Paper: Heterogeneous Preferences and the Effects of Incentives in Promoting Conservation Agriculture in Malawi

There is a great deal of interest in increasing food security through the sustainable intensification of food production in developing countries around the world. One such approach is through Conservation Agriculture (CA), which improves soil quality through a suite of farming practices that reduce soil disturbance, increase soil cover through retained crop residues, and increase crop diversification. The research team uses discrete choice experiments to study farmers’ preferences for these different CA practices, and assess willingness to adopt CA.

Despite many long-term agronomic benefits, some farmers are not willing to adopt CA without incentives. Our results suggest that farmers perceive that CA practices interact with one another differently, sometimes complementing and sometimes degrading the benefits of the other practices. But our results also indicate that preferences are a function of experiences with CA, such that current farm level practices influence willingness to adopt the full CA package. Further, exposure to various risks such as flooding and insect infestations often constrains adoption. Providing subsidies can increase likely adoption of a full CA package, but may generate some perverse incentives that can result in subsequent dis-adoption.

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