ECONOMICS OF SOIL CONSERVATION PRACTICES AMONG SMALL SCALE FARMERS
The study investigated the economics of soil conservation practices among small-scale farmers in Enugu State. The study used multi-stage random probability sampling method and the primary data were collected form 120 farmers using structured questionnaire. Data on the socio-economic status of the farmers, forms of land/soil degradation in the study area, methods/ technologies used in combating them, intensity of adoption of selected soil conservation practices, costs and benefits of selected methods of conserving the soil and constraints to adoption of soil conservation practices were obtained. Data obtained were analyzed using percentages, cost-benefit analysis and multiple regression analysis. Based on the 2007/2008 cropping season, it was noted that male (70%) were more involved in soil conservation practices than female (30%). Most of the farmers (61%) had no formal education. Land acquisition was mostly through inheritance (77%). Fifty three percent of the farmers have been in active farming for about 21 – 30 years. Membership of farm organization by farmers was still low (16%). It is noted that 60% of the farmers had never been visited by the extension agents. The major form of soil/land degradation identified in the study area is reduced soil fertility (41%) Majority (43%) of the farmers said that the methods of soil conservation used are indigenous to them. The prevalent soil/land management forms in the study area are inorganic fertilizer, livestock manuring, intercropping, cover cropping and leaving crop residue. The study showed the guiding factors to adoption of soil conservation technologies/ methods by respondents as improved yield (return), access to credit, concern for soil erosion and other related soil problems, ownership of land, climatic change, and capital access. The study indicated that out of the thirteen (13) methods of soil conservation mostly used, 77% of the farmers adopted between 1-6 methods. This showed that the intensity of adoption is relatively low. The farmers that used intercropping, inorganic fertilizer, cover cropping, leaving crop residue an livestock manure combination as method of soil conservation have the highest gross margin of N36750 and benefit-cost of 2.18. The effect/ relationship between farmers’ socio-economic characteristics and intensity of adoption of soil conservation practices showed a coefficient of determination, R2 of 63.2% which was a good fit. The test of influence of the socio-economic characteristics of on farmer’s adoption intensity shows that these characteristics have significant influence on adoption intensity at 5%. There is a significant correlation between the benefits and the cost of soil conservation practices(r-0.936, p<0.05). Access to credit, small farm size, and lack of trainings, poor infrastructure and poor returns were the major constraints to adoption of soil conservation practices by farmers. It was recommended that land should be well defined and property right to land well enforced. Finally, farmers were encouraged to form farm co-operatives fro easy training and access to farm assistance.