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Farmers’ preference for cropping systems and the development of sustainable intensification: a choice experiment approach

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Abstract

Sustainable intensification (SI) of farming systems aims to increase food production from existing farmland in ways that have a lower environmental impact and maintain the food production capacity over time. SI embraces a set of diverse agricultural technologies that share a common feature: their adoption is dependent on the interactions between farmers’ decision-making processes, locally specific agro-ecological conditions, and the traits of the technology itself. There are concerns about the sustainability of the maize mono-cropping systems that are in use in Laosc today. Therefore, we used discrete choice experiments (DCE) to explore the potential adoption or alternative agricultural systems. We analyse the heterogeneity of farmers’ preferences and willingness to pay for different cropping system attributes using a mixed logit model, and we discuss the possible drivers and barriers to the adoption of these more sustainable options. The results suggest the existence of four types of farmers: “fertility-minded”, “factor-constrained”, “maximisers”, and “risk-averse”. Each type of farmers was likely to react differently to the proposed sustainable intensification techniques. Overall, the DCE appeared to be an efficient tool to elicit the diversity of farmer preferences in an agricultural region and for fine-tuning strategies for successful research and development of sustainable intensification.

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Notes

  1. The exact sentence used by the moderator was “I know a perfect upland crop, what question would you like to ask me, in order to know if you would decide to grow it or not?”

  2. The full survey with farmers included a Best-Worst Scaling experiment to obtain the ranking of farm-level management priorities that we do not report in this paper, and the choice experiment for the choice of cropping systems analysed in this paper. It was felt that another set of experiments would have generated respondent fatigue, while not providing sufficient additional information at this stage of the research project.

  3. As we were looking for homogenous groups of preferences, we could use an alternative method based on a latent class logit (LCM) model. However, as shown in Annex C, we did not find any compelling advantages in using the LCM. As the LCM does not take into account the additional variance potentially associated with the new alternatives (the EC), we opted for this two-step approach.

  4. MRS calculations using the coefficients of the mixed logit model are also included in Table 1 of Annex D. Results showed that the MRS were of the same magnitude but higher when using the coefficients of the mixed logit model. For our discussion, we opted for the more conservative figures obtained with the CL model.

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Funding

This work was supported by the Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation—EuropeAid (EuropeAid/132-657/L/ACT/LA) and the Agence Française de Développement (Conservation Agriculture within the Northern Upland Development Program, NUDP).

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Correspondence to Damien Jourdain.

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Jourdain, D., Lairez, J., Striffler, B. et al. Farmers’ preference for cropping systems and the development of sustainable intensification: a choice experiment approach. Rev Agric Food Environ Stud 101, 417–437 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41130-020-00100-4

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