Environmental discounting in Chibombo, Zambia

Published: 06-01-2019| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/t92fntwd8c.1
Fiona Mubanga,
Bridget Bwalya


This study used aspects of discounting i.e. time preference and risk aversion to investigate environmental discounting towards the adoption of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices among smallholder farmers in Chibombo District, central Zambia. Chibombo district is divided into 20 agricultural camps by the Ministry of Agriculture for administrative purposes. Of the 20 camps in the district, Kalola Camp was selected as the study area for this research because it is one of the camps with the most agricultural activity. Data for the study was collected in semi-structured interviews with 158 randomly sampled farmers; 3 Focus Group Discussions (FDGs); 2 key informant interviews; and field observations. The farmers were asked what agricultural practices and technologies they implement and why they implement them. This data was use to see what practices were dominantly implemented and reasons they are so widely practiced. In the interviews, farmers were also asked if they would use mineral fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides if these substances would cause soil degradation after a given period of time; and if they would plant fertiliser trees if soil fertility would manifest after a given time. Data from the semi-structured interviews was analysed using a Z-Proportion test at 95% confidence level, the results showed that more farmers were less likely to quit using mineral fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides if their soil degradation effects would manifest 20 to 50years in the future and more likely to quit using the substances if their effects manifested in 5 to 10years. This showed that farmers prefer benefits that manifest in the short-term compared to those that manifest in the far future. With fertiliser tree planting, farmers claimed they would plant fertiliser trees regardless of the time it took for the trees to grow and yield soil fertility benefits (average P-value of 0.24). However, evidence from field observations suggested the opposite. Farmers did not plant many fertiliser trees in their fields (0.5trees per hectare). Additionally, the survey revealed that 77% of the 158 farmers sampled did not plant fertiliser trees currently because they did not obtain the seedlings free of charge. It was further revealed in the FGDs that farmers are not willing to spend their financial resources on SLM practices whose soil fertility benefits take many years to manifest due to the uncertainty of reaping those benefits. This suggested traits of risk aversion in farmers. Thus, this study concluded that farmers demonstrated environmental discounting behaviour in the adoption of SLM practices.


Steps to reproduce

A sample size of 158 farmers was randomly drawn in a raffle of the Camp’s register. This sample size was arrived at using a two-sample z-proportion test power analysis (GPower, with a medium effect size of 0.25 and an alpha level of 0.05 (Faul et al., 2007). Semi-structured interviews were used to collect quantitative data for this research. Fowler (2002) said semi-structured interviews are questionnaires that include open-ended questions that prompt discussions that enable the researcher to explore the research study. In this research, leading questions on the reasons farmers use the farming practices that they use required exploration, hence the need for open-ended ended questions in the questionnaire. During data collection, the questionnaires were administrated to the 158 individual farmers that were randomly sampled from Kalola Camp by the researchers. This means in some cases, there was more than one farmer interviewed from one household. The language used during the interview was Lenje as it is the most widely spoken language in the study area. The researcher and her assistants read the questions to the respondents and filled in the answers on to the questionnaire.