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Sustainable adoption of conservation practices by upland farmers in the Dominican Republic.

This paper looks at the rural poor living in the upland regions of the humid and subhumid tropics of the Dominican Republic, specifically farmers in a 1,700 [km.sup.2] (656 [mi.sup.2]) area on the north slope of the Cordillera Central mountain range. The paper also looks at the conservation programs administered by a large Dominican nongovernmental organization (NGO), Plan Sierra [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED].

The objectives for this paper are to (1) determine if there is a significant difference between Plan Sierra participants and nonparticipants with respect to farmer characteristics and farming systems; (2) determine if Plan Sierra has made a significant difference in the adoption and maintenance of soil and water conservation practices (SWCP) among the hillside farmers; (3) determine if there are significant differences among the three main types of communication channels used by Plan Sierra to transfer information about SWCP to the farmers; and (4) determine if there are significant differences among the communication channels regarding the type of SWCP adopted, why the farmer adopted SWCP, if the farmer saw any benefit to SWCP, and who the farmer would consult - if anyone - regarding SWCP problems.

The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is located between 17 [degrees] and 20 [degrees] north latitude and 68 [degrees] to 71 [degrees] west longitude. It encompasses 48,000 [km.sup.2] (18,532 [mi.sup.2]) and supports 8 million people on the eastern portion of the island of Hispaniola. More than half of the Republic's topography consists of mountain ranges. Poor living conditions are typical among the small farmers of the Cordillera Central mountain range (Carrasco and Witter 1993; de Janvry and Hecht 1984; Hartshorn et al. 1981; Retana 1982; Santos 1980). Most of the wood and charcoal used for fuel and 80% of the food consumed domestically come from these same hillsides (Carrasco 1991; Nunez et al. 1992).

Federal Law 211 forbids the harvest of live trees. But many farmers are forced to break this law in order to get fuel to cook their food. Besides resulting in the arrests of poor farmers, tree harvest results in increased soil erosion, sediment-laden stream channels, flooding, reservoir siltation, degraded water quality, and reduced dry-season water flows (Carrasco et al. 1993; Hartshorn et al. 1981; Plan Sierra 1982; Retana 1982). Erosion rates are estimated to be 300 t/ha/yr (133 t/ac/yr) (ISA 1995). Poor environmental management of the hillsides also adds to food commodity shortages and eventually to increased prices (Nunez et al. 1992; Tropical Research and Development 1992).

Plan Sierra

Plan Sierra is located on the north slope of the Cordillera Central, overlooking the agriculturally rich Cibao Valley [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. The area has a wide range of microclimatic zones that allow for a variety of crops to be grown, including sugar cane and coffee.

Plan Sierra was created by a grant from the government of the Dominican Republic in 1979 to address the needs of the rural poor. Its objectives are to (1) create a demonstration project for managing upland and mountainous agriculture; (2) develop a coordinating mechanism to link existing management institutions together to address the problems of the sierra; and (3) respond in a timely and flexible manner to the needs of small-farm operators rather than to pursue predetermined, fixed programs. To this end, the core of all programs at Plan Sierra are the small-farm operators and their rural communities (Santos and Quezada).

Plan Sierra has conducted activities in the areas of infrastructure development, health, education, and agriculture (de Janvry and Hecht 1984). Reducing soil erosion has been a central focus of the agricultural program (Jimenez and Gutierrez 1993).

Study methods

We developed a questionnaire in concert with the Instituto Superior de Agricultura (ISA), the Center for Urban and Rural Development (CEUR) at Universidad Catholic Madre y Maestra (UCMM), and Plan Sierra staff in Santiago, Dominican Republic. The questionnaire was designed to collect information regarding the farmstead, agroforestry, soil and water conservation management practices, farm inputs and outputs, credit, use and availability of water, demographics, farm inheritance, and coffee production.

The questionnaire was field tested twice during the fall and winter of 1992-93 by faculty from ISA. During March 1993, a research assistant from Michigan State University and three trained Dominican assistants from ISA who had not been involved previously with Plan Sierra, conducted the survey (Robotham 1993). Face-to-face interviews were held in Spanish by the Dominican assistants.

Participants in the study were selected by the Dominican interviewers using a stratified random sampling procedure recommended by CEUR and used in the pretests. The Dominican assistants started from the center of a village and proceeded in three different transects following existing roads and trails leading to the farms.

The assistants selected one person from the list of Plan Sierra participants living in that community and his nearest neighbor, as long as the neighbor was not a Plan Sierra participant. This ensured a comparison of participants and nonparticipants within the same agroecological zone and community. At each farm the assistants asked to speak to the head of the household; in all cases the farm families selected a male. Approximately 20 farmers were interviewed from each community, for a total of 161 farmers.

Variables

Twenty-six questions with 102 possible answers were used to collect information regarding soil and water conservation and management practices used by farmers in the region. The data were first sorted (using SPSS-statistical analysis software for microcomputers) to establish a profile of the Plan Sierra participants versus nonparticipants. Key sorting variables were farm size, age, income, family size, and farm inputs (Tables 1 and 2).

Next, the data were sorted to isolate those farmers who had contact with Plan Sierra through one of the following three communication channels: on-farm extension agent programs, intensive farmer training at the Los Montones' demonstration farm, or both (Tables 3 and 4). Los Montones is a Kellogg Foundation-sponsored demonstration farm with a number of demonstration plots that allow farmers to see and work with the best management practices for the type of slopes and soil type characteristics of their farms.

The three primary communication channels were used as data filters for a series of questions to determine how and from whom farmers had first heard about conservation practices, if they used conservation, what kinds of practices, on what types of slopes and crops, how long ago they adopted the practices, why they adopted, if and how conservation was a benefit, who they asked for help, if and why they had ever stopped using conservation practices, and why they had first decided to use conservation practices on their farm (Table 4).

Adoption of conservation was measured by farmers' responses when asked if they used conservation practices and if so, which type (i.e., contour cultivation, live barriers, dead barriers, terraces, diversion canals, use of agroforestry, etc.) and the assistant's confirmation that at least one such practice was apparent at the farm at which the survey was taking place. Maintenance was measured by the farmers' responses to how long they had practiced conservation from the time of adoption and if they had ever stopped using SWCP. The remaining questions were used to measure the differences between the three [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED] outreach communication channels regarding adoption and maintenance of SWCP.

Data analysis

Data were analyzed using the Phi statistic (two by two comparisons) and Cramer's V (CV) to measure if significant differences exist between Plan Sierra participants and nonparticipants, as well as among communication channels (Retana 1982). Frequencies were used to help explain the direction of the difference between the characteristics being compared.

Linear regression analysis was used in an attempt to evaluate whether participant and nonparticipant farmers and their farms could be distinguished from one another using a specific set of independent variables (e.g., income, farm size, etc.). The purpose was to see if there was any evidence that Plan Sierra was targeting certain farmers or farming systems for their programs. Identical procedures were used for each of the three communication channels.

The first objective was to determine if there was a significant difference between the 96 farmers who had participated in Plan Sierra (PS) programs and the 65 who had not (NPS) with respect to farmer and farm characteristics. Significant differences were measured for income; however, 61% of PS and 78% of NPS chose not to respond to this question. Significant differences between PS and NPS were also measured for use of pesticides, use of fertilizers, use of credit, and migration of adults to other places in the Dominican Republic (Table 1). Comparison of farming system types found that the increased use of the chemical inputs was attributed to Plan Sierra's programs to increase coffee production.

A linear regression model was developed using participation and nonparticipation as dummy dependent variables and the independent variables from Table 1. The purpose of the analysis was to see if the farmers and farming systems classified as PS could be distinguished from the NPS using independent variables (i.e., farm size, income, total number of animals on the farm, number of animals raised for sale, number of crops raised for sale, and number of family members who migrated from the farm) and to see if there was any evidence of Plan Sierra targeting its programs toward a specific type of participant.

Using forward step-wise regression, the effects of the independent variables were examined for both the PS and NPS models. None of the model variations provided any significant indication (F-statistic, p[greater than or equal to]0.05; R-square of 0.80 or above) that Plan Sierra was targeting a particular group. Statistics from these regressions are, therefore, not presented here.

The second objective was to determine if Plan Sierra has made a significant difference in the adoption and maintenance of SWCP among hillside farmers. Very strong differences were established (CV=0.761, p=0.000). Ninety-five percent of PS versus 25% of the NPS group adopted SWCP (Table 2).

In an attempt to explain these strong differences, comparisons were made between the PS and NPS groups to determine how long they had used SWCP, how farmers had first learned of SWCP, and who they felt gave the most useful information regarding SWCP. Very strong differences were recorded for a farmer's use of SWCP on all of his farm parcels (CV=0.836, p=0.000) and for the number of years that the farmer had used SWCP (CV=0.781, p=0.000). In each instance [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 3 OMITTED] the percentage of PS farmers greatly exceeded the NPS farmers (Table 2).

When asked how they had first heard of SWCP, 56% of PS responses indicated that they heard it from extension farm visits and 57% indicated training at Plan Sierra's Los Montones (Table 2). Some PS farmers indicated that they heard it through both means.

All (100%) of the NPS who practiced SWCP listed family and friends as their source of SWCP information; only 5% of the PS participants indicated family and friends as sources of SWCP information. When asked which was most useful, 40% of the PS indicated on-site extension farm visits and 48%; indicated training at Los Montones. When the NPS were asked for their most useful sources of SWCP information, only 12% said information from family and 3% indicated information from friends (Table 2).

Difference in communication channels

The third objective was to determine if there was a significant difference among the three main types of communication channels used by Plan Sierra to transfer information about SWCP to the farmers (96/161 respondents). Of the 96 farmers who had taken part in Plan Sierra's programs, five did not adopt SWCP. Of those who adopted SWCP, 32 attributed their adoption to on-site visits by extension agents, 33 said they adopted because of training at Los Montones, and the 19 who had both on-site visits and Los Montones training attributed their adoption to both experiences (group referred to as BOTH). The remaining seven respondents who adopted SWCP and participated in PS credited their adoption of SWCP to the influence of family, friends, and government agencies. The five who did not adopt SWCP and the seven who did not credit PS for their adoption were dropped from the rest of this analysis.

Linear regression models were developed using on-site extension, training, and BOTH farmer groups as dummy dependent variables and the same independent variables described before, but only for participant farmers. Again, using forward step-wise regression, the effects of the independent variables were examined for all three groupings. None of the model variations used provided any significant indication (f-statistic, p[greater than or equal to]0.05; R-square of 0.80 or above) that one group of farmers was being targeted by Plan Sierra using a particular communication channel. Statistics from these regressions are, therefore, not presented here.

The next step was to evaluate whether there was a significant difference between type of farmer and farm that reported adopting SWCP based on one of the three communication channels. Measurements were made of the strength of the differences among the groups and comparisons were made to determine if there was any comparative advantage to one channel over another in adoption and maintenance of specific kinds of SWCP (Table 3).

No significant difference was recorded among the three channels regarding the number of years the farmers had used SWCP (Table 3). When asked if they used SWCP on all parcels of their land, 28% of on-site extension, 54% of the training group, and 26% of BOTH responded yes. The difference was moderately significant (CV=0.232, p=0.059) (Table 3).

The fourth objective was to determine if there is a significant difference among the communication channels regarding the type of SWCP adopted, why the farmer adopted SWCP, if the farmer saw any benefit to SWCP, and who the farmer would consult regarding SWCP problems. Comparisons of conservation practices among the three channels found that farmers classified as using both channels were two times (by percentage) more likely to use contour plowing (CV=0.244, p=0.082) and terraces (0.277, 0.040) than the on-site extension or the training groups alone (Table 4). They were also almost two times more likely to use agroforestry practices (CV=0.313, p=0.016).

Farmers who were classified as on-site extension only were less likely to use live vegetative barriers than either of the other two groups (0.328, 0.011) (Table 4). No significant difference was apparent between the three groups in the use of crop rotation, dead barriers, or diversion canals.

When asked if they adopted SWCP because of incentives such as free fertilizer and/or farming tools, only two farmers in the BOTH grouping said yes (Table 4). The on-site extension group was moderately different (CV=0.287, p=0.031) and more likely to use SWCP when recommended by a family member or friend than either of the other two groups. The training (97%) and BOTH (79%) groups were moderately to strongly different (0.427, 0.000) and were more likely to be interested in SWCP to help resolve what they felt were individual problems on their farms than was the on-site extension group (19%) (Table 4).

There was a significant - weak to moderate - difference among the groups when measuring Plan Sierra's role in getting farmers to adopt SWCP (Table 4). Surprisingly, the group that trained at Los Montones was slightly less likely to attribute their adoption to Plan Sierra (training 61% comparted to 84% for on-site extension and 79% for BOTH). None of the active farmers in any group had stopped using SWCP since adoption.

There was no significant difference among the groups in response to the question regarding the overall benefit of SWCP; all believed that it had benefited [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 4 OMITTED] their farms. Almost all of the farmers (97% extension, 94% training, and 100% BOTH) felt that crop yields were increased as a result of using SWCP. The same was true of increasing the longevity of soil use, increasing soil moisture availability for crop use, and the actual control of soil erosion (Table 4).

The on-site extension (31%) and BOTH (32%) groups felt SWCP increased soil fertility more so than the training group. The difference, however, was not significant (Table 4). Farmers who were classified as using both channels (BOTH 58%) felt that SWCP also added significantly to forage for their livestock (0.372, 0.000 difference). Seventy-three percent of these same farmers were using agroforestry systems on their farms. Only one of these same farmers, and no one from the other two groups, felt that SWCP/agroforestry produced lumber as a benefit. This low number was not surprising, given that it is illegal to cut live trees.

Farmers who had adopted SWCP were asked to whom they turned when they had SWCP questions (Table 4). None of the farmers classified as BOTH asked family members for help, and 79% of that group asked a friend, which was a moderate (0.288, 0.007) difference from the other two groups. A moderate difference (0.251, 0.035) existed between extension (89%) and training (79%)/BOTH (74%) groups who overwhelmingly turned to Plan Sierra with their questions (Table 4).

Conclusions

The first objective of this study was to determine if there is a significant difference between Plan Sierra participants and nonparticipants with respect to farmer characteristics and farming systems. A series of statistical comparisons was made between the groups using 17 characteristics. Significant differences were identified for income (low response), the use of pesticides and fertilizers, the use of credit, and the migration of adults from the farm (Table 1).

The increased use of chemical inputs and credit can be attributed to Plan Sierra's programs encouraging farmers to produce coffee to increase farm income. Given that Plan Sierra participant farm families are not statistically significantly different from the nonparticipants, no explanation can be given for the slight increase in migration of adults from the farm.

Based on comparisons of farm size, number and types of crops, land ownership, and assorted family characteristics, we concluded that Plan Sierra is not targeting a specific type of farmer or farming system for their programs. Therefore, the data collected should be representative of all small farms in this region.

The second objective of this study was to determine if Plan Sierra has made a significant difference in the adoption and maintenance of SWCP among the hillside farmers. This analysis found very strong and highly significant statistical differences between Plan Sierra and non-Plan Sierra farmers regarding their adoption and maintenance of SWCP (Table 2). Ninety-five percent of PS versus 25% of NPS farmers were using SWCP. More than 50% of PS farmers attributed their first knowledge of SWCP to Plan Sierras outreach programs. Between 40% and 48% of those farmers reported that Plan Sierra's extension (on-site) programs and training at the Los Montones demonstration farm were the most useful sources of information regarding SWCP (Table 2).

NPS farmers reported getting their information about SWCP primarily from friends and family. Between 3% and 12% of these farmers found this information useful (Table 2).

Of the farmers who adopted SWCP because of Plan Sierra, 44% reported using SWCP between 11 to 14 years. Only one of the 96 farmers reported discontinuing SWCP - and that because of retirement. These data clearly support the idea that Plan Sierra has made a pronounced impact on the adoption and maintenance of SWCP in this region of the sierra.

The third objective was to determine if there was a significant difference among the three main types of communication channels used by Plan Sierra to transfer information about SWCP to the farmers. Of the 96 farmers who had taken part in Plan Sierra programs, five did not adopt SWCP and seven more did not credit Plan Sierra as the reason they had adopted SWCP. Of the remaining 84 farmers, 32 credited on-site farm programs, 33 credited training at Lost Montones, and 19 had participated in both programs and credited both.

There were significant differences among the three groups regarding the size of farm, income (39% PS and 22% NPS responded), land ownership, and migration from the farm to other points in the Dominican Republic (Table 3). Closer evaluation of the qualitative questions from the survey found that income and size of farm could be attributed to coffee-based farming systems. No explanation was found in the data for the slight difference in migration by the on-site group (Table 3).

Based on the other 14 farm and farmer characteristics, it can be concluded that there are no significant major differences among the three groupings of farmers and farming systems in this region. It would appear that Plan Sierra is not targeting a specific type of farmer or farming system for their programs and that these data can be considered representative of other farmers and farming systems who have participated in Plan Sierra programs.

The fourth objective was to determine if there is a significant difference among the communication channels regarding the type of SWCP adopted, why the farmer adopted SWCP, if the farmer saw any benefit to SWCP, and who the farmer would consult regarding SWCP problems. The Cramer's V analysis indicated that farmers who attributed on-site farm programs for their adoption of SWCP were more likely to credit family, friends, and Plan Sierra directly for their adoption of SWCP (Table 4). Review of open response questions answered by these farmers indicated that their family and friends recommended that they work with Plan Sierra.

This group was also more likely to turn to friends and Plan Sierra when they experienced problems or had questions. They were also less likely to try a number of different SWCP on their farm, most often using dead barriers. The reason for this may be that the extension agent was only pushing this type of SWCP, or it may simply be indicative of peer pressure.

Farmers who attributed training at the Los Montones demonstration farm for their adoption of SWCP were more likely to use SWCP on all of their land holdings, use live barriers, participate because they saw a need for SWCP, perceive that SWCPs were a benefit to their farm, and realize that SWCP did in fact control erosion (Table 4). The Los Montones experience appears to have had a greater impact on the number of options that the farmers are willing to try and supports the concept that a demonstration farm plays an important role in the dissemination of agricultural and conservation innovations. It also appears to have created a stronger bond between the farmers and Plan Sierra than did the on-site extension programs.

Farmers who attributed adoption of SWCP to their participation in both programs were more likely to use agroforestry and terraces, credit SWCP for increasing fodder and lumber (same group that adopted agroforestry), and ask government agencies when they had SWCP questions (Table 4). These farmers seemed in all ways to be more motivated and willing to try a number of different farming alternatives and SWCP. It can be concluded that these are the most motivated of farmers and that their motivation probably has more to do with their adoption and maintenance than does the communication channel and innovation used.

REFERENCES CITED

Carrasco, D. 1991. The role of hillside farmers in achieving sustainable watershed management: A Dominican Republic example. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Carrasco, D., and S.G. Witter. 1993. Constraints to sustainable soil and water conservation: A Dominican Republic example. Journal of the Human Environment, AMBIO 22(6).

Carrasco, D. et al. 1993. Estudio de caso el Rio Yaque del Norte: Posibiles causas y consecuencias de su deterioro. Santiago, Dominican Republic: Instituto Superior de Agricultura.

de Janvry, A., and S. Hecht. 1984. Reporte de la evaluacion de los primeros cinco anos del Plan Sierra. Unpublished evaluation, San Jose de Las Matas, Dominican Republic.

Hartshorn, G. et al. 1981. The Dominican Republic: Country Environmental Profile. Report for USAID. McLean, VA: JRB Associates.

Instituto Superior de Agricultura (ISA). 1995. Plan de Accion de Corto Plazo para la Salvaguarda de Rio Yaque del Norte. Santiago, Dominican Republic, Instituto Superior de Agricultura.

Jimenez, A., and L. Gutierrez. 1993. Notes from a presentation and discussion with Jimenez and Gutierrez at Plan Sierra on 10 March, 1993.

Nunez, R.D., et al. 1992. Dominican Republic natural resource policy inventory: Volume II. Technical report presented to USAID/Santo Domingo. Abt Associates, Inc.

Plan Sierra. 1982. Proposal for the overall development plan of the Sierra (mimeograph). San Jose de Las Matas, Dominican Republic.

Retana, G. 1982. Plan Sierra. Programa de Escritura de Casos, Centro de Administracion del Desarrollo Rural, Instituto Superior de Agricultura, Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Robotham, M. 1993. The relationship between Plan Sierra outreach activities and the adoption and continued use of soil and water conservation technologies by upland farmers. Unpublished M.S. thesis, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Santos, B. 1980. El Plan Sierra: una experiencia de desarrollo rural en las montanas de la Republica Dominicana p. 285-294. In: A.R. Novoa and J.L. Posner (eds.) Agricultura de Ladera en America Tropical. Turrialba, Costa Rica: CATIE.

Santos, B., and N. Quezada. c1979. Report on Plan Sierra. Dominican Republic: Instituto Superior de Agricultura. Santiago, Dominican Republic

Tropical Research and Development, Inc. 1992. Intensive survey of rural and urban activities impacting water and coastal resources. Document PDC-5517-I-00-0105-00, USAID, Dominican Republic.

RELATED ARTICLE: Interpretive Summary

The sustainable adoption and maintenance of soil and water conservation practices by hillside farmers has been a major objective of numerous funding agencies throughout the developing world. Foreign donors have provided low interest loans, cash payments, etc., to entice farmers to adopt conservation practices. Unfortunately while most farmers will adopt if paid, most will discontinue conservation practices once the economic incentives are removed. An alternative to this scenario can be found in Plan Sierra's conservation programs. Plan Sierra has accomplished a 96 percent adoption and maintenance rate of its conservation programs.

Key words: conservation, rural poor, NGO, Dominican Republic, adoption, communications channels

Scott G. Witter is assistant professor, Department of Resource Development, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824; Michael P. Robotham is with the Department of Agriculture and Soil Science, University of Hawaii-Manoa, 1910 East-West Road, Honolulu 96822; and Domingo A. Carrasco is director, Department of Natural Resources, Instituto Superior de Agricultura, Santiago, Dominican Republic.
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Author:Witter, S.G.; Robotham, M.P.; Carrasco, D.A.
Publication:Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Date:May 1, 1996
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