Conservation agriculture: A farmer-focused analysis of adoption and diffusion determinants in Mexico

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The adoption of conservation farming technologies (CFTs) is advocated by development organizations who strive to avert a global environmental food crisis projected by 2050. A wealth of research has analyzed the farmers' uptake of agricultural technology but presents various limitations. First is the difficulty in reaching a technology "adopter" definition. Second is the lack of contextualization of the farmers' CFT adoption decision. Third, most studies rely on cross sectional analysis, when technology adoption is inherently a dynamic process. In this thesis, I apply improved methodologies to understand the farmers' adoption of No-till (NT) and Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Mexico. This country is of interest because CA interventions have occurred for over 30 years; nevertheless, adoption remains low. Using a recall surveying technique, I gathered data on the farmers' uptake of NT and CA for the period 2000-2016. In the second chapter, I use a double-step clustering procedure (exploratory factor and hierarchical cluster analysis) to identify typical CA adoption pathways and then discuss policy tools to promote continuous uptake. In the third chapter, I use a two-step cluster analysis (Exploratory Factor and Latent Profile analyses) to classify farmers according to their social capital "endowments". I then use regression analysis to understand how different social capital combinations influence NT and CA adoption. In the fourth chapter, I use recurrent events modelling (conditional risk set, conditional frailty, and frailty-mixture) to identify what factors influence the instantaneous adoption risk rate (i.e., speed of adoption) for NT and CA. For both technologies, farmers with greater economic, human, and social capital endowments show higher (and speedier) adoption rates. While these results largely match my expectations, adoption of less-knowledge intensive CFTs may require a different asset endowment mix. Beyond studying CFT adoption, this thesis calls for a wider reform to achieve fairer global food systems. Collectively, this work connects theory and practice and improves our understanding of CFT adoption in Mexico.
170 pages.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Knowler, Duncan
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