Climate Sustainable Agricultural Practices; Climate Change; Stated Preferences; Scoring;

Climate change
threatens agricultural production in Nigeria. Ebonyi State is the food basket
of southern Nigeria. Incidentally, the State suffers from the impacts of
climate change manifested in the form of extreme rainfall events, floods,
extreme temperature and erosion. Sustainable agriculture is considered as one
of the important strategies for climate risk management. Hence, the promotion
and prioritization of adoption of sustainable agricultural practices (SAPs) in
a changing climate is important for agricultural resilience and security in
Ebonyi State. Unfortunately, little is known about prioritization of sustainable
agricultural practices. This study applied a participatory assessment method to
prioritize sustainable agricultural practices in Ebonyi, Nigeria. Specifically, the study determined sustainable
agricultural practices preferred by farmers and compared the preferences of the
sustainable agricultural practices and farmers’ willingness to pay for each
preferred practice. The study adopted a multistage sampling technique to select
two hundred and forty farmers from the State for interview and group discussion.
Scoring and bidding exercises using pseudo money were employed to check the
willingness to pay for various SAPs. Stated preference and chi-square were
adopted for data analysis. The study found that farmers’ preferences for SAPs
are marked by some commonalities as well as differences according to their
agricultural/rainfall zones. The most preferred technologies by local farmers
were crop insurance, climate change-based advisory services, improved crop
varieties, cover crop, mounds and adjusting planting dates. Farmers’ scoring
and bidding differed significantly for crop insurance, improved crop varieties
and climate change-based advisory services. This study shows the potential for
adopting a participatory sustainable agricultural practices prioritization
method to provide information on climate risk management and planning at the
local level.

Key Words: Sustainable
Agricultural Practices; Climate Change; Stated Preferences; Scoring; Bidding;
Ebonyi State; Nigeria.

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INTRODUCTION

Agriculture
is very important to the economy of Nigeria because of its contribution to
employment and the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. The share of
agriculture in total GDP was 23.1 per cent in 2015 (Central Bank of Nigeria,
2015) and over three-fifth of Nigerians work in agriculture. Ebonyi State,
which is in the rainforest region, is important to Nigeria’s agriculture as the
region predominantly produces important crops like rice, potato, cassava, oil
palm, plantain, yam and maize. Unfortunately, the State is threatened by
climate change with erosion and flooding as the major visible impacts. This is
as a result of increasing rainfall volume, decreasing rainy days and erratic
pattern of rainfall in the region (Onyeneke et
al., 2017a). These present serious threat to agricultural production in the
area.

 

The
growing threat of climate change on agricultural production have generated lots
of interest in developing local adaptation practices in the region, where
vulnerability is high and adaptive capacity is low (Federal Ministry of
Environment, 2003; Onyeneke, 2010; Nwajiuba and Onyeneke, 2010; Onyeneke and
Nwajiuba, 2010; Onyeneke and Madukwe, 2010; Nwajiuba et al., 2011; Nwajiuba, 2011; Women and Children Development
Initiative, 2011; Building Nigeria’s Response to Climate Change, 2011; Nigerian
Environmental Study Team and Woodley, 2011; Nigerian Environmental Study Team,
2011a; Nigerian Environmental Study Team, 2011b; Nigerian Environmental Study
Team and Tegler, 2011; Onyeneke et al., 2012;
Ugwoke et al., 2012; Nwosu et al., 2012; Federal Ministry of
Environment, 2014a; Federal Ministry of Environment, 2014b; Federal Ministry of
Agriculture and Rural Development, 2014; Nwosu et al., 2014; Onyeneke et
al., 2014; Nwajiuba et al., 2015;
Munonye and Onyeneke, 2015; Federal Ministry of Environment, 2015; Federal
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2016; Onyeneke et al., 2017a; Onyeneke et al., 2017b). For about a decade of
efforts in helping farmers respond to climate change in the area, productivity
gains among the farmers in the area are still. Uncertainty about the scale and
nature of the impacts, which affect farmers’ planning and investment decisions,
could be the reason. Therefore, the need to avoid maladaptation and identifying
no-regrets strategies to really respond to climate change in the region
cannot be overemphasized. A prime example of such strategies is sustainable agriculture
(Kassie et al., 2009a). Adopting sustainable agricultural practices
which use environmentally-friendly inputs, ensures social acceptability and
economic viability is important in building resilience to climate change and
achieving food security in Nigeria. Lee (2005) noted that such practices use
less external inputs and more locally available natural and renewable
resources.

 

The
adoption of sustainable agricultural practices is intended to enhance
resilience to climate change and ensure food security among the majority of
Nigerians whose livelihood depend on agriculture (Oladeebo and Mkhonta 2013;
Onyeneke, 2016). Sustainable agriculture is one of the best strategies for
conserving the soil and environment and increasing yield of farmers (FAO,
2007). It has been promoted to maintain and improve yields and resilience
against drought, erosion, flood, and other hazards while at the same time
stimulating biological functioning of the soil practices such as direct sowing,
zero-tillage or minimum tillage, crop rotation, organic manure application
instead of use of inorganic fertilizers, biological pests control, use of
organic herbicides, agroforestry, hedgerows and living barriers, biomass
transfer and green manures, intercropping, alley cropping, terraces and other
physical structures to control erosion, contour planting, mulching, and the
establishment of cover crops help to protect organic matter and soil fertility (Onyeneke
et al., 2017b; Onyeneke, 2016; Thornton
and Lipper, 2014; Nyasimi et al., 2014;
Onyeneke et al., 2014; Onyeneke et al., 2012; Onyeneke and Madukwe,
2010; Kassie and Zikhale, 2009; Tripp, 2006).

 

Due to the benefits of sustainable agricultural
practices which include sustainable land use, increased yields, increased incomes,
timeliness of cropping practices, ease of farming and ecosystem services, the
global area under sustainable agricultural systems is increasing (Kassie et
al., 2009a; Kassie et al., 2009b; Kassie et al., 2010). It is
estimated that, worldwide, there are now some 156 million ha of arable crops
grown each year in sustainable agricultural systems (FAO, 2015). Unfortunately,
the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices in Africa is relatively low
(Nyanga et al., 2011; Nyasimi et al., 2014) despite many years of
promoting sustainable agriculture in the continent. Worst still is that food
insecurity is on the increase (Foley, 2011; FAO 2010; Third World Network,
2008; Pretty et al. 2006; Building
Nigeria’s Response to Climate Change, 2011; Rockström, 2009; Institute for the
Study of International Development, 2016). One reason for the low adoption of
SAPs is the little or no support from policymakers and socioeconomic
constraints of farmers. Although, some policy documents advocate for agricultural
practices that are sustainable in Nigeria (Building Nigeria’s Response to
Climate Change, 2011; Federal Ministry of Environment, 2014a; Federal Ministry
of Environment, 2014b; Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development,
2014; Federal Ministry of Environment, 2015; Federal Ministry of Agriculture
and Rural Development, 2016; Ministry of Budget and National Planning, 2017), political
support in terms of funding and commitment is usually insignificant. Furthermore,
in the design and implementation of interventions in
sustainable agriculture at the farm level, there is need to consider practices
that are well suited and prioritized by the farmers vis-à-vis the prevailing
climatic risks in their locality (FAO, 2012). To
the best of my knowledge, no published work till date has prioritized
sustainable agricultural practices in relation to climate risk management in Ebonyi
State of Nigeria.

 

Evidence on farmers’
prioritization of sustainable agricultural production practices in a State
already facing severe impacts of climate change and under serious pressure on
farmland resources will be paramount in supporting key stakeholders to make
informed decisions that align with the objectives of increasing productivity,
resilience, and protecting the environment. Informing local
stakeholders on the potentials, opportunities and challenges of promoting more
sustainable models of agricultural transformation will be important in achieving
Nigeria’s commitment to international climate change negotiations and meeting
her food security, environmental protection, and ecosystem resilience
objectives.

 

METHODOLOGY

The
study was carried out in Ebonyi State of Nigeria. Ebonyi State is situated
between latitudes 50 40′ and 60 45′ north of the Equator
and longitudes 70 30′ and 80 46′ east of the Greenwich
Meridian. The population of the State was 2,176,947 persons as at 2006 with an
annual growth rate of 3 per cent (National Bureau of Statistics, 2012). The
State is bordered with Abia State and Cross River State in the east, Abia State
in the south, Enugu State in the west and Benue State in the north. Ebonyi
State has three agricultural zones namely Ebonyi north, Ebonyi central and
Ebonyi south with slightly different rainfall regimes and thirteen Local
Government Areas (LGAs). The State experiences two major seasons—the dry season
and the rainy season. The dry season usually starts in November and ends in
March while the rainy between April and October. The State is usually
characterized by annual rainfall volume above 1,800mm, humidity of above 80%
during the rainy season, and average temperature of 270C (NiMET,
2017). This climate favours the cultivation of food crops like yam, cassava,
maize, plantain, vegetables, rice, etc., and cash crops like oil palm.

 

All the three agricultural zones of the State were involved in
this study. In each zone, Local Government Areas (LGAs) with
visible evidences of climate change-related impacts were collected from the
Ministries of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environment and the Nigeria
Erosion and Watershed Management Programme (NEWMAP) office. From this list, two
LGAs were selected from each zone for further study. In each of the selected
LGAs, four communities were selected considering incidence
of flood and/or high number of farmland erosion sites present in the
communities. Finally, ten farmers were selected in each community for final
analysis.

 

Data for this study were obtained through survey and group
discussions with the farmers. A list of sustainable
agricultural practices were generated based on a literature
review of empirical studies in the area and in consultation with researchers and
government officials in the State. Questionnaire designed was administered to the
farmers.  

 

Data collected were analyzed using stated preference. Farmers were
asked about their preferences of sustainable agricultural
practices. This was done in two stages. In first
stage, farmers’ were arranged into a group of 5–10 for discussion on sustainable
agricultural practices and then asked to score each practice
from 0 to 4 scale (0 = no preferences, 1 = low preference, 2 = medium
preference, 3 = high preference, and 4 = very high preference). These values were
converted to percentiles and categorized into five classes. In the second stage,
the researchers conducted a bidding exercise using pseudo money for only those practices
that were highly preferred by the farmers in the scoring exercise and all
selected practices were further weighted ranging between a 0 to 100 scale based
on payment schedule in terms of bidding amounts and categorized into five preference
classes (poor, low, medium, high, and very high) (Khatri-Chhetri et al., 2017).
Khatri-Chhetri et al. (2017) used
the following three formulae for weighting the preferences:

 

Wt
=         –           1

 

Wtav
=       –           –           –           2

 

Wtm
=      –           –           –           3

Where;

Wt is the sustainable agricultural practice weight in
bidding game, Wtav is the average weight of sustainable agricultural
practice assigned by farmers and Wtm is the mean weight of sustainable
agricultural practice if all have the same weight. Based on these weights, sustainable
agricultural practice were classified into two categories: i) high-weighted sustainable
agricultural practice, if Wtav ? Wtm,
and ii) low weighted sustainable agricultural practice, if Wtav ? Wtm. The sustainable agricultural practices were
further weighed on the basis of frequency of their distribution from 0 to 100
scale and finally arranged into five categories, similar to scoring method
stated above. The frequency denoted number of farmers’ preference of a
particular sustainable agricultural practice. The scoring and bidding methods
of farmers’ preferences of the sustainable agricultural practices were subjected
to Chi-square (?2) test to determine whether the farmers’ preferences are different on scoring and bidding
methods. The formula is written below:

                –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           (4)

?2 = Chi square statistic

O = Observed frequencies

E = Expected frequencies

? = Summation sign

 

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Farmers’ Preferences of
Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Sustainable agricultural practices
preferred by farmers in Ebonyi State are presented in Table 1. The researchers
delineated the sustainable agricultural practices into broad five categories
namely structural and mechanical erosion control practices (SMECP), agronomic
practices, soil management practices, climate risk management measures, and
cultivation practices. The practices under each category are presented in Table
1. The study found that farmers’ preferences for SAPs in all the agricultural
and rainfall zones of Ebonyi State have commonalities and differences. Of the
seventeen different sustainable agricultural practices (SAPs), six practices
(crop insurance, mounds, cover crops, adjusting planting dates, improved crop
varieties and climate change-based crop advisories) were very highly preferred and
highly preferred by farmers in scoring activity and those practices were
considered for bidding exercises. After scoring and bidding of the selected
practices, the researchers compared farmers’ overall preferences for different
sustainable agricultural practices based on the agricultural zones which is
determined by rainfall distribution and temperature of the area.

 

Ebonyi south records the highest annual
aggregate (mean mm/ year), followed by Ebonyi north while the lowest rainfall
and highest temperature are usually observed in Ebonyi central (NiMET, 2017).
Results indicated that farmers’ preferences for SAPs are marked by some
commonalities as well as differences. The ranking for each practice was based
on average frequency of responses in scoring and bidding methods: 81–100 = very
high (5th rank), 61–80 = high (4th rank), 41 -60 = medium
(3rd rank), 21–40 = low (2nd rank), 0–20 = poor (1st
rank). Table 1 shows the most preferred SAPs in the agricultural zones. Top
four preferred SAPs in all rainfall and agricultural zones include crop
insurance, climate change-based advisory services, adjusting planting dates,
and improved crop varieties (Table 1). This indicates that farmers are willing
to adopt more of climate risk management strategies such as crop insurance, climate
change-based crop advisories, and adjusting planting dates; and agronomic
practices such as improved crop varieties. Onyeneke (2016) and Onyeneke and
Madukwe (2010) found similar results when they documented practices effective
for sustainable land management and climate risk management in southeast
Nigeria respectively. The reason is not far-fetched because these are practices
that can be supported mainly by the government and/or donor agencies through technical
and financial services.

 

The least preferred SAP in all the zones
was agroforestry and this might be connected to its perceived threat to rice
production which is a very important economic activity in the State. Ebonyi
State is known for rice production and a major threat to rice production is
birds’ invasion. Farmers would not like to leave trees, where birds perch and/or
live, on their farms. Also, birds usually find it difficult to fly a long
distance without perching, so farmers who have trees on their farmlands would encourage
birds to invade their farms. In the focus group discussions, the farmers
reported that trees on farms compete with rice for light, nutrient and water
with crops and increase the incidence of pests and diseases. This is similar to
the findings of Rajashekhara Rao and Siddaramappa (2008) and
Wangpakapattanawong et al. (2017).
However, the adoption of agroforestry is important to both climate change and
adaptation (Onyeneke et al., 2017b).
The low preference might also be associated with the lack of knowledge of the
benefits of agroforestry in rice-production landscapes. Wangpakapattanawong et al. (2017) documented some of the
benefits which include soil conservation, fixing nitrogen, increasing nutrients
and increasing soil stability, providing shade, bund consolidation and boundary
demarcation, water regulation, carbon storage and climate resilience.

 

Table 1: Distribution
of farmers according to preference of sustainable agricultural practices

Sustainable agricultural practices

Ebonyi south

Ebonyi central

Ebonyi north

Structural/mechanical erosion control
practices
       
i.           
Terraces
     
ii.           
Contour bund
   
iii.           
Ridges across slope

 
22.32
30.32
25.67

 
33.32
38.32
35.67

 
45.32
44.32
50.67

Agronomic practices
       
i.           
Improved crop varieties
     
ii.           
Intercropping
   
iii.           
Mulching
   
iv.           
Crop rotation
     
v.           
Cover cropping
   
vi.           
Strip cropping

 
72.89
56.34
45.67
35.67
60.67
41.23

 
77.19
43.74
50.66
37.11
60.12
40.05

 
79.28
40.34
43.67
39.22
68.65
38.33

Soil management practices
       
i.           
Compost
     
ii.           
Agroforestry
   
iii.           
Use of organic manure

 
33.32
21.19
41.01

 
33.32
18.90
35.05

 
33.32
17.23
34.08

Cultivation practices
       
i.           
Mounds
     
ii.           
Conventional tillage
Climate risk management measures
i.                   
Crop insurance
ii.                 
Climate change-based advisory services
iii.               
Adjusting planting time

 
60.76
51.87
 
88.23
79.72
72.12

 
64.16
46.18
 
89.12
80.17
73.31

 
61.12
44.17
 
87.29
79.97
74.21

Source: Field survey, 2017

Farmers in Ebonyi north preferred more
of the practices under structural and mechanical erosion control than farmers
in the other two zones. This is expected because practices like terracing,
contour bunds are mainly carried out on lands with medium to steep slopes which
characterize Ebonyi north. Farmers in all the agricultural zones preferred
mounds to conventional tillage (minimum tillage). This is expected because the
major crops cultivated in the area (yam, cassava, rice) require some level of
tilling to thrive in the area. Unfortunately, tillage practices like mounds
release more underground soil carbon to the atmosphere which contributes to
climate change (Kipkoech
et al., 2015; Nwajiuba et al., 2015).
Minimum tillage is important in climate change mitigation and resilience
(Onyeneke et al., 2017b; Onyeneke and
Madukwe, 2010). Surprisingly, farmers in all the zones demonstrated low levels
of preference for crop rotation, mulching, composting and use of organic
manure. The low adoption may be linked to the costliness, bulkiness and
burdensomeness in transporting/transferring materials needed for these
practices, especially organic manure, composting and mulching. However, the
adoption of these practices can help to offset the impact of climate change on
agriculture.

Difference
in Preferences in Scoring and Bidding Sustainable Agricultural Practices

The researchers compared farmers’
preferences for SAPs between scoring and bidding methods using chi-square (?2)
test. Farmers’ preferences for adjusting planting dates, cover crops and mounds
are not significantly different between scoring and bidding methods in all the
three zones (Table 2). However, their preferences for crop insurance, improved
crop varieties and climate change-based advisory services differed
significantly (P

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