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User acceptability of sustainable soil fertility technologies: lessons from farmers' knowledge, attitude and practice in Southern Africa

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Low soil fertility is one of the greatest biophysical constraints to agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa. "Improved fallow," an agroforestry-based soil fertility replenishment technology was developed in response to the depletion of soil fertility and increasing difficulty of small-scale farmers to afford mineral fertilizers. The biophysical performance of the technology to improve soil fertility and increase crop yield has been well demonstrated and efforts are being made to enhance its adoption by farmers. There is relatively little information and systematic feedback regarding farmers' perception and knowledge of the technology. Using data collected from a stratified sample of 302 farmers in Zambia, this study analysed farmers' knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of soil fertility and food security problems, highlighting implications for user acceptability and the development of sustainable soil fertility management technologies. Results show that farmers have good understanding of soil fertility issues, its linkage to food security and household welfare indicators. They appreciate improved fallow because it responds to the critical problems of low soil fertility and provides additional benefits to the household. However, there are some challenges to the widespread uptake of the technology including land constraints, property rights availability of seeds, and knowledge-intensive nature of the technology. Farmer acceptability and improved adoption of the technology will be influenced by the extent to which efforts are taken to meet these challenges. Farmers' response on knowledge, attitude, and perception provides valuable inputs for further development and modification of the technology. Beyond technology development, an understanding of farmers' preference and other contextual issues - within which the technology is expected to be adopted - will enable researchers to develop appropriate sustainable technologies and enhance user acceptability of the same. The study shows that technical characteristics are important but not exclusive conditions for farmers' acceptability and adoption of good agricultural technologies by farmers.

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    Ajayi O C




    agroforestry, fallow systems, farmers, participatory approaches, soil fertility, sustainable agriculture



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