adopt. This aversion to soil loss is examined in the choice experiment, which finds that farmers are most interested in economic considerations, such as increasing yields and saving increasingly costly labor. CA holds promise in such systems, but diffusion efforts must be carefully tailored to address farmer needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-102
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Volume71
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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    Barrowclough, M., Stehouwer, R., Alwang, J., Gallagher, R., Barrera Mosquera, V. H., & Domínguez, J. M. (2016). Conservation agriculture on steep slopes in the Andes: Promise and obstacles. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 71(2), 91-102. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.71.2.91