Factors Affecting the Adoption of Soil Conservation Measures: A Case Study of Fijian Cane Farmers
Asafu-Adjaye, John, Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics
This study explores the extent to which various factors affect Fijian cane farmers' adoption of soil conservation measures. The significant factors affecting perception of the soil erosion problem include age, education, ethnicity, and extension services. On the other hand, the significant factors affecting soil conservation effort include perception of the erosion problem, net farm income, farm size, land type, and extension services. In general, personal characteristics appear to affect perceptions of soil erosion while the extent of conservation effort is affected by economic and physical factors. The resulting implications for soil conservation policy are discussed.
Key words: Fiji, ordered probit model, soil conservation, soil erosion, sugarcane
Fiji is a relatively small Pacific Island country with a population of 824,000. The Fiji Islands comprise some 300 islands covering a land area of approximately 18,400 km^sup 2^ (figure 1). The two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, make up 88% of the land area. Approximately 16% of the land is suitable for arable agriculture, and an additional 43% can be used for tree cropping and grazing. For many decades agriculture in Fiji has been the major contributor to gross domestic product (GDP) and exports. In 1994, agriculture's share of total exports was 60%, while its share of GDP was 18%. However, agriculture's contribution to GDP and exports is on the decline, having now been overtaken by tourism and textiles. The tourism sector alone currently contributes about 20% of GDP, while agriculture's share is approximately 15%. Nevertheless, agriculture remains the main source of employment. Sugar production and subsistence farming are the dominant activities in this sector, with the former providing employment for more than 25% of the workforce (Kumar and Prasad, 2002).
Although there is a reasonable level of public awareness about environmental issues in Fiji, recent evidence suggests the problem of land degradation is worsening.1 Soil loss measurements by the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar, and Land Resettlement indicate that the agricultural productive base in many sugarcane areas is declining at a rate well above what would be regarded as economically acceptable (Leslie and Ratukalou, 2002). The main form of land degradation is soil degradation, which occurs from widespread and indiscriminate burning-particularly, but not exclusively, in the sugarcane growing areas. Other causes of soil degradation include deforestation, overgrazing, and expansion of sugarcane and other traditional crops (e.g., dalo and yagona) onto marginal land (e.g., steep slopes).
In a review of a variety of catchments in both the western (dry) and eastern (wet) sides of Viti Levu, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) estimated soil loss to be between 24 and 79 tons per hectare per annum, which is equivalent to a topsoil loss of 1.6-5.3 mm per annum (IUCN, 1992). Other forms of land degradation include excessive pesticide and fertilizer use in taro and vegetable farming. A serious consequence of land degradation is that the impacts from natural disasters are becoming increasingly more acute-in particular, vulnerability to droughts and flooding. The cost of these natural disasters is conservatively estimated at an average of F$20 million2 per annum (Swami, 2004). The social costs are even greater when one considers the reduction in rural incomes and the increase in rural unemployment as a result of these climatic events.
Despite the acuteness of the land degradation problem in Fiji, no formal studies have examined the socioeconomic factors influencing the adoption and diffusion of soil conservation technologies. Moreover, the results of studies conducted in other developing countries do not necessarily apply to the Pacific Island countries (PICs) in general, or to Fiji in particular, due to their different geographical, socioeconomic, and environmental circumstances. …