- freely available
Sustainability 2009, 1(3), 628-661; https://doi.org/10.3390/su1030628
“Nothing great is suddenly created, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig.If you tell me that you desire a fig,I answer there must be time.Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen”.(Epictetus, 341-271 BC)
1.1. Background to the SHASEA Project
1.2. Socio-Economic Situation of Wang Jia Watershed, Kelang Village
1.3. The Project Site: Wang Jia Watershed
2. Effectiveness of the SHASEA Project in Relation to Its Own Scientific Objectives
|1||Polythene mulching||Existing technology: but mostly used in tobacco and vegetable production. The Project tested and extended this technology in order to reduce soil erosion and increase corn productivity.|
|2||Straw mulching||Technology new to the area: The Project tested and extended this technology to increase soil quality and corn productivity and reduce soil erosion.|
|3||Irrigation||Existing technology: but with very low access, particularly in upland areas. The Project tested and extended this technology to increase crop productivity, extend the cropping season during drought periods and reduce crop failure during droughts.|
|4||Contour cultivation||Existing technology: but not widely practiced, as traditionally farmers have cultivated using downslope cultivation. The Project tested and extended this technology in order to reduce runoff and soil erosion and thereby conserve soil resources, thus preventing productivity decline.|
|5||Inter-cropping||Existing technology: but adapted by farmers to suit their conditions and needs, which were different to the recommended intercropping practice. The Project tested and extended improved intercropping technology to increase overall crop productivity and economic return.|
|6||Use of grass strips||Technology new to the area: The Project tested and extended this technology on a small scale to reduce runoff and soil erosion and increase organic matter inputs.|
|7||Tree planting||Existing technology: The Project extended this activity as an ecologically and economically suitable alternative in sloping areas where the gradient is >25° (47%).|
- Novel and modified cropping practices have been evaluated, including INCOPLAST, which can increase corn yield by ≤50%, compared to traditional methods.
- Land management plans have been developed to achieve more sustainable agricultural systems in Wang Jia.
- Comprehensive surveys and descriptions of the biophysical characteristics of the watershed have been completed, which have provided a baseline for subsequent change and established the representativity of the watershed in relation to surrounding areas.
- Socio-economic analysis determined the economic and social feasibility of the alternative cropping strategies, the wider implications of the land use changes and the likelihood of subsequent adoption and adaptation of the technologies employed. Moderately long (five years plus) perspectives are needed for investment programs to yield dividends.
- Scientific evaluation of selected cropping practices developed in Wang Jia has been carried out in North Thailand and has demonstrated that these practices are generally as effective as the best practices in use in that region .
- Dissemination and training activities for wider adoption of these practices and associated recommendations have been initiated.
- Scientific training associated with the project outcomes has been achieved through a series of undergraduate, Masters and Ph.D. programs.
- Dissemination of scientific outcomes has been achieved through presentations at several national and international conferences, a scientific tour of the watershed, a provincial workshop held at Yunnan Agricultural University (YAU) and publications and reports.
3. Effectiveness of SHASEA Project Technologies as Perceived by Farmers and Stakeholders at Project Completion
3.1. Contour Cultivation
3.4. Tree planting
4. Effectiveness of Training and Dissemination Activities of the Project
- A farmer in Wang Jia planted prickly ash trees at a very high density (five times more than recommended). In addition, he planted sweet chestnut trees in the gap between two rows. The trees were planted at different times, so the trees were at different growth stages. At first, the farmer planted few trees and found it to be more profitable. Then he planted more trees in the same land exceeding the recommended density many fold.
- A farmer from nearby Mosu village planted sweet chestnut trees at very high density (three times higher than recommended). He was unaware of the improved management technology, so a very poor yield is likely, resulting in economic setback.
- The practice of most farmers for disposing of used polythene was potentially environmentally hazardous. Scope for recycling already existed in Kelang village, as some local merchants were buying used polythene. Farmers’ awareness needed to be increased through training and demonstrations, in order to promote the recycling of used polythene.
5. Overall Perceptions of Stakeholders
- The Project changed farmers’ perceptions about natural resource management and utilization. Farmers understood the benefit of conserving natural resources, which reduced over-reliance and over-use of forest resources. Deforestation had decreased and farmers had now started to plant trees for themselves. They were now aware of the benefits of soil and water conservation and trying to avoid using technologies that lead to increased soil and water losses.
- The check-dam in the gully was very effective in controlling soil and water losses and flood frequency and severity in the village.
- Environmental conditions in the watershed had changed substantially due to Project efforts during the previous three years, particularly due to decreased soil-water losses and flood frequency.
- The Project had introduced scientific technologies and training programs to farmers about improved cultivation practices. In the past, farmers used to practice downslope cultivation over large areas in the watershed. Now farmers knew the benefits of contour cultivation and the area under contour cultivation was increasing.
- Crop productivity in the watershed had increased. The Project mobilized farmers to try improved technologies and consequently farmers were allocating more time to farming activities and investing more inputs, particularly manure and fertilizers. Consequently, crop productivity had increased.
- Kedu Township was planning to extend some Project technologies to similar areas. In particular, the following technologies were being considered for inclusion in extension programs:
- Grass strip technology.
- Tree planting on land with >25° slope (this is also one of the strategies of the Chinese Government to address the problem of soil and water erosion in highlands).
- Contour cultivation technology.
- Polythene mulch technology.
- Construction of dams in gullies within similar watersheds.
- It would be better not to plan and implement long-term initiatives if the Project duration was short. Most stakeholders were concerned about possible damage to the rehabilitating environment, particularly the growing trees. Alternatively a clear plan should be developed for protecting such features after Project completion, which might include the provision of financial resources.
- The stakeholders identified the need for wider dissemination of Project technologies. They also pointed out the need for extension materials, such as pamphlets, posters and radio programs, in order to achieve wider adoption.
- Similarly, stakeholders pointed out the lack of training opportunities for farmers outside the watershed.
6.1. Environmental Impact of Project Activities
6.2. Stakeholders’ Perceptions on the Effects on Environmental Conditions within the Watershed
6.3. Impact on Human Resource Development
6.4. Impact on Women
7. Project Strengths
7.1. Working to the Local Government Agenda
7.2. Working with Existing Local Research and Development Networks
8. Project Weaknesses
8.1. Lack of Participatory Approach
- Farmers’ hidden agenda about irrigation: The irrigation system was not originally planned by the researchers. This activity was added later upon demands from local stakeholders. Group discussion revealed that farmers were happy to have the irrigation system in place, but the use of irrigation was very limited during the entire Project. Subsequent discussion with Key Informants revealed that farmers wanted the system for more profitable crops (tobacco or vegetables), which require irrigation. Better communication and understanding between farmers and researchers would have been established if farmers’ participation had been sought earlier in Project processes and activities.
- Chinese tradition and farmers’ response attitude: Farmers were very hesitant to mention project weaknesses and limitations. Despite requests to identify Project weaknesses (which would provide a basis for future improvement), farmers avoided negative responses, particularly when the matter was discussed in groups (possibly in front of outsiders/foreigners). During group discussions, farmers mentioned only those points they thought researchers would like to hear. For example, farmers said ‘the quality of crops has increased because of irrigation’ although the use of irrigation was very limited. Moreover, the degree of adoption of Project technologies estimated during group discussion was generally greater than estimates made during personal interviews in the household survey. Hence, farmers’ responses during the PRA exercise were more positive than in the household survey and individual discussions. At least some weaknesses of Project’s activities were mentioned in the household survey. This could be due to lack of experience of farmers in participatory approaches. Song  reported that a participatory approach was introduced in rural development projects during the early 1990s in China. However, the concept of participatory action was new to farmers and village officials in Kelang village. Farmers were au fait with the ‘top-down’ approach of the Government. Thus, triangulation (use of information from different sources to draw conclusions) became necessary for information collected in group exercises like PRA. Farmers usually gave credit for production increases to better seed quality, whatever the real reason for increased crop production. This was the traditional way of thinking for the farmers, even though they realized other factors were also responsible for increased productivity.
- Discrepancy between response, commitment and action: Discrepancies in farmers’ responses (in terms of their willingness to adopt or their estimation of future adoption) and actual actions were sometimes observed. For example, farmers highlighted the benefit of irrigation, but few used it. Similarly, farmers praised the Project for protecting the watershed and implementing conservation activities that improved environmental conditions. They also said the Project approach and farmers’ approach to soil and water conservation were similar, but they were quarrying two hilltops in the watershed for rock extraction. This increased the risk of soil erosion and landslides on such steep slopes.
8.2. Appropriateness of Subsidy: Subsidy, Orientation and Farmers’ Attitude
8.3. Unrealistic Ambition
- The delivery of benefits of the international development program to target group(s) remained incomplete, which reduced the effectiveness of the program.
- Farmers experienced the outcomes of the first international development assistance to be implemented in the area. If the environmental condition of the watershed returned to its pre-Project condition and if farmers did not realize any benefits from Project technologies, then they might develop negative perceptions of international development programs. If this happened, it might be difficult to gain their participation and co-operation in future development projects.
9. Issues Related to Adoption of Project Technologies
9.1. Size of Land Holding versus Adoption of Improved Technologies
9.2. Land Security versus Farmers’ Stewardship towards Land Resources
9.3. Awareness versus Adoption
9.4. Project Duration versus Adoption of Project Interventions
10. Effectiveness in Relation to Other Development Projects
10.1. Achievement of Project Objectives
10.2. Effectiveness of Technology Developed
10.3. Dissemination and Scaling Up
11. Overall Success and Failure
- The SHASEA Project was successful in achieving its scientific and technical objectives. Some technologies introduced by the Project were effective in improving crop productivity and reducing soil and water losses. But at the end of the three-year project, it was not clear what the potential long-term benefits would be.
- Other short-duration projects have produced similar outcomes. By contrast, longer duration projects are able to commit more time to dissemination and to follow through to the processes of adoption and adaptation and possibly achieve greater long-term success. Alternatively local systems must be put in place to continue the developments introduced by the project after the main funding period is completed.
- This study investigated the initial uptake of Project technologies by farming communities in Wang Jia Watershed, their perceptions about the usefulness of the technologies and their intentions for future adoption. The study revealed that despite the technical and scientific success of the Project, long-term adoption of many introduced practices will be low, unless considerable incentives are used or much more effective dissemination techniques employed.
- Outcomes would have improved considerably if participatory approaches had been used from the outset, to engage farmers more fully with the project, to ensure that the practices introduced were as appropriate as possible, to achieve greater ownership of objectives and outcomes, leading to higher adoption rates.
- More emphasis should have been given to the dissemination of the outcomes at farmer level outside the study watershed and there should have been more involvement with regional policy- makers and extension officials throughout the program.
- Longer-term improvements in sustainability at the watershed level have not yet been demonstrated. Continued use of contour cultivation and extension of the tree planting schemes may lead to significant improvements in sustainability in the future.
13. Good Practices for the Development, Implementation and Dissemination of Similar Projects in the Future
- Work in accordance with the research and development agenda of local stakeholders. This will help to ensure that project efforts will be effective in alleviating local problems and achieving local needs.
- Work with existing local research and development networks. This is helpful in integrating project outcomes with existing local research and development systems and is important to ensure wider dissemination of research and post-project utilization of project outputs.
- Ensure adequate sharing of project goals with all partners and stakeholders, so that all partners and stakeholders are aware of the project mission and their roles, responsibilities and contributions necessary to achieve project objectives; local ownership of the project is very important.
- Avoid ambitious planning of project activities that cannot be completed within the stipulated time and resources. If any activities are expected to remain incomplete by the end of the project or as a result of limited availability of resources, then continuation strategies for the completion of such activities should be in place. The continuation strategy may include identification of activities to be completed, institutions to be responsible and sources and amount of resources.
- Record baseline information before the start of project interventions, in order to study project progress and effectiveness in the areas of intervention.
- Use farmer participatory approaches in all stages of research and development, i.e., planning, implementation, evaluation and dissemination (scaling-up). Farmers were capable of evaluating environmental conditions in a watershed, identifying suitable indicators and using them during evaluation. Effective dissemination can be achieved by involving farmers in the scaling-up process, as ‘other farmers’ were major sources of information for farmers.
- Ideally, consider technology with the following characteristics: appropriate balance between rapid returns and longer-term benefits; inputs associated with locally available technology, in time and at reasonable cost; the technology should not demand extra labor and costs without the extra returns being clearly identified; and new or modified technologies should be capable of being accommodated within the existing system. Where these ideal conditions are not met, it should be recognized that additional incentives may be required to improve adoption.
- Provide adequate training to increase farmers’ awareness about the longer-term benefits of conservation strategies and thereby achieve more effective dissemination and adoption.
- Provide subsidy or compensation to farmers where additional income from the technology is delayed or remains less than current income for some time. It is necessary to fully discuss the objective and duration of such subsidy or compensation programs with farmers.
- Involve policy-makers at an early stage in the project if policy support is likely to be required to achieve project objectives. This is particularly important when attempting to improve sustainability, which may not be associated with tangible short-term benefits.
- Discuss and agree future (post-project) courses of action with local partners. Ensure that the funding agency’s conditions are fully understood and accepted by all partners. Where possible, sources of on-going local support should be identified while the main project is operational.
14. Suggested Areas for Future Study
- Generation of post-project baseline information would help in monitoring progress in the adoption and impact of project technologies for the future.
- Under researcher-managed plots, the integrated INCOPLAST technology proved successful in both increasing crop productivity and improving soil and water conservation. However, very few farmers adopted the whole package of this technology, while most farmers adopted some components of the system. It is necessary to further investigate the factors, both technical and socio-economic, which limited the adoption of this effective integrated cropping system.
- Low availability was one of the major reasons for poor initial uptake of straw mulch technology. Investigation of ways to increase straw production is necessary to achieve better adoption of this technology by farmers.
- This study presents information about the monitoring of impacts and the early adoption of Project technologies by farmers. Wider adoption of technologies at the time of this study was limited and a much longer monitoring period would be required to draw definitive conclusions on long-term adoption and the wider socio-economic impacts of the development program.
- Farmers were reluctant to use the intercropping system recommended by the Project. Lack of suitable varieties, particularly of the companion crop, was an important reason. Further work is required to develop more appropriate systems for this area.
- Effects of ‘white pollution’ (pollution due to polythene) on the cropping environment should be studied and ways for reducing any adverse effects investigated.
- Government subsidy on polythene is probably one of the reasons for its widespread use for mulching; however, this subsidy may not continue indefinitely. Further studies should investigate how farmers will respond if the subsidy on polythene is lifted by the Government.
- Farmers perceived that use of contour cultivation on sloping lands increased lodging and weed problems, although published information was unavailable to verify these perceptions. A further study should investigate the relationships between contour cultivation, weed problems and tendency to lodge.
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