Extension services the key to better adoption of soil erosion control technologies by smallholders?

Extension support could catalyse the adoption of soil erosion control technologies by farmers, say Barungi et al in a study published in The Journal of Sustainable Development.

Low productivity caused by soil erosion is a big challenge for agriculture in Uganda. Despite the all too obvious impacts of land degradation, and efforts by government and non-government organizations to promote soil erosion control activities, uptake by farmers is still low. A survey conducted in Bukwo and Kween districts, on the slopes of Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda, aimed to determine factors influencing the adoption of erosion control technology by farmers. It found that a considerable percentage of farmers are already using the  technologies on small scale, but there is much room for improvement. The findings indicate that access to extension services, the amount of land owned by farmers, and the diversity of farm tools owned by farmers are key factors influencing the adoption of soil erosion control technologies.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are heavily dependent on agriculture, which is responsible for 70–80% of employment and 40% of export earnings. In Uganda agriculture is vital for economic growth, food security, income and employment, with 66% of Ugandans working in the sector. About 85% of land degradation in Uganda is accounted for by soil erosion and nutrient depletion. Farm yields are far below potential, contributing to food insecurity and malnutrition. Studies show that if farmers adopt soil conservation technologies, they can increase productivity by up to five times, so increasing such adoption would increase economic growth, especially in agrarian economies like Uganda. Understanding the factors that influence this adoption is, therefore, key to shaping the policy and practices that promote it amongst farmers.

This study measured the incidence and intensity of adoption of soil erosion control technologies, identifying the factors that affect adoption. The erosion control technologies studied included terraces, contours, trenches, agroforestry and planting of Napier grass along contours and terraces. Factors that can positively and significantly increase the likelihood of farmers adopting soil erosion control technologies are: access to relevant agricultural extension services; ownership of many different types of farm tools; and ownership of relatively more land. It also found that delivery of extension services to farmers is not regular.

Based on the above findings the authors recommend that extension programs should reach out to more farmers, that farmers who lack tools be given free farm implements, and that the government continues to resettle people who were evicted from Mt. Elgon National park, giving each household at least one hectare of land. Since the study also found that farmers who perceived their land as infertile are less likely to adopt erosion control technologies, the authors recommend that such farmers be encouraged to seek and use extension advice on how to replenish and sustain soil fertility.

Although most farmers around Mt. Elgon were taking measures to control soil erosion, the authors say more effort is needed to ensure that they all begin to use soil erosion control technologies—and on full scale. The findings of this survey can be used by the government of Uganda and development partners to maximise the adoption of soil erosion control technologies by farmers, thereby boosting agricultural production.

Read the full journal article:

Factors Influencing the Adoption of Soil Erosion Control Technologies by Farmers along the Slopes of Mt. Elgon in Eastern Uganda, M. Barungi, D. H. Ng’ong’ola, A. Edriss, J. Mugisha, M. Waithaka & J. Tukahirwa, Journal of Sustainable Development; Vol. 6, No. 2; 2013

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Rebecca Selvarajah

Rebecca Selvarajah

Rebecca is a science writer, manager of publishing projects, trainer in science writing, and novelist — working partly from Nairobi, Kenya and partly from Morwell, Australia. With over 15 years of experience in writing, advertising/marketing, publishing and social media, she takes on varied assignments, travelling, if needed, to conduct relevant research and interviews. Originally from Sri Lanka, Rebecca holds a BA honours in Psychology, with minors in Gender Studies and Sociology. Email Rebecca on r.selvarajah@cgiar.org

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