Front Cover
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Group Title: Gatekeeper series
Title: Indigenous soil and water conservation in India's semi-arid tropics
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00089568/00001
 Material Information
Title: Indigenous soil and water conservation in India's semi-arid tropics
Physical Description: 30 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Kerr, J. M.
Sanghi, N. K
International Institute for Environment and Development -- Sustainable Agriculture Programme
Publisher: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Sustainable Agriculture Programme
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: 1992
Copyright Date: 1992
Subject: Soil conservation -- India   ( lcsh )
Water conservation -- India   ( lcsh )
Soil erosion -- India   ( lcsh )
Soil science   ( sigle )
Hydrology and limnology   ( sigle )
Agricultural economics   ( sigle )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 27-28).
General Note: IIED Gatekeeper series, number 34
Statement of Responsibility: John Kerr, N.K. Sanghi.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00089568
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 27188867

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Full Text
Published by the Sustainable Agriculture Programme of the
International Institute for Environment and Development

Indigenous Soil and
Water Conservation
in India's Semi-Arid

John Kerr
N.K. Sanghi


The Gatekeeper Series of the Sustainable Agriculture Programme is produced by the Interna-
tional Institutefor Environment and Development to highlight key topics in the field of sustainable
agriculture. The Series is aimed at policy makers, researchers, planners and extension workers
in government and non-government organizations worldwide. Each paper reviews a selected
issue of contemporary importance and draws preliminary conclusions of relevance to develop-
ment activities. References are provided to important sources and background material. The
Swedish International Development Authority and the Ford Foundation fund the series.

John M. Kerr is an economist with Winrock International InstituteforAgricultural Development,
based at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT),
Patancheru, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh India; and N.K. Sanghi is the Zonal Coordinator
(Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra)for the Lab-to-Land Program, Division of Extension, Indian
Councilfor Agricultural Research, based at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agricul-
ture (CRIDA), Hyderabad, India.






Soil erosion is a problem that imposes both on- and off-farm costs. As soil erodes, valuable
moisture and nutrients are lost, and the topsoil becomes increasingly shallow. The decline in
yields that results is a private cost borne by farmers. Off the farm, downstream rivers and lakes
become silted, shortening the productive lives of dams and other man-made structures. Soil
particles can also transport pesticide residues, poisoning water supplies downstream. These are
costs to society, but not necessarily to farmers.

While there is little disagreement among experts that soil erosion incurs costs, the magnitude of
those costs is widely debated. These different perceptions about the costs of soil erosion are
reflected in the value placed on soil conservation measures. Some groups argue in favor of major
efforts to conserve soil without questioning their cost-effectiveness, while others assert that if soil
conservation were profitable, private farmers would take care of it themselves. In any event,
information is scarce about both the actual costs of soil erosion and the implications for future
welfare of allowing soil to degrade at given rates (Seckler, 1987).

The Indian government has invested heavily in measures to control soil erosion. Vast sums of
money have been allocated to soil conservation in each five year plan. Between 1969 and 1990,
the budget for soil conservation was 16 billion rupees (between 1 and 1.5 billion dollars) (GOI,

Two assumptions, one explicit and the other implicit, underlie the government's policy. First, soil
and water conservation (SWC) in a watershed context is believed to increase agricultural
productivity in dryland areas. Second, achieving such an increase is considered worthwhile even
though its economic profitability is subject to debate.

The results to date of government SWC programs have been disappointing (Planning Commis-
sion, nd; Vaidyanathan, 1991). Farmers have neither willingly adopted recommended SWC
measures nor maintained those installed by the government. Some SWC officials have drawn the
conclusion that farmers do not know or care about soil erosion.2

Evidence from the semi-arid tropics (SAT) of South India, however, refutes this assessment.
Farmers there have developed effective soil and water conservation practices. These indigenous
technologies have evolved in different places in response to local agroecological and economic
conditions. Three principal factors determine the shape and scope of these efforts.

First, the designs of indigenous SWC technologies reflect the relative availability and opportunity
cost of different resources, including materials, human labour, animal power and cash. Indige-
nous designs also vary with site-specific agroclimatic factors.


Second, they developed within the constraints of small, fragmented farms, and in accordance with
farmers' preferences to invest in soil conservation individually or in cooperation with an adjacent
farmer rather than in large, cooperative groups.

Third, economic factors determine adoption patterns. Soil conservation investments are simply
one activity among a range of farmers' economic concerns. Farmers assimilate available
information to decide how their time and money can be spent most productively. Their
opportunities and constraints are not identical, so the same activity is not equally profitable for
all farmers. For example, farmers' alternative investment possibilities, their tenure status, the
number of plots they own, and the resources at their disposal are some of the factors that determine
whether soil conservation investments will be attractive to them. As a result, farmers owning
similar land with the same erosion problems may invest in soil conservation at different rates. For
some farmers, SWC investments may not be profitable at all. Farmers are like other economic
agents they must choose among alternative investment possibilities, some of which may be more
profitable than soil conservation.

Evidence suggests that farmers perceive that soil erosion causes on-site losses, yet most do not
invest in measures to control it. This raises questions about the appropriate level and form of
government intervention to promote soil conservation. Economic theory suggests that govern-
ment should only intervene if at least one of two conditions hold: first, if farmers are constrained
from acting in a privately optimal way, or second, if private and social profitability diverge.3

There are good reasons why these conditions may hold. First, farmers may lack complete
information regarding on-site costs of soil erosion, or they may be reluctant to make investments
with positive but variable, long term returns. Second, if farmers cannot capture all the benefits
from investment in soil conservation, then they lack the incentive to invest at a socially optimal
level. This is the case if the costs of erosion are mainly off-site (i.e. downstream), or if land tenure
is insecure. These various conditions constrain farmers' investments in different ways, each
requiring separate measures, ranging from education to credit to subsidies.

The Indian government has demonstrated its commitment to investment in SWC programs. We
do not specifically address the appropriate level of government intervention. Instead, we focus
on ways to make SWC programs more cost-effective. We believe that understanding indigenous
SWC practices and adoption patterns is crucial in this effort. Specifically, we document
indigenous soil conservation practices and the logic behind them, and then identify conditions
under which farmers invest in soil conservation and constraints inhibiting such investment.
Finally, we suggest ways to overcome those constraints and create the conditions under which
private investment will increase.

Specifically, we propose a set of hypotheses about economic factors that determine both the
design of SWC technologies and whether people invest in them. We examine the preliminary
evidence for each in more detail. We conclude with recommendations for SWC programme
officials, policy makers, and researchers.


Research Methods

In the field work for this research we combined rapid rural appraisal methods with more formal
individual farmer interviews. Where possible, we worked in teams of three people: an agricultural
scientist, a social scientist and a person skilled in communicating with farmers. We worked in
a total of 12 villages in four states of India's SAT; the villages varied by agroclimatic conditions
such as rainfall, soil type and slope.4

We began by transecting the fields, covering different aspects of the landscape. We spoke
casually with farmers whenever possible to learn about their perceptions of erosion and efforts to
control it. We then conducted open-ended group interviews to help formulate hypotheses about
the determinants of investment. Finally, we carried out detailed individual interviews to gather
data to test those hypotheses. During the course of this process we continually repeated steps to
cross-check our findings. The approach is summarized in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Field Research Methods

In all of the surveyed villages we observed three categories of fields in regard to SWC measures.
First, those where indigenous practices were implemented and maintained on a regular basis,
resulting in satisfactory conservation of soil and water resources. Second, those which were badly
neglected, resulting in severe erosion of soil. Third, those somewhere between the first two
categories. It is important to note that we easily could spot the neglected, eroded fields from a
distance, even while driving on the road. Fields protected by indigenous technologies, on the
other hand, could not be appreciated until we visited them individually.


Why Farmers in the Indian Semi-Arid Tropics Reject
Recommended Soil and Water Conservation Practices

Both-soil conservation professionals and farmers are aware of erosion and the need to control it,
but their perceptions of the problems and approaches to solving them often diverge. For future
research and development to be effective, these differences must be understood and reconciled.
In this section we first compare the perceptions that have guided indigenous and recommended
bunding systems, then describe the technologies, and finally explain why farmers will not accept
recommended contour bunding methods.

Farmers Have Multiple Objectives

Indigenous and recommended SWC bunding designs have evolved on the basis of different
objectives. Soil conservation programmes in India traditionally have had a single objective: to
design and introduce technologies that conserve the maximum amount of soil and water. Even
in integrated watershed programmes, there is little coordination among line departments
concerned with different tasks, and soil conservation is undertaken in isolation (Vaidyanathan,
1991). Farmers, on the other hand, have multiple objectives, of which soil conservation is only

For example, bunds demarcate property lines and protect against encroachment by a neighbor.
They are often lined with thorny barriers to keep trespassers out. Or they may be lined with
vegetation to produce valuable commodities such as fuel, fodder or fruit. They may create new
fields or protected environments, reducing the high risk that characterizes rainfed agriculture in
the SAT. To make field operations convenient, they are usually built in straight lines. The
resulting demarcations also facilitate partitioning land for inheritance. Farmers are most likely
to accept improved SWC techniques that are consistent with as many of these objectives as
possible. As a result, the best soil conservation practice from a farmer's perspective is not
necessarily that which conserves the most soil.

This discrepancy in objectives leads to two important differences in SWC technologies. First,
recommended SWC structures are positioned on the contour while indigenous technologies are
boundary-based. Second, recommended SWC practices emphasize long term productivity
benefits from maximum protection of the soil, while farmers' practices emphasize short term
productivity as well as conservation. Farmers try to achieve this by concentrating soil rather than
simply conserving it, as we will explain.

Dryland Farmers Reject Contour Bunds

Soil scientists and SWC engineers recommend that bunds be located on the contour so that the
pressure of runoff water is spread evenly. The bunds reduce runoff, increase infiltration, and
divert excess runoff to a central waterway. SWC programmes have introduced continuous
contour bunding covering an entire watershed.5 Figure 2 displays the basic design of contour and
graded bunding systems.


Figure 2. Contour/Graded Bund System


The contour/graded bund system has long been the standard recommended practice in Indian
SWC programs. This picture demonstrates the problem that arises because contour lines (the
heavy black curved line) rarely match boundary lines (the light lines in the grid). The contour
bunds and central waterways tend to cut covers on small fields.

Indigenous SWC structures on small farms of the study regions lie almost uniformly on field
boundaries, which rarely correspond exactly to contours. Indigenous practices vary more widely
than recommended practices, reflecting the diverse conditions under which they have evolved.
Boundary bunds are made either from earth or stone or a combination of both, depending on
relative abundance of these materials. Bunds increase in height and width as slope, rainfall
intensity and erodibility of the soil increase. Often vegetation is preserved or planted on the bunds
to strengthen them and provide fodder and other products.

Methods to dispose of excess runoff are also based on boundary lines. In areas with red soil and
low rainfall, some farmers build small earthen bunds to keep all the moisture on the field. Where
the land is stony, they build stone bunds that retain soil but allow water to filter through. In
medium rainfall zones, especially in black soil areas where waterlogging can be a problem,
farmers build stone waste weirs (drains) to dispose of runoff into the field below theirs. In the
highest rainfall zones, the waste weirs deposit water into boundary waterways, protecting the
lower fields. Sometimes grass strips are planted on the lower end of the field to arrest soil while
allowing to water to drain. These three systems are displayed in Figure 3.


Figure 3. Boundary Bund and Drainage System


:i; ' ''.: ~ ::

":::- -..
-' :': ' : : :.~ :I.tir .. .i
i: .i- _rj: I 1: r
;::: ;il : iai; j-?
~ ii-
I: i'

'i i&*dkdd.Vlwn

The top panel shows boundary bunds in hilly, stony, red soil areas. Stones are cleared from the field to
build bunds. Excess runoff drains through the stone bunds. The middle panel displays earthen
boundary bunds with field-to-field runoff disposal through stone waste weirs. These are found in
medium to high rainfall red soil areas and low to medium black soil areas. In the bottom panel, high
rainfall conditions require that excess water be drained through boundary waterways, which eventually
lead to natural streams.


.::'::li. ""'''~ ~ ''"'~'' "'
"' "
'' ''~~"
1: :
:r, "
.. .~... . :
... : I'~.. -
:::;r : ':
- :
''.''' .. ....1M..... ...'.-
':~L'1'' '

Contour farming, however, is not unknown to Indian farmers; they adopt it in hilly areas to make
indigenous terraces and in lowland areas for paddy fields under tank irrigation. It is quite common
to find the same farmer using contour bunds on his tank-irrigated paddy land but boundary-based
erosion control measures on his rainfed land. Farmers recognize the efficiency of contour-based
systems for conserving soil and water, but they feel that on rainfed land the benefits are not great
enough to justify foregoing the other advantages of indigenous, boundary-based systems.

Farmers note several reasons for favouring boundary bunds. First, boundary bunds serve the dual
purposes of conserving soil and demarcating property. Contour bunds cut across farm boundaries,
leaving covers in some fields and creating the risk of losing a piece of land to the neighboring

Second, because they tend to run in straight lines, boundary bunds make plowing more convenient
than with winding contour bunds, particularly where multi-row implements are used. Contour
farming also reduces the efficiency of operations (where traditional desi plows are used) because
it requires repeated cultivation in the same direction. With desi plows (unlike tractors), farmers
must alternate directions to turn the soil effectively.

Third, boundary-based systems enable individual farmers to invest without having to cooperate
in large groups. Limited group action among adjacent farmers is sufficient. In contrast,
conventional systems require cooperation among all the farmers in the watershed. This is because
they distribute benefits and costs unevenly, depending on the location of bunds and drains, as
shown in Figure 2. The central waterway is constructed at the end of the graded bund, encroaching
on the adjacent fields. In boundary-based runoff disposal, waterways are decentralized and
associated costs land and maintenance time are shared more widely. This reduces conflict,
increasing the likelihood of adoption. Tables 1-6 provide a more detailed comparison of
indigenous and recommended practices in different agroclimatic zones.

Table 1. Recommended and Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation Practices. Black Soil,
Low Rainfall Areas, Sholapur District, Maharashtra, Bellary District, Karnataka

Item Practices
Recommended Indigenous

Soil conservation Continuous contour bunds Field bunds with waste weirs

Moisture conservation Contour farming Land levelling
Deep plowing
Kharif fallowing
2-3 intercultures
Soil mulching for closing cracks
in post-rainy season

Runoff disposal Field to field through earthen Field to field through stone
hooks on contour bunds waste-weirs

Gully control Stones checks at regular Stone checks on boundary to
intervals to stabilize gullies harvest soil and reclaim gullies

Water harvesting Percolation tanks Needs further investigation


Table 2. Recommended and Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation Practices.
Black Soil, High Rainfall Areas. Medak District, Andhra Pradesh; Akola District,

Item Practices
Recommended Indigenous

Soil conservation Continuous graded bunds Field bunds with conservation
drains or field drains with waste

Broad bed and furrow Grass strips on boundaries in
fields with mild slope

Moisture conservation Contour farming Normal tillage and interculture

Runoff disposal Central waterways Boundary waterways
Broad bed and furrow

Water harvesting Farm ponds in gullies or private Community tanks on private
fields for supplement irrigation holdings; post-rainy crop raised
with residual moisture in tank bed

Gully control Stone checks at regular Stone checks on boundary to
intervals to stabilize gullies harvest soil and reclaim gullies

Table 3. Recommended and Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation Practices. Red
Soil, Low to Medium Rainfall Areas. Mahbubnagar, Anantapur, Ranga Reddy and
Nalgonda Districts, Andhra Pradesh

Soil conservation Continuous contour Low cost stone checks across rills (in the
bunds middle of the fields)
Field bunds with waste weirs in upper
Field drains with waste weirs in lower

Runoff disposal Field to field through Field to field through stone waste weirs in
earthen hooks upper watershed
Boundary waterways in lower watershed

Moisture Contour farming Short-term fallowing (Anantapur)
conservation Frequent shallow interculture
Furrowing as a part of sowing and
interculture (Mahbubnagar)
Cross plowing in the standing crop

Gully control Stone checks to stabilize More investigation needed

Water harvesting Farm pond for Percolation tanks in individual holdings, or
supplemental irrigation community tanks for percolation/irrigation






Table 4. Recommended and Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation Practices. Red
Soil, Medium to High Rainfall Areas. Mysore and Bangalore Districts, Karnataka

Item Practices
Recommended Indigenous

Soil conservation Graded bunds Field bunds with waste weirs
Field drains with waste weirs
Vetiver grass on field bund/
drains with waste weirs

Moisture Contour farming Short term fallowing
conservation Criss-cross plowing
Seeding across the major slope
Tied ridging as a part of the
interculture (Bangalore)
Frequent interculture
Runoff disposal Central waterways Field to field through waste weirs
Boundary waterways

Gully control Stone checks to stabilize gullies More investigation needed

Water harvesting Farm ponds for supplemental Divert runoff from gullies for
irrigation perennial crops (by gravity flow)

Table 5. Recommended and Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation Practices. Hilly,
Low Rainfall Areas. Kurnool and Anantapur Districts, Andhra Pradesh

Item Practices
Recommended Indigenous

Soil conservation Continuous contour bunds Stone bunds on the boundary
(across the major slope)

Moisture conservation Contour farming Frequent shallow tillage and

Stone mulching

Disposal of runoff Field to field through earthen Field to field through stone
hook on contour bunds bunds

Gully control Stone checks to stabilize Stone checks on boundary to
gullies harvest soil and reclaim gullies

Water harvesting Farm pond More investigation needed


Table 6. Recommended and Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation Practices.
Hilly, High Rainfall Areas. Bangalore District, Karnataka; Baruch District, Gujarat

Item Practices
Recommended Indigenous

Soil conservation Continuous graded bunds Stone bunds on the boundary
(across the major slope)

Moisture conservation Contour farming Frequent shallow tillage and

Runoff disposal Central waterways Boundary waterways

Gully control Stone checks to stabilize Stone checks on boundary to
gullies harvest soil and reclaim gullies

Water harvesting Farm pond More investigation needed

Farmers will not accept contour bunds alongside boundary bunds because they take up too much
space on the small farms. They also refuse to accept contour bunds without boundary bunds,
because the soil below the contour bunds will move downhill to the neighbour's field.

Conventional graded and contour bunding systems appear to be suitable only where land holdings
are large or tractors are used. If plots are large, preferably covering an entire microwatershed, the
central waterways do not cause a clash of interest among farmers. But large plots are rare in India.
It is not surprising that the conventional bunding system, which was developed for large farms in
the United States and tested successfully on institutional farms in India, continues to be rejected
by small farmers.

Contour bunds will not gain widespread acceptance on small farms, and to recommend that
farmers build them is a wasted effort. Rather, SWC programmes must adapt, possibly by
promoting boundary bunds, which are far more readily accepted than contour bunds. To take the
opposite approach promoting contour bunds would require a very ambitious programme to
change boundary lines to match contours. This would be very complicated, requiring institutional
and legal changes as well as much cooperation among farmers. Moreover, in the Indian SAT, soil
quality often varies significantly over very small areas, inhibiting plot exchange (Walker and
Ryon, 1990). Research on boundary bunds is needed to compare their efficiency with that of
contour bunds on small plots.

It is important to note that the Indian SAT and West African SAT, where much similar research
has been done, differ in acceptance of contour bunds. Research from West Africa suggests that
contour bunds are much more readily accepted than in India (Reij, 1991; Critchley, 1990). More
work is needed to understand location-specific conditions that affect SWC technology adoption.

Farmers Invest in Conservation as a Byproduct of Productivity

Indigenous SWC designs suggest that conservation measures are most likely to be adopted if they


increase productivity. Conserva-
tion investments are measured like
other investments: they are under-
taken only if they are profitable.

Soil conservation measures that
produce the most rapid return on
investment are the most favoured.
These include bunds that require
relatively small initial investment,
provide fodder or fuel, and con-
serve moisture on-site (as opposed
to downstream through ground-
water percolation or runoff to a
farm pond). Such opportunities to
combine conservation with quick
increases in productivity are lim-
ited, but they should be exploited
to the extent possible.

Farmers increase the productivity
of SWC by concentrating soil at
appropriate locations, rather than
merely conserving it (Chambers,
1991; Kerr and Sanghi, 1991). This
distinguishes their practices from
recommended ones, which stress
in situ conservation of soil.

There are many examples of farm-
ers' efforts to concentrate soil. In
hilly areas some farmers induce
erosion in the upper end of their
holding in order to concentrate the
soil in the lower part.6

Similarly, in the lowlands, terraces
slowly form behind indigenous field
bunds and waste weirs as soil is
gradually deposited at the lower
end or corer of the protected field.
Farmers must raise their bunds
regularly as the deposited silt ac-
cumulates to the top of the struc-

=~:~- -C---- -
--- rr-

Figure 4. Silt Harvesting Structure

Panel A depicts an untreated gully. In Panel B, the farmer has placed a
stone check across the boundary and created the small field by trapping
silt. In panel C, the farmer has enlarged the wall to keep pace with the
accumulating silt. Moisture from the gully enables double cropping in
medium to high rainfall areas. Such silt deposition fields are commonly
found in series, with gully plugs on each farm boundary.

ture. Farmers control rills and small gullies in their fields with small stone or boulder checks
across the flow. Silt fills behind the stones until the area is level.


Gully control is another case in which farmers concentrate soil to increase productivity. Loose
boulder checks with occasional vegetative barriers on the boundary lines help "harvest" the soil.
Over the years, the height of these barriers is increased so that eroded lands can be reclaimed and
new patches of cultivable land created within the gullies. Silt harvesting structures are displayed
in Figure 4. In hilly areas, such deposition fields are the most productive land because the gully
supplies continuous moisture. Such favorable micro-environments are also important for
reducing risk in rainfed agriculture (Chambers, 1991).

Another way to increase the productivity of SWC investments is to line field bunds with fodder
grass or other useful plants, both to strengthen them and provide additional income. Custard apple
trees often grow through stone bunds, for example. Past programmes did not emphasize this

Some new programmes promote vegetative bunds rather than earthen bunds.7 Perennial grass
bunds can satisfy the requirements of multiple objectives (if they provide fodder or fuel, for
example) and, depending on growth conditions, require only a small initial investment. More ex-
perimentation is needed on multipurpose vegetative bunds. To date, programmes have promoted
grass bunds placed on the contour, but they have not tried them on boundaries.8

In summary, field observations indicate that researchers and extension workers can learn from
indigenous SWC technologies. These technologies meet farmers' multiple objectives more
effectively than do recommended practices based on contour bunds, leading to greater acceptance
and higher adoption on small, fragmented farms. To achieve maximum impact, SWC pro-
grammes should be flexible to blend indigenous and recommended practices. Several innovative
programmes in India are experimenting with such flexible approaches. Their early experience has
shown that farmer input into technology design increases adoption. NGOs have pioneered these
efforts, and some government schemes have followed suit.9 National watershed development
authorities have proposed a more flexible strategy to promote SWC; concrete plans are still being

Economic Determinants of Investment in Indigenous Soil and
Water Conservation Practices

The discussion of indigenous SWC technologies clearly indicates that farmers are aware of soil
erosion and have developed effective means to control it. However, the fact remains that most
farmers do not undertake sufficient measures to control erosion effectively. In this section of the
paper we attempt to explain why this so. We propose seven hypotheses regarding the determinants
of investment in SWC, all of which are based on field observations."

1. Farmers clearly perceive soil erosion and believe that it reduces yields. They are more
concerned about the loss of water and nutrients associated with soil erosion than reduced
depth of the soil itself.

2. Farmers' investments fall as the opportunity cost of their time and other resources rise: other
activities may have a higher return than conservation investments. This is commonly the


case for farmers with substantial off-farm income.

3. Farmers invest more if they have more resources at their disposal, other things being equal:
those with bullocks and healthy family labour are more likely to invest than those without.

4. The tenure arrangements under which farmers operate affect investment levels: those who
cultivate their own land are much more likely to invest in soil conservation than those
renting or sharecropping someone else's land. Likewise, landlords leasing out their land do
not appear to invest much in soil conservation.

5. Land quality also determines investment levels. Most farmers have more than one plot, and
they invest in their most productive plot first. Those who have irrigated land invest less on
their dryland plots than those without irrigated land.

6. Where it is technically feasible, farmers invest in soil conservation in a stepwise manner,
strengthening structures annually as needed. This reduces the initial investment and
postpones costs to the future.

7. Farmers prefer to invest in soil conservation individually or in cooperation with an adjacent
farmer rather than in large, cooperative groups.

Hypothesis 1: Awareness of Soil Erosion and its Consequences

Farmers will only invest in soil conservation if they are aware of erosion and its potential yield-
reducing effects. Our research indicates that they are very clearly aware. Virtually all farmers
surveyed explained in detail the erosion threat to their land and its effects on production, the
measures required for prevention, and their costs.

Farmers list three main harmful effects of erosion: loss of soil, loss of water, and loss of nutrients
(farm yard manure and fertilizer) from their fields. Where soil is shallow, they stress that losing
large amounts of soil is unacceptable. However, when soil is deep and erosion is mild, they are
more concerned about losing nutrients and water than losing soil. Not surprisingly, SWC
investment appears to be positively correlated to application of farm yard manure.

Farmers also distinguish between damage to soil that they perceive as irreversible and that which
they believe can be corrected. Nutrient loss is seen as perhaps the major cost of soil erosion, and
it is clearly reversible. Generous application of fertilizer and organic matter can rebuild eroded
soil within five years, according to most farmers surveyed. Likewise, gully erosion is seen as
reversible. This is because it only affects a small portion of the field. Once the gully is plugged,
it is gradually filled by soil from upper fields and within the same field. On the other hand, sheet
erosion is seen to cause irreversible damage, especially where soil is very shallow. (In deep soil
areas farmers appear not to perceive sheet erosion.)

Farmers are not necessarily correct in thinking that damage due to gully erosion can be fully
reversed, unless they gain soil from erosion upstream. It is likely that we do not fully understand


their perceptions in this regard; we found that their answers on this issue varied greatly with the
way the question was asked. We need to investigate this question further.

Hypothesis 2: Opportunity Cost of Time

Farmers with substantial off-farm employment and income tend to invest less in soil conservation
than those without. In part, this appears to be so because the opportunity cost of their time is
greater.12 They find that they can spend their time more profitably pursuing activities other than
soil conservation.

The cost of soil conservation depends in part on the value of the time of the person who does the
work. In the simplest case, the cost of soil conservation using hired labour depends on the wage
that is paid.

We have observed that farmers usually do SWC work themselves rather than hire workers. This
implies that they calculate the benefits of soil conservation and compare it to the value of their
time. Because this value differs among people, investment behavior will vary. The amount of
family labour invested in soil conservation determines not only who invests, but also when
investments are likely to take place because each farmer's opportunity cost of time is not constant.
Rather, it is high when there are other pressing things to do, but low when there are not.13

Farmers will hire labour for soil conservation if two conditions hold. First, the returns must be
higher than the wage. Second, they must have cash (or grain) available to pay the wage. If either
of these conditions does not hold, soil conservation work will only be done using family labour,
if it is done at all.

Seasonal Variations: The opportunity cost of time changes seasonally for farmers it is high
during planting and harvesting, for example, and low during the slack season. This is reflected
by changes in daily wage rates over the course of the year. Accordingly, to the extent possible
soil and water conservation programmes should operate when wages are lowest.

Fluctuations Within the Day: Other fluctuations in the opportunity cost of time are not reflected
in the daily labour market. In particular, over the course of a single day people may be more or
less busy. Many people spread their land care work over a long period of time, working only at
odd hours when there is little else to do.

This has important implications for the design of SWC programmes. Cost effective use of time
dictates that the landowner does his soil conservation work when the value of his time is low. A
good example of this principle is offered by a farmer in Aurepalle (Mahbubnagar District, Andhra
Pradesh), one of the study villages, whose field was eroding. He was able to explain the problem
and the necessary corrective measures, but said he did not have time to devote the five days needed
for the work just yet. He was asked if he would do the work if he were paid Rs. 7 per day (the daily
wage in Aurepalle is Rs. 20). He thought about it and said that he would not do so if he had to
work full time for five days, but would work for the equivalent of Rs. 7 per day if he could spread
the job out over two months, working during his free time.


Examples of Variations in the Opportunity Cost of Time: Farmers whose time is especially
valuable tend to be those with significant off-farm sources of income. A good example found in
almost every village is the part-time farmer who obtains most of his income from an office job.
Many part-time farmers in Aurepalle earn their living primarily from tapping palm wine or
herding animals. Investment in soil conservation on dryland appears to be lower near large towns
and cities than in more remote areas, because employment in the towns gives higher returns than
working on soil conservation. Seasonal migrants have a high opportunity cost of time in the slack
season, when most farmers do soil conservation work. Investment is relatively low in villages
with high seasonal migration; this has also been found to be a major constraint to investment in
West Africa (Reards et al, 1992; Reij, 1991). All of these categories of people earn more from
their alternative employment than they could if they were full-time farmers caring for their land.
As a result, their fields tend to be more degraded than those of full time farmers.14

Other farmers, such as large landowners who employ regular farm workers or long-term
labourers, have a low opportunity cost of time. Their employees are paid by the season, and are
available to the employer on a daily basis at zero marginal cost. Therefore during slack times these
farmers can have their regular labourers do soil conservation work. It is profitable even if the
returns are quite low.

A similar case is that of farmers who simply refuse to enter the daily labour market, even when
they have little other productive work to do. Investigators found that in Aurepalle many people,
including poor but high caste people, prefer to do self-employed work than join the daily labour
market, even if the returns are lower. We must examine this further.

The finding that investment in soil and water conservation falls as the opportunity cost of labour
rises has troubling implications. It suggests that development and sustainability objectives work
against each other. Upwardly mobile people those with off-farm income and those who have
found better work in the city do not take good care of their land, and they do not appear to find
it profitable to hire others to do the work for them. However, these people are the success stories
of development, as diversification of village economies is crucial to their growth. Ways must be
sought to support such progress without neglecting the land.

Hypothesis 3: Access to Resources

Farmers often say they do not conserve soil because they lack the resources to do so. These
resources include labour, bullock or tractor power (to transport materials), or the cash to hire them.
Farmers without labour and bullock power must hire them at the market rate, which may exceed
the returns to soil conservation. Farmers who have their own bullock and labour power, on the
other hand, can utilize them when their cost is below the market rate, making soil conservation
work less expensive.1

Field observations have revealed that when farmers say they cannot undertake SWC, we need to
be certain whether they mean (1) soil conservation is profitable but they are constrained from
investing because they lack access to credit, or (2) soil conservation is simply not profitable.
Some conservation investments, such as gully control in hilly areas, appear to give positive profits


and others do not, and all must be weighed against alternative investment opportunities that may
be more attractive. Our research has not yet reached firm conclusions about the profitability of
different soil conservation practices in different zones.

Credit for Soil and Water Conservation Investments: Farmers could conceivably obtain credit
to overcome cash flow problems for soil conservation practices that are profitable at market wage
rates. This would enable the government to let farmers pay for practices that are privately
profitable, limiting subsidies to those that are not. To date we have identified silt harvesting
structures, terracing on deep black soil, and minor runoff disposal systems as investments that are
potentially bankable, and more research is needed to identify others.

However, we have found little or no evidence of farmers taking loans for soil conservation. First,
formal credit institutions do not have credit facilities for indigenous soil and water conservation
investments. Second, farmers say that if they were to take a loan, they usually have more pressing
investment priorities.

A successful loan programme for soil conservation would have to be designed in accordance with
the nature of such investments. Most importantly, it would have to recognize that soil
conservation work is commonly carried out in stages, not all at once. Loan funds would have to
be made available small amounts at a time, over several years. In addition, farmers would have
to be given flexibility to do the soil conservation work in the ways they please, using family labour
or hired labour. Hired labour may do other tasks in order to create time for the family to do the
soil conservation work themselves.

Hypothesis 4: Land Tenure

Farmers who cultivate their own land are much more likely to invest in soil conservation than
those renting or sharecropping someone else's land. Observations in the study villages suggest
that rented and sharecropped land, which covers about 15% of the area in the study villages, is
almost invariably characterized by low investment in soil conservation.

Tenants: Short-term tenants do not invest in long-term land productivity because they are not
likely to reap the returns (Ervin, 1986; Venkataramna and Johnson, 1988). This phenomenon has
two important implications. First, it strengthens the point that to increase adoption, soil and water
conservation practices should be by-products of activities that increase short-term productivity.
Second, it suggests a need for policy changes regarding land tenure. Indian farmers shy away from
land leases longer than one season because they fear that tenants can lay ownership claim to the
property. Legal changes that removed this fear would encourage longer term leases, perhaps
making land care investments more attractive to tenants.

Landlords: Our observations have also found that landowners who lease out their land and those
who exclusively use hired labor to cultivate it fail to invest in soil conservation. In neither case
can this failure be attributed solely to a short time horizon, since the owner still maintains long-
term tenure. Instead, it appears that such landowners are unaware of the problems, or do not
consider them worth worrying about. Alternatively, some landlords are too poor to invest in


SWC. They lease or sharecrop out their land because they do not have the resources (such as
bullocks or manpower) to cultivate their land, let alone invest in SWC.

It is likely that absentees who own large tracts do not find land care problems worth their time and
worry. That they are absent to begin with suggests that they have alternative employment with
higher returns than farming. In this case they will not devote their own labor to soil conservation.
They may hold land as a source of long-term security, not for agricultural production per se, and
so are unconcerned if erosion reduces productivity.

Preliminary surveys by the authors suggest that even eroded land appreciates in value at rates that
make it an attractive asset. Moreover, differences in land values between eroded and protected
land appear to be small compared to differences in productivity between the two. This can
probably be attributed to the fact that most farmers perceive the damage from gully erosion to be
largely reversible. Farmers also suggest that land is a prized but increasingly scarce asset, so that
even degraded land commands a good price. In any case, this phenomenon would clearly reduce
the incentive for absentees to invest in erosion control measures.

The prominence of degradation problems on the land of absentees has important policy
implications. If erosion on such land imposes costs on society, then policies should be introduced
to encourage better care. Policies should have any of four objectives. First, they should allow long
term tenancy arrangements without threatening the landlord's ownership rights. Second, they
could induce absentee landowners to adopt soil conservation measures or grow trees on it. Third,
if erosion on their land damages neighbours' fields, the neighbours should be given access to the
land to introduce soil conservation measures. Such arrangements have been found in some of the
study villages in the case of runoff management and gully control. Fourth, policies could
discourage tenancy by introducing policies to encourage absentee landowners to sell their land.
However, tenancy provides some farmers with land that they could not obtain by other means, so
more research is needed to assess the likely consequences of discouraging tenancy. A tax on land
owned by nonresidents might encourage sale to full-time farmers.

Hypothesis 5: Characteristics of the Land

Costs and returns of soil conservation vary with characteristics of the land. Therefore we can
expect the greatest investment in soil conservation on land where its costs are low and its returns
are high. Costs vary with the location of the land in relation to materials needed for soil
conservation; returns to soil conservation vary with the quality of the land.

Location: Soil conservation is least expensive on land that has abundant sources of needed
resources. For example, where soil is deep and stones are sparse, earthen bunds predominate.
This is the case in the flat plains where soil is fairly deep. On the other hand, very rocky areas,
such as the hilly zones of the Deccan Plateau, tend to be full of stone bunds. Where soil is shallow
and stones are scarce, as in Aurepalle, bunds tend to be very small.16

This pattern of investment implies that soil conservation programmes should take advantage of
local materials for constructing bunds. Farmers in the stony, shallow soil areas of Kamlapur


(Gulbarga District, Karnataka) reported that one government programme insisted they use
earthen bunds, even though soil was very scarce, because they were found to be optimal under
research station conditions. A more flexible programme would offer more sensible, cost-
effective designs.

A second implication concerns places where lack of materials is the major constraint to soil
conservation investment. Government programmes might find it cost effective to transport stones
from places where they are too abundant to places where they are too scarce, but could be used
to construct bunds or waste weirs. In Shirapur (Sholapur District, Maharashtra), for example,
some of the land is littered with surplus stones excavated during construction of a canal. Farmers
indicate that stone bunds are cheap in Shirapur as a result, and also that some land is uncultivable
because of the stones. Transporting these stones to nearby regions may not only promote soil
conservation in those places, but also clear land for cultivation along the canal.

Quality: Farmers indicate that they invest more in soil conservation on land with higher potential
productivity than on land with lower potential productivity, given equal levels of erosion. For
example, farmers in Aurepalle say that their black soils receive the most soil conservation
investment, followed by less productive shallow red soils. On one pocket of saline soil in
Aurepalle, old soil conservation structures are not maintained, and new ones are not built because
yields on that land are so meager that the soil is not considered worth conserving.

It also might be expected that farmers would be more concerned about losing scarce soil on
shallow fields than on good land where soil is deep and abundant. However, farmers are more
concerned about erosion on good land than erosion on bad land, mainly because good land
generally receives greater applications of fertilizer and farm yard manure. As farmers say that
removal of nutrients is often the most serious implication of erosion, top quality land is likely to
receive the greatest soil conservation investment.

Irrigated land receives the most soil conservation investment. The primary objective of this
investment is water management, with soil conservation as a by-product. This further strengthens
the notion that soil conservation programmes should look for complementarities between invest-
ments with short-term and long-term payoffs.

Farmers who own and operate both irrigated and unirrigated land appear to invest little in soil
conservation on their unirrigated plots. Their irrigated land provides opportunities for productive
investments that cannot be matched by SWC measures on dryland. Caring for unirrigated land
becomes a low priority for those farmers. Preliminary evidence suggests that farmers without
irrigation take better care of their dryland plots than do farmers who also own irrigated land. This
is another disturbing prospect, since irrigation development is an important component of
agricultural development strategies, and farmers tend to try to gain access to some irrigated land
to protect against weather-related risk. As irrigation spreads, it is likely that dryland plots will be
relatively neglected.


Hypothesis 6: Stepwise Investment

Where it is technically feasible, most farmers build soil conservation structures in stages, rather
than all at once. This not only postpones costs, but also reduces them to the extent that future costs
are discounted. Short-term financial constraints are mitigated, and risk is reduced.

Stone gully plugs that trap silt, as shown in Figure 4, illustrate this principle well. Such structures
are commonly 2.5 meters high and 2 meters thick. They harvest silt that moves through the gully,
gradually building up a fertile plot. Because the silt accumulates slowly, at first only a small
structure is needed, but it must be enlarged every 1 to 3 years. The investment needed to build
such a structure is thus significantly reduced at any given point in time. Our observations show
that construction of ordinary field bunds follow a similar pattern.

Hypothesis 7: Willingness to Cooperate

Soil conservation sometimes requires collective action by farmers. This is the case when an
erosion problem transcends farm boundaries. Farmers' willingness to cooperate is an important
determinant of soil conservation investment in these cases.

There is a tendency to neglect severe erosion problems in big gullies that cross boundaries. This
may be due to the magnitude of the investment needed to control the problem. In fact, the cost may
be increased by the need for cooperation: cooperation is not cost free, but rather requires time for
organization and administration. It also may impose psychic and social costs on people who
prefer not to associate with other members of the group from other communities.

On the other hand, our observations show that there is much potential for cooperation by two
adjacent farmers or four farmers sharing a common boundary as long as the activity relates to that
boundary. In these cases they tend to follow certain local "rules" or "norms" set by the village.

However, for technologies such as contour or graded bunds that cross farm boundaries, group
action is not undertaken. A major problem with such technologies is that their benefits and costs
are distributed unevenly among the affected people. On the research station or in large scale
agriculture, such uneven distribution is acceptable as long as overall productivity rises suffi-
ciently. Under Indian conditions, however, it means that some people gain from SWC technology
and others do not. Those situated at the end of graded bunds where central waterways are
constructed, for example, lose, and they have an incentive to undermine the system. In general,
SWC technologies are likely to fail if they divide benefits unevenly but require nearly universal
cooperation to make them work. In this case, equity becomes a prerequisite to efficiency.

Clearly, the conditions under which farmers will cooperate with each other need to be understood,
and alternative approaches to encouraging cooperation should be explored. In addition, SWC
programmes in India should focus whenever possible on technologies that require minimal
cooperation. A good technology that can be introduced on individual farms is likely to give better
results than an excellent one that requires significant cooperation among farmers.


We should note that research from Africa seems to suggest a greater capacity for cooperation there
than in India (Critchley, 1990).


Our research has several implications for its primary clients, SWC programme officials, policy
makers and researchers. In general, the main lessons from farmers' indigenous practices are as

1. Farmers' objectives should be clearly understood so that SWC programmes can be designed
that they will accept rather than reject.

2. SWC programmes should minimize expenditures that farmers would be willing to make on
their own. They should provide enabling conditions to increase SWC investment in a cost-
effective manner.

3. Profitability is a major constraint to adoption, so cheaper technologies need to be developed.
Divergences between private and social benefits of SWC should be identified to guide
policies and indicate circumstances in which subsidies are justified.

How these general points translate into specific recommendations for the three primary client
groups is the subject of this last section.

Soil and Water Conservation Programme Authorities

The objective of SWC officials should be to design and implement programmes with maximum
cost effectiveness. This requires that their efforts be accepted by farmers. Accordingly,
programme officials must examine what types of SWC investments farmers make on their own,
and how they have responded to programme initiatives.

Programmes should be planned and implemented in full participation with farmers in order to
identify in advance what the farmers will accept and what they will not. Likewise, arrangements
should be made with farmers to carry out the work on their own land to ensure that they are
satisfied with it and to save money.

SWC officials must make a basic choice between designing SWC practices around contour lines
(the recommended method) or around boundary lines (farmers' preferred method). They must
understand the reasons why farmers have rejected contour bunds, and they must not simply
impose a contour-based system or it will not be maintained. They can offer education about the
efficiency of recommended practices in conserving soil, but they must not provide special
incentives such as free seeds and fertilizer to adopters of recommended practices. This may
induce farmers to adopt contour bunds without any intention of maintaining them.

Alternatively, programme officials should support indigenous technologies based on boundary


lines. Boundary-based systems, though less technically efficient than the recommended contour-
based systems from the narrow perspective of only conserving soil, may provide the greatest net
benefits because experience shows that farmers are more willing to adopt and maintain them.

Given the proper mandate, SWC programmes are in a unique position to experiment with different
approaches to maximize effectiveness. They can compare the efficiency of different technologies
at the field level and test how much farmers are willing to pay for them, analyze the varying
interests of different groups and the distribution of benefits and costs among them, and experiment
to identify circumstances under which farmers are willing to cooperate with each other. This work
should be done in collaboration with agricultural and social science researchers.

SWC programmes can only gain such vital information, however, if they eliminate the current
orientation toward measuring success by physical targets achieved. This narrow, inflexible focus
makes it impossible to explore and benefit from the diverse and often subtle factors that determine
adoption and maintenance of SWC practices.

Education and information dissemination can be a very important tool for promoting SWC.
Experience in Australia and Africa has found that increasing public awareness has improved the
performance of SWC programmes (Chamala and Mortiss, 1990; Allwright, 1992; Critchley,
1990). Spreading information about the costs of erosion and alternative means of controlling it
should be an integral component of SWC efforts.

Policy Makers

The government should subsidize SWC only in those situations when it is socially profitable to
do so, and policy makers should encourage researchers to provide them with information to
indicate when this is the case. But even outside the area of financial incentives, policy makers
have a large sphere of influence on erosion through the manipulation of policy. In this regard,
particular efforts are needed to address erosion problems on the fields of short-term tenants and
non-practicing or absentee landlords. One option is to subsidize SWC investments by tenants, but
policy makers can and should encourage longer-term tenancy, selectively discourage absentee-
ism by large landowners (perhaps by means of a land tax), and encourage remaining absentees to
plant perennial vegetation on their land. Likewise, in order to encourage farmers to plant more
trees, policy makers should relax laws restricting harvesting and transporting trees from private
land. Continued research on farmer adoption patterns is needed to supply policy makers with
information necessary for designing precise policies.

Macroeconomic policies also influence SWC investments by affecting the prices of farm inputs
and outputs. This changes the profits of different farming activities, including conservation
investments. References are given for readers interested in this subject (Mironowski, 1986;
Barbier, 1988; Conway and Barbier, 1990).



Researchers should provide information to be used by policy makers to formulate cost-effective
SWC programs. This requires calculating the costs and benefits of different technologies and the
conditions under which farmers do or do not invest in them.

By studying the technical and economic efficiency of indigenous and recommended practices,
researchers will provide information to SWC programme authorities about the tradeoffs between
technically optimal practices that farmers have been reluctant to accept and indigenous practices
that are second best technically but have proven acceptable to farmers. Since recommended
practices often require cooperation among farmers, an important component of such a study
would be to identify conditions when such cooperation is forthcoming.

Researchers should identify which practices are economically viable and can be financed through
commercial credit. They should also identify the conditions in which the social benefits of SWC
exceed the private benefits, such as when farmers lack sufficient information, are excessively
averse to risk, or have a short time horizon. This will indicate when and to what extent subsidies
are justified, and suggest policies to overcome constraints to farmers' investments.

Researchers must continue to develop new, less expensive soil conservation technologies. This
may be the best way to make SWC profitable and encourage busy, upwardly mobile farmers to
invest more. An example of such an effort is the World Bank's recent promotion of vetiver grass,
which in favorable growth conditions is inexpensive to plant and maintain. It is also compatible
with Indian SAT farmers' preferences for boundary-based SWC technology that concentrates soil
at the lower end of the field. However, it is unrealistic to think that vetiver or any other
technology is likely to be the single best option for every situation. For example, recent research
suggests that in the Indian SAT maintenance costs of vetiver are actually very high due to the dry
conditions (Sivamohan et al, 1990). Researchers should experiment with other vegetative SWC
measures that are also highly-valued for other uses, such as fodder, fuel, fruit, etc. Again, the best
vegetative SWC measure may not be the one that conserves soil the most effectively.

Finally, researchers should work in collaboration with SWC programme managers to test
different technologies and institutional arrangements in the field.

In conclusion, soil conservation programmes can become more cost-effective if they are based on
an understanding of farmers' perceptions about soil erosion and the conditions under which they
adopt and maintain soil conservation measures. Farmers would benefit by receiving land care
assistance that suits their needs, and society at large would benefit because public funds would
be better spent and the country's soil resources managed more efficiently.

Much more research is needed to measure the actual costs of erosion, both to farmers and to
society. This information is needed to determine how much should be spent to control erosion.
The preliminary findings reported here, meanwhile, will enable funds already devoted to
promoting soil conservation to be used more effectively.



1. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the workshop on Farmers' Practices and Soil
and Water Conservation Programs, held 19-21 June 1991 at ICRISAT, Patancheru, Andhra
Pradesh, India. The summary proceedings of that workshop are available from John Kerr at
ICRISAT. A version of the paper also appears in Natural Resource Economics of India: A
Guide for Researchers, Policy Makers and Managers, Oxford and IBH Publishers, New Delhi,
forthcoming in 1993. The views expressed are those of the authors only.

The authors would like to thank all the farmers who have contributed to their understanding of
indigenous soil and water conservation practices. P.J. George, G.D. Nageshwara Rao, V.B.
Ladole, V.K. Chopde, officials of MYRADA-PIDOW, and many other people also helped
collect data and offered important insights. Karen Seckler edited an earlier version of the
paper. The authors are responsible for remaining errors.

2. Numerous conversations with SWC programme managers and scientists have revealed this

3. Private profits are those calculated according to market prices. Social profits are calculated
according to prices that would prevail if all resources were used in a socially optimal way.
Private and social profits diverge when prices are distorted by either market failures or
government policies. Market failures occur when people have short time horizons, putting too
high a value on the present at the cost of the future, or when profitable investments require
collective action that is not forthcoming, or when they do not undertake profitable but risky
investments. Government policies that distort prices include taxes, subsidies and quotas that
raise money or protect a certain industry. Such distorting policies need to be distinguished
from those introduced in order to correct market failures. Private and social prices are
discussed further in Gittinger (1982), Dasgupta (1982), Monke and Pearson (1989), and

4. The four states are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The research sites
include ICRISAT study villages (Walker and Ryan 1990) and villages where NGO, state and
national watershed programs (Planning Commission) have been active.

5. Singh et al (1990) describe state of the art recommended SWC practices in India.

6. Field observations in Bangalore District, personal communication with P.D. Prem Kumar.

7. The World Bank's promotion of vetiver grass is the most notable of these programmes.

8. Discussions with watershed officials and visits to watersheds.

9. MYRADA and the Aga Khan Rural Support Program were among the pioneers in the field.
Numerous other NGOs have taken up similar approaches. Innovative government programmes
with which we are familiar include the Kabbalnala watershed in Karnataka and some of the


Andhra Pradesh state programmes. See Kerr (1991) for details.

10. Planning Commission

11.As the research is still in progress, the findings reproted here are confined to general
hypotheses that have yet to be tested empirically.

12. Opportunity cost refers to the costs of foregoing an alternative opportunity and the gains
obtainable from it.

13. The opportunity cost of time is a subject of great debate in development and labor economics.
We are not proposing a general hypothesis here, but simply reporting what we have observed
in the context of soil conservation investments.

14. Further case-by-case analysis is needed to determine under what circumstances these farmers
could profit by hiring labor to do soil conservation work.

15. This depends on the opportunity cost of labour. Farmers in the study villages indicate that the
opportunity cost of bullock power and human labour is sometimes less than the market rate,
due to preferences not to enter the hire market. Bullock owners sometimes prefer to leave their
bullocks idle rather than hire them out, and sometimes they prefer to use them on their own
land rather than hire them out. (Source: conversations with farmers in Aurepalle village and
in Kanzara village, Akola district, Maharashtra).

16. Vegetative bunds follow the same pattern: they are most common where they are easiest to
grow, or where they augment scarce fodder supplies, and where other materials are more



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4. Cancer Risk and Nitrogen Fertilisers: Evidence from Developing Countries. 1988. J.N. Pretty and G.R.

5. The Blue-Baby Syndrome and Nitrogen Fertilisers: A High Risk in the Tropics? 1988. J.N. Pretty and G.R.

6. Glossary of Selected Terms in Sustainable Agriculture. 1988. J.A. McCracken and J.N. Pretty.

7. Glossary of Selected Terms in Sustainable Economic Development. 1988. E.B. Barbier and J.A. McCracken.

8. Internal Resources for Sustainable Agriculture. 1988. C.A. Francis.

9. Wildlife Working for Sustainable Development. 1988. B. Dalal-Clayton.

10. Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. 1988. D.M. Warren and K. Cashman.

11. Agriculture as a Global Polluter. 1989. Jules N. Pretty and G.R. Conway.

12. Evolution of Agricultural Research and Development Since 1950: Toward an Integrated Framework. 1989. Robert
E. Rhoades.

13. Crop-Livestock Interactions for Sustainable Agriculture. 1989. Wolfgang Bayer and Ann Waters-Bayer

14. Perspectives in Soil Erosion in Africa: Whose Problem? 1989. M. Fones-Sondell.

15. Sustainability in Agricultural Development Programmes: The Approach of USAID. 1989. Robert O. Blake.

16. Participation by Farmers, Researchers and Extension Workers in Soil Conservation. 1989. Sam Fujisaka.

17. Development Assistance and the Environment: Translating Intentions into Practice. 1989. Marianne Wenning.

18. Energy for Livelihoods: Putting People Back into Africa's Woodfuel Crisis. 1989. Robin Mearns and
Gerald Leach.

19. Crop Variety Mixtures in Marginal Environments. 1990. Janice Jiggins

20. Displaced Pastoralists and Transferred Wheat Technology in Tanzania. 1990. Charles Lane and Jules N. Pretty.

21. Teaching Threatens Sustainable Agriculture. 1990. Raymond I. Ison.

22. Microenvironments Unobserved. 1990. Robert Chambers.

23. Low Input Soil Restoration in Honduras: the Cantarranas Farmer-to-Farmer Extension Programme. 1990.
Roland Bunch.

24. Rural Common Property Resources: A Growing Crisis. 1991. N.S. Jodha

25. Participatory Education and Grassroots Development: The Case of Rural Appalachia. 1991.
John Gaventa and Helen Lewis

26. Farmer Organisations in Ecuador: Contributions to Farmer First Research and Development. 1991. A. Bebbington


27. Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in Africa. 1991. Chris Reij

28. Tree Products in Agroecosystems: Economic and Policy Issues. 1991. J.E.M. Arnold

29. Designing Integrated Pest Management for Sustainable and Productive Futures. 1991. Michel P. Pimbert

30. Plants, Genes and People: Improving the Relevance of Plant Breeding. 1991. Angelique Hangerud and Michael
P. Collinson.

31. Local Institutions and Participation for Sustainable Development. 1992. Norman Uphoff.

32. The Information Drain: Obstacles to Research in Africa. 1992. Mamman Aminu Ibrahim.

33. Local Agro-Processing with Sustainable Technology: Sunflowerseed Oil in Tanzania. 1992. Eric Hyman.

34. Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in India's Semi-Arid Tropics. 1992. John Kerr and N.K. Sanghi.

35. Prioritizing Institutional Development: A New Role for NGO Centres for Study and Development. 1992. Alan

Copies of these papers are available from the Sustainable Agriculture Programme, IIED, London
(2.50 each inc. p and p).


The Sustainable Agriculture Programme


The Sustainable Agriculture Programme of IIED promotes
and supports the development of socially and environ-
mentally aware agriculture through research, training,
advocacy, networking and information dissemination.

The Programme emphasises close collaboration and con-
sultation with a wide range of institutions in the South.
Collaborative research projects are aimed at identifying
the constraints and potentials of the livelihood strategies
of the Third World poor who are affected by ecological,
economic and social change. These initiatives focus on
indigenous knowledge and resource management; par-
ticipatory planning and development; and agroecology
and resource conserving agriculture.

The refinement and application of Participatory Rural
Appraisal methods is an area of special emphasis. The
Programme is a leader in the training of individuals from
government and non-government organizations in the
application of these methods.

The Programme supports the exchange of field experi-
ences and research through a range of formal and informal
publications, including RRA Notes, aimed at practitioners
of Rapid and Participatory Rural Appraisal, and the Gate-
keeper Series, briefing papers aimed at policy makers. It
receives funding from the Swedish International Develop-
ment Authority, the Ford Foundation, and other diverse

International Institute for
Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street,
London WC1H ODD, UK

Telephone: 071-388 2117
Fax: 071-388 2826
Telex: 261681 EASCAN G

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