Essays on Soil Conservation, Social Capital and Technology Adoption

Sammanfattning: Erosion of agricultural land remains a major constraint to agricultural development in Kenya, which has a complex topography. Government and donor institutions are promoting soil and water conservation practices. Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the process and driving forces for the adoption of these practices. Yet there is a lack of accurate information on the determinants and benefits of these investments. A better understanding of the possible driving forces for adoption would help design research policy and mechanisms to facilitate beneficial outcomes from the process. A better understanding of the process is important because in Kenya, a growing population has pushed more people to farm on fragile and steeply sloped land. Furthermore, there are concerns that agricultural output and productivity growth lag behind population growth. One element that is hypothesized to have a bearing on soil conservation adoption is social capital, which is generally interpreted as the degree of trust, cooperative norms, and networks and associations within a society. Economic work on the role of social interactions for collective action, in particular for soil conservation, is still scarce. However, attention to the significance of social relations for economic outcomes and economic development in particular, suggests the pertinence of this study. The objective of this thesis is to provide a better understanding of the role of social capital and the economics of soil conservation by: (1) developing a method of aggregating social capital measures, (2) conducting a social economic analysis of determinants of soil conservation adoption in particular the impact of social capital differences, and (3) understanding the productivity impacts of different soil conservation structures. This thesis comprises three papers. Paper 1: This paper sets out to investigate two questions. First, it seeks to derive measures of social capital in agrarian societies using survey data. Second, the analysis verifies the hypothesis that there are differences in social capital between Machakos on one hand and Kiambu and Meru on the other. We find significant differences between Machakos and the other two regions. Paper 2: This paper examines two issues. First, we discuss how social capital may affect economic performance, in particular the need for collective action, as revealed in the theoretical and empirical literature. This has implications for whether social capital can be modelled as a determinant of farm technology adoption. Second, it examines whether and to what extent household and village level social capital affect plot level adoption of soil and water conservation. Paper 3: Soil erosion is an important economic and environmental problem in Kenya. Physical soil conservation structures have been promoted as promising techniques for reducing soil erosion. Evidence regarding yield enhancing properties of these techniques is inconclusive. This paper provides an economic analysis of soil conservation investments and their impact on value of yield. Results indicate that soil conservation structures increase returns on degraded land and even increase the returns from some inputs.

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