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The broad objective of the study was to analyze the economics of soil conservation practices in Enugu State. This study employed multistage random sampling technique for selecting the respondents. First stage involved simple random selection of one local government area from each of the three (3) agricultural zones. Then three (3) farming communities were selected from each of the three selected local government areas. This gave a total of nine (9) communities for the study. Secondly, ten (10) farm households were randomly selected from each of the three farming communities, making a total of ninety (90) farm households. Well structured and pre-tested questionnaire, personal observation and focus group discussion were used for data collection. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistical, multinomial logit model, partial budget and a composite benefit- cost simulation model. The study showed that most of the farmers adopted more than one soil conservation practice. The conservation practices adopted most by the farmers included; animal and green manure application (100% and 85.55% respectively), cover crop planting (70%), construction of erosion control structures (57.77%), multiple cropping (45.55%) and reduced tillage (40%), incorporation of crop residues ( 26.66%), mulching ( 23.33%), crop rotation ( 21.11%), fallowing ( 14.44%), across slope- cultivation (12.22%), planting of perennial grass barriers (11.11%) and vegetation planting (8.88%s). Majority of the farmers were males (75.56%), the mean age of the farmers was forty six years, and about eighty seven percent (87%) of the farmers had a house hold size of six to ten persons. Majority of the farmers (725%) used family labour, and 53.35% of the farm land was individually owned by the farmers. An increase in farm size showed significant (P<0.05) increase in the application of green manure (z = 2.25) and crop rotation (z = 2.08). Similarly, increase in house hold size showed a significant (P<0.05) increase in the construction of erosion control structures with a 2.54 magnitude of the z-value. An increase in farm size and sex showed a significant (P<0.05) increase in the use of crop rotation (z = 2.31 and 2.75 respectively). Sex also showed a significant (P<0.05) on the used of crop residues with a 1.96 magnitude of the z-value. A benefit cost analysis estimated the cost of soil conservation as N 1,462,300 and the benefit of soil conservation as N 3,246,800 with a net profit of N 1,784,500 and a net present value of N 37,167,285. High capital and labour demand (100%), insecure land tenure (98%), high risk and stability of practice (96.7%), poor policy support by government (95.6%), inadequate access to information and extension services (95.6%), poor returns to land, capital and labour (81.1%), perception and values of practices (51.1%) and perceived attributes of an innovation (35.6%), are some of the factors that limited the used of soil conservation practices by farmers in the study area. Granted that soil conservation practices are expensive, the benefits exceed the cost and it is the only option open to the farmers facing degraded farm lands. Owing to the fact that the farmers are poor and cannot meet up with the financial demands of soil conservation, the government should assist them in terms of financial subsidies and soft loans to enable them meet up with the financial challenges of soil conservation. Land ownership policies and property right information should be made available and accessible to the farmers, since most of the farmers are afraid on investing heavily on their family lands.
1.1 Background Information
According to the United Nation report (1984), Land-use management is the world’s most important environmental and productivity problem. Land degradation, especially soil erosion, soil nutrient depletion and soil moisture stress, is a major problem confronting many African countries (13th International Soil Conservation Organisation Conference (ISCO), 2004).
Environmental degradation in National, State and Community levels in Nigeria is now a critical issue posing serious threats to the populace (Ezemonye, 2007). The major processes of land degradation are physical (in the form of soil erosion, compaction, and crusting and iron pan formation) (Kathleen, 1993). In Nigeria, one of the most serious problems of land-management is soil erosion. Soil erosion constitutes one of the greatest environmental and productivity problems, causing an estimated 30 million tonnes of soil loss annually. Although erosion is a natural process human land use policies also have an effect on erosion, especially industrial agriculture, deforestation, and urban sprawl (Montogomery, 2008, Kotke, 2007). Most of the severe and frightening soil erosion problems and catastrophes in Nigeria are found in many parts of South Eastern region where population densities and resource pressure in these parts rank among the highest in rural Africa. There have been several reports on this ravaging situation in the Southeast, “the conditions, under which our kith and kin have to make their daily living in Nigeria, are hellish and inhuman,” (Orabuchi, 2006).
Soil degradation is a serious problem in Nigeria (World Bank, 1990). Deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, soil salinization, alkalinization and water-logging, form different but often interrelated aspects of soil degradation (Chukwuemeka Okoye, 2009). In Nigeria, soil
degradation affects about 50 million people and leads to the greatest loss of Gross National Product (US $3000 million per year) relative to other environmental Problems (World Bank, 1990). Recent years have witnessed a rise of serious concern about the environmental risks associated with modern agricultural practices. Accelerated soil erosion is one of the major constraints to agricultural production in many parts of Enugu State. Therefore, sustainable and renewed resource management practices need address the widespread land degradation, declining soil fertility, unreliable rainfall and even desertification, in a context of global climate change (Rezvanfer, Samiee & Faham, 2009). Similarly, such biological and mechanical soil conservation practices are currently applied by farmers in Enugu State, including; mulching, cover crops cultivation, terracing, integrated cropping and timely use of fertilizers.
Soil conservation refers to the use of measures to protect the soil, the aim of maintaining or improving its natural fertility (FAO, 2001). Soil conservation also refers to a temporary or permanent increase in the productive capacity of the land or its potential for environmental management. In economic terms, “productive capacity” is the attainable annual output of product yield, natural vegetation and water flow, at a fixed level of non-land inputs. Conservation Agriculture (CA) ( sometimes referred to as "agricultural environmental management"), can be defined as “a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment” (FAO, 2007). At the same time conservation is the use of resources in a manner that safely maintains a resource that can be used by humans. Conservation has become critical on the fact that the world population has increased over the years and more food needs to be produced every year (FAO, 2007).
Conservation agriculture (CA) aims to achieve sustainable and profitable agriculture and subsequently aims at improved livelihoods of farmers through the application of the three CA principles: minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotations. Conservation agriculture holds tremendous potential for all sizes of farms and agro-ecological systems, but its adoption is perhaps most urgently required by smallholder farmers, especially those facing acute labour shortages. It is a way to combine profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability and it has been proven to work in a variety of agro ecological zones and farming systems. Conservation agriculture has been perceived by practitioners as a valid tool for Sustainable Land Management (SLM). It is because of this promise that Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is actively involved in promoting CA, especially in developing and emerging economies (FAO, 2010).
Many traditional farming systems in Africa have characteristics closely resembling CA systems. Tillage is often limited to planting in holes, mulching is practiced (using weeds, crop residues, grasses or green manure), as is direct planting with a hand hoe and a wide diversity of crops and trees are grown. In many commercial agricultural exploitations, conservation (or reduced) tillage and direct planting, combined with the application of herbicides has been widely practiced in Eastern and Southern Africa for some time (Biamah, 2000). In Zimbabwe for example, about 75% of the commercial farmers practice some form of conservation tillage. One of the first “No Till Clubs” was formed by a group of commercial farmers in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa back in the 1970s (Fowler, 2002). Cover crops have been the subject of research for many years, as have more suitable crop rotations and ways to better integrate crop and livestock production. However, the impact and the practice of these techniques by smallholder farmers in Africa are still very limited.
Increasingly, labour shortages are seriously affecting the availability of farm labour in Africa. In many countries, the rural population is steadily being reduced through migration to urban centres. This particularly concerns the younger male population, meaning that those with the best potential for heavy physical work are no longer working on the land. The situation is being further aggravated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that is so tragically striking many parts of the African continent. As a result, many African households are now headed by women who are experiencing tremendous pressure as they have to not only care for the household and family, but run all the farm operations at the same time. For these and other reasons, it is now becoming even more essential that farming methods that conserve resources, reduce human labour requirements and significantly improve food security be adopted (Benites, Ashburner & Theodor, 2002).
1.2 Problem Statement
The effort to reconcile the three objectives of increasing agricultural production, reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable use of the natural resources has been a continuing battle in many developing countries. Many developing countries are confronted with problems of increasing population pressure on an already degrading land resource, worsening poverty, and declining per capita food production. With shrinking land frontier, increase in agricultural production need to come from improvements in land productivity (Eicher, 1994). However, significant increase in agricultural productivity can not be attained if the land resource base is degrading. Hence, the sustainable use of the land resource constitutes the key constraint in agricultural growth in these countries. Land degradation, especially human induced soil degradation in the form of soil erosion, nutrient depletion and soil moisture stress, is particularly very severe in Enugu State (Eboh, Larsen, Oji, Achike, Ujah, Oduh, Amakom & Nzeh, 2006).
In present day Enugu State, increased population densities, growing food and market demands, urbanization, proximity to major road infrastructure, soil conditions and deterioration in quality of land for agricultural purposes have brought about reduced agricultural productivity. These changes have resulted to increasing socio-economic pressure on land and differential access to farmland and intensification of cultivation with far reaching consequences for land-use management practices and the sustainability of the agricultural system. Severe soil fertility and productivity decline, ecological damages including soil erosion losses, and floods are some of the out comes of the uncontrolled land-use and agricultural intensification in the state. These problems might worsen in future due to the fragile, heavily weathered and leached nature of the soil. This situation can only be corrected by the incorporation of improved soil conservation practices in the farming system through acceleration of farmer’s adoption rates of the recommended innovation (Anaeto, Mattews-Njoku & Onu, 2005)
However, both intensification and conservation might not be easy to combined, as farmers operate under a variety of constraints related to capital and labour, availability or accessibility of inputs, lack of knowledge, land tenure, risk and stability, access to information and extension services and policy support. Especially conservation measures often reduce short-term profits as they require extra labour, land or capital (FAO, 2007).
Improved nutrient cycling can only be achieved through the application of organic inputs and the retention of crop residues (Swift & Anderson, 1992). However many farmers find it difficult to return crop residue to the soil leading to declines in organic matter. Unfortunately most of these crop residues and other weeds are burnt or deposited along road side and farm land boundaries. Avoidances of biomass burning are a management practice that helps reverse soil erosion trends (Hains & Uren, 1990). Apart from soil erosion, there are the hazards of excessive
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