Analysis of farmer and extension agent preference in Nepal using Analytic Hierarchy Process
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Subsistence farmers in Nepal rely on marginal lands that are subject to declining fertility due, in part, to traditional farming practices. These farmers regularly face critical decisions regarding which crops to produce and which production practices to adopt. The introduction of conservation agriculture (CA) practices has the potential to improve livelihoods and food security but depends on farmer perceptions and knowledge sharing between farmers and extension staff. This study uses Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) to determine farmer and extension staff preferences for selected CA strategies. This data is then used to determine which practices have the highest likelihood of adoption, identify farmer incentives, and facilitate mutual understanding among farmers and extension agents. AHP was conducted in three villages and two organizations that provide extension services for rural subsistence communities. Overall, soil quality was identified as the most important factor affecting household income. Farmers preferred full till and cowpea monocrop while extension agents preferred strip till with cowpea /millet intercrop. Results suggest that (1) there is a knowledge gap among farmers regarding the advantages of minimal till and soil fertility; (2) farmers prefer short term profits over sustainable production; and (3) there is a lack of understanding between farmers and non-farmers regarding the effectiveness of intercropping. In order to maximize adoption of CA practices, farmer education and communications with extension agents should be improved by means of increasing the frequency of focus groups, workshops, and site visits.