How does smallholder farming practice and environmental awareness vary across village communities in the karst terrain of southwest China?



Oliver DM, Zheng Y, Naylor LA, Murtagh M, Waldron S & Peng T (2020) How does smallholder farming practice and environmental awareness vary across village communities in the karst terrain of southwest China?. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 288, Art. No.: 106715.

Worldwide, karst terrain is highly sensitive to human activity due to extensive areas of thin soil and rapid water flow to groundwater. In the southwest China karst region, poor farming decisions can promote land degradation and reduce water quality with negative consequences for livelihoods in a region where farmers already suffer from the highest national poverty rates. Targeting management advice to farmers through knowledge exchange and decision support can help alleviate land use impacts on the karst environment but first requires baseline knowledge of how local farming communities understand and approach soil and water management. We used a catchment-wide survey (n = 312 individuals in seven villages) to investigate differences in environmental awareness, catchment understanding, and farming practices amongst farmers and community leaders in a typical karst catchment in southwest China. Age, gender and village of residence of farmers showed an association with the type of challenges perceived to be most serious. Access to labour, issues of water quantity and/or quality affecting irrigation, and fertiliser costs were recognised as being particularly problematic for the viability of farming. Sources of information used to learn about farming practices, the environment and fertiliser use were more diverse for younger (< 40 yr old) farmers and levels of training and acquired knowledge regarding land management practices varied significantly between villages in the catchment. The identification of significant associations between villages or sample demographics, and a variety of questions designed to understand farmer attitudes and their environmental awareness, provide clearer insight upon which knowledge exchange and training programmes can be co-designed with catchment stakeholders. This has the potential to lead to improved farming practices with co-benefits for farmers and the environment; helping sustain ecosystem services for impoverished communities in fragile karst ecosystems.

Environmental awareness; Farmer surveys; Karst critical zone; Knowledge exchange; Soil and water management

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment: Volume 288

FundersNatural Environment Research Council
Publication date01/02/2020
Publication date online30/10/2019
Date accepted by journal09/10/2019
PublisherElsevier BV

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Professor David Oliver

Professor David Oliver

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences