Using fuzzy cognitive mapping to understand farmers' perception of sustainable agricultural practices for enhanced food security in Nepal
Tamang, Bishal B.
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With the world population having reached unprecedented levels, the need for improved food security and sustainable agricultural practices has become all the more pressing. This is especially relevant for subsistence farmers, such as those in the Mid-hill region of Nepal, who typically rely on crop yields for sustenance and have limited access to opportunities for income generation. Although promoting agricultural development in areas like the Mid-hill region has been a priority for NGOs and researchers, gaps in understanding the knowledge and values of rural communities remains a challenge to a the adoption of such technologies. Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) is an approach that identifies the key factors and relative importance of such factors in the decision-making processes within a community. FCM was used to identify and map the factors involved in decision-making regarding the adoption of conservation agricultural practices in three villages in Central Nepal. Face-to-face interviews with farmers were conducted to develop an initial list of relevant factors, followed by extensive surveys conducted with both farmers and in-country NGO staff and researchers to develop the “mental models” used by these groups to guide decision-making. Mental models of the groups were quantitatively compared to determine differences between stakeholder groups. The results show significant differences between farmers and experts, as well as between villages. Such variation in the perception of agricultural practices can be attributed to differences in formal training, farming experience, soil conditions and culture. This research can be applied to improve understanding of cultural decision-making and values for improved transfer of sustainable agricultural technologies.