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Does strengthening technical capacity of smallholder farmers enhance adoption of conservation practices? The case of conservation agriculture with trees in Kenya

Abstract

Despite decades of agricultural extension programmes, participatory research projects and efforts to encourage knowledge integration and sharing, few smallholder farmers are adopting natural resource management (NRM) practices. Using an agroforestry (AF)-based conservation practice known as conservation agriculture with trees as a case study, this study aims at contributing to the growing debate that a properly designed training programme enhances adoption of knowledge intensive NRM practices by providing resource poor farmers with the opportunity to learn, test and adapt such practices to suit their resource needs. To control for endogeneity in participation in training and assess the effect of training on adoption, we estimate an instrumental variable probit model using cross sectional data collected in 2013 from 198 farm households in Machakos district in Kenya. One key message emanating from the study, which is critical for development practitioners who are keen on up-scaling AF based conservation practices through training, is that strengthening technical capacity of smallholder farmers is necessary but it is not in itself sufficient to stimulate adoption of conservation practices. Instead, institutional factors like good road infrastructure that help reduce transaction costs associated with the search for information on technologies and markets and resource endowments in form of labour and land provide synergistic effects. Consequently, complementary strategies such as the introduction of cost effective labour saving technologies and the provision of enabling environment through public–private partnerships for farmers to access the technologies and inputs that are critical for implementing the skills acquired during the training are prerequisites for adoption.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Landcare is a sustainable land management approach that promotes land management practices that are community led. It is a partnership between community groups, schools, organizations and governments working together and supporting project activities to address local environmental issues.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) through the Evergreen Agriculture Project for funding this study. We especially wish to express our gratitude to the internal reviewers and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. We thank all who in one way or another contributed to making this study successful. The contents of this paper are the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the views of the funding organization.

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Correspondence to Lydia Wafula.

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Wafula, L., Oduol, J., Oluoch-Kosura, W. et al. Does strengthening technical capacity of smallholder farmers enhance adoption of conservation practices? The case of conservation agriculture with trees in Kenya. Agroforest Syst 90, 1045–1059 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-015-9882-y

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Keywords

  • Training
  • Adoption
  • Agroforestry
  • Conservation practices
  • Instrumental variable probit