Perceptions and sociocultural factors underlying adoption of conservation agriculture in the Mediterranean

Emmeline Topp, Mohamed El Azhari,Harun Cicek, Hatem Cheikh M’Hamed,Mohamed Zied Dhraief, Oussama El Gharras, Jordi Puig Roca,Cristina Quintas-Soriano, Laura Rueda Iáñez, Abderrahmane Sakouili, Meriem Oueslati Zlaoui,Tobias Plieninger


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The Mediterranean region is facing major challenges for soil conservation and sustainable agriculture. Conservation agriculture (CA), including reduced soil disturbance, can help conserve soils and improve soil fertility, but its adoption in the Mediterranean region is limited. Examining farmers’ perceptions of soil and underlying sociocultural factors can help shed light on adoption of soil management practices. In this paper, we conducted a survey with 590 farmers across Morocco, Spain and Tunisia to explore concepts that are cognitively associated with soil and perceptions of tillage. We also evaluated differences in perceptions of innovation, community, adaptive capacity, and responsibility for soil. We found that farmers’ cognitive associations with soil show awareness of soil as a living resource, go beyond agriculture and livelihoods to reveal cultural ties, and link to multiple levels of human needs. Beliefs about the benefits of tillage for water availability and yield persist among the surveyed farmers. We found that openness towards innovation, perceived adaptive capacity and responsibility for soil were associated with minimum tillage, whereas community integration was not. Education, age and farm lifestyle were also associated with differences in these perceptions. CA promotion in the Mediterranean should emphasize the multiple values of soil, should demonstrate how sufficient yields may be achieved alongside resilience to drought, and be tailored to differing levels of environmental awareness and economic needs across north and south.
Conservation agriculture,Farmer attitudes,Landscape value,Soil disturbance,Agricultural intensification,Tillage
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