Farmers’ values for land, trees and biodiversity underlie agricultural sustainability

Kamal Melvani (Corresponding Author), Bronwyn Myers, Natasha Stacey, Mila Bristow, Beth Crase, Jerry Moles

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Tree-dominated, forest gardens (FGs) are an ancient, tropical agricultural land use that farmers continue to practice and value. Knowing why farmers value FGs is important because this can increase livelihood security and the skillful governance of land. We chose Sri Lanka to investigate farmers’ values for land, contextual factors that effect valuation, stressors that impact agriculture, and farmers’ current and future response strategies. Mixed methods were used to collect data from 85 farming households in landholdings across nine locations of the Intermediate agroecological zone (1750–2500 mm). Landholdings comprise land uses with short-term, annual, and semi-perennial crops (paddy, swidden, and cash crop plots) and long-term, perennial or tree crops (FGs, plantations). Farmers’ values were categorised, ranked, and aligned with Utility, Environmental, Aesthetic, Intrinsic, Option and Bequest themes of the Total Economic Value framework (TEV). Farmers give the highest importance to Utility (income, food) and Environmental (friendly biodiversity, leaf litter and soil fertility) values mainly from tree crops. Timber and fuelwood are biological assets that can be optionally converted to cash. Farmers have Intrinsic values (contentment, tranquility, pride) for land bequeathed to future generations. Nevertheless, since livelihoods are stressed by climate variability and extreme events, animal and insect pests, and labour scarcities, farmers adopt diverse response strategies. Of these, farmers favour long-term crop cultivation because trees are relatively resilient to droughts, floods, animal, and insect pests, and require less labour. This study validates why farmers’ pluralistic values for land, trees, and biodiversity must be integrated into national decision- and policy-making for agriculture, forest and biodiversity conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105688
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalLand Use Policy
Early online dateMar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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