This paper focuses on the recently emerging, but infrequently considered, reasons for the non-adoption of soil conservation (SC) technologies by local farmers. They include insufficient economic returns on farmer investments which are often long-term in nature and difficult to perceive or measure. More recent innovations, such as multi-purpose hedges or cover crops, are often able to provide either productivity benefits within one year, or lateral benefits, such as marketable products, that offset the farmers' investment. Unfortunately, artificial incentives are still used by many government-funded projects to promote expensive traditional structures aimed at soil retention rather than vegetation cover. Such measures attract interest for the wrong reasons and seldom outlive the project since they undermine farmers' motivation to experiment or innovate. Rather than focus on the long-term adoption of a given technology SC projects should aim at building community capability for sustainable agricultural development. This will encourage farmers to adapt technologies according to their changing circumstances which will result in a sustainable development process. Capability should be built through farmer-to-farmer dissemination which begins by training the best motivated farmers as extensionists. Technologies should be simple, based on locally available materials, and offer rapid easy to recognize benefits that will motivate farmers. Productivity, or income generated on the recuperated soil, must be increased. Technologies for harvesting water may be required to make this viable.
Bunch, R. Reasons for non-adoption of soil conservation technologies and how to overcome them. Mountain Research and Development (1999) 19 (3)