Abstract: The use of ecosystem services (ES) in agricultural management is expanding; however, its integration in decision making processes is still challenging. This project was formulated to examine the ES approach and its usefulness with regard to management dilemmas. The Shikma region, north of the Negev Desert, was chosen as a case study. The management issue identified was the effect of various alternatives (minimum-tillage, no-tillage, straw-mulch and stubble-grazing) on the supply of ES. The expert-based ES assessments’ findings reveal that no-tillage has the potential to increase many agroecosystem services and be more profitable for the farmer and the public. However, trade-offs between different ES and among stakeholder groups make it difficult to reach an unequivocal conclusion. As we have found, the process of the study is as important as the results. Throughout the project, an effort was made to engage stakeholders and policy-makers and to define decision-making processes. The study suggests that the ES approach can be useful in expanding the scope of agricultural management beyond provisioning services and create collaborations among farmers, communities, national institutions and environmental organizations to advance conservation agriculture. The study provides guidelines for conducting a productive ES assessment process that will lead to enhanced awareness and implementation.
Land2015, 4(4), 914-937; doi:10.3390/land4040914 - published 25 September 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: While geographers and economists regularly work together on the development of land-use and land-cover change models, research on how differences in their modelling approaches affects the results is rare. Answering calls for more coordination between the two disciplines in order to build models that better represent the real world, we (two economists and a geographer) developed an economically grounded, spatially explicit, agent-based model to explore the effects of environmental policy on rural land use in New Zealand. This inter-disciplinary collaboration raised a number of differences in modelling approach. One key difference, and the focus of this paper, is the way in which processes that shape the behaviour of agents are integrated within the model. Using the model and a nationally representative survey, we compare the land-use effects of two disciplinary-aligned approaches to setting a farmer agent’s likelihood of land-use conversion. While we anticipated that the approaches would significantly affect model outcomes, at a catchment scale they produced similar trends and results. However, further analysis at a sub-catchment scale suggests the approach to setting the likelihood of land-use conversion does matter. While the results outlined here will not fully resolve the disciplinary differences, they do outline the need to account for heterogeneity in the predicted agent behaviours for both disciplines.
Land2015, 4(3), 888-913; doi:10.3390/land4030888 - published 23 September 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In the past few years, there has been a growing amount of research on economic quantifications and valuations of ecosystem services (ES) in agricultural systems. However, little attention has been given to cultural ESs (CES) in general and their link to the landscape in particular. This paper tries to tackle this gap with a case study on the Ifugao Rice Terraces of the Philippines. The study aims to understand the interrelations between the different CESs and their relationships with the landscape. Besides contributing to knowledge about the degradation of the rice terraces, this study was conducted in order to discuss at a theoretical level how CESs and their relationship with the landscape must be addressed in ES management and policy decisions. The methodological approach includes a combination of semi-structured interviews (n = 60) and a perception survey (n = 66). The results reveal that CESs, apart from being interrelated, are also responsible for and affected by the degradation of the rice terraces, which is why they are important factors to consider in ecosystem conservation. This paper finally provides policy recommendations for the empirical case and demonstrates the importance of connecting CES analysis with landscape studies looking at agricultural systems.
Land2015, 4(3), 869-887; doi:10.3390/land4030869 - published 18 September 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Lost in the debates about the appropriate scale of production to promote agricultural growth in Africa is the rapid expansion of medium-scale farmers. Using Zambia as a case study, this article explores the causes and consequences of this middle-tier transformation on the future of small-scale agriculture. Combining political economic analysis with household survey data, this article examines the relationships between the growth in medium-scale farmers and changing conditions of land access, inequality, and alienation for small-scale farmers. Growth of medium-scale farmers is associated with high land inequality and rapid land alienation in high potential agricultural areas. This growth is shown to be partially driven by wage earner investment in land acquisition and is leading to substantial under-utilization of agricultural land. These processes are both limiting agricultural growth potential and foreclosing future options for an inclusive agricultural development strategy.
Land2015, 4(3), 842-868; doi:10.3390/land4030842 - published 17 September 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Synergies among land institutions and institutional changes impact on land markets and in guaranteeing agro-based employment, capital injection, local economic development and infrastructural improvement. Increasingly, these institutions have come under pressure and there are concerns about their functional capacities and implications on land markets. This paper discusses institutional synergies and its impacts on customary land markets under large-scale land acquisitions for agro-investments in Ghana. From the study, it was identified that the government of Ghana has maintained a non-interfering stance in customary land markets so as to protect the sanctity and independence of customary land institutions. Also, land transactions were found characterised by lack of transparency, information sharing, participation and accountability. For an efficient and effective management of LSLAs in Ghana, there is the need for a functioning institutional collaboration and one-stop-shop approach to streamline the apparent complex processes of acquiring agricultural land. The roles of customary custodians such as chiefs and Tendaamba should be critically reviewed and re-aligned according to local customs to make the institutions more accountable, consultative and transparent, while curtailing their enormous powers in land administration.
Land2015, 4(3), 807-841; doi:10.3390/land4030807 - published 16 September 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Rural livelihoods and the land systems on which they depend are increasingly influenced by distant markets through economic globalization. Place-based analyses of land and livelihood system sustainability must then consider both proximate and distant influences on local decision-making. Thus, advancing land change theory in the context of economic globalization calls for a systematic understanding of the general processes as well as local contingencies shaping local responses to global signals. Synthesis of insights from place-based case studies is a path forward for developing such systematic knowledge. This paper introduces a generalized agent-based modeling framework for model-based synthesis to investigate the relative importance of structural versus agent-level factors in driving land-use and livelihood responses to changing global market signals. Six case-study sites that differed in environmental conditions, market access and influence, and livelihood settings were analyzed. Stronger market signals generally led to intensification and/or expansion of agriculture or increased non-farm labor, while changes in agents’ risk attitudes prompted heterogeneous local responses to global market signals. These results demonstrate model-based synthesis as a promising approach to overcome many of the challenges of current synthesis methods in land change science and identify generalized as well as locally contingent responses to global market signals.