This paper explores the social and economic factors that influence household responses to soil and water conservation technologies. It is based on a case study from the Cochabamba Department of Bolivia. The importance of understanding the effects of socioeconomic variation on household decision-making processes is underlined and a selection of frameworks used in illustrating these differences is presented. These include analysis of rural livelihood strategies, farming systems, and households' characteristics as ways of identifying farmer recommendation domains. Although such methodologies are theoretically useful, collection of the necessary field data can be problematic. Analysis of household decision making based on semi-structured interviews and informal discussions provided the basis for economic analysis using the actual costs and benefits faced by farmers. Soil and water conservation technologies are likely to be viable only in the more intensive farming systems at low discount rates and are unlikely to be adopted by the resource poorest. In less intensive systems, especially where irrigation is not available, adoption is likely to be low. For widespread adoption technologies need to be low cost, productivity enhancing, and risk reducing in the short term.
Mountain Research and Development (1999) 19 (3) 221-234