Understand why farmers continue to plant trees in dry areas

Greg Howard
April 21, 2024

Understand why farmers continue to plant trees in dry areas

Image source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key findings

  • In Cameroon, farmers continued to grow trees after the support due to the perceived success and benefits
  • Continued motivation and financial gain were key to maintaining tree farming practices
  • Community influence and tree growing as a cultural norm also encouraged perseverance
In recent years, the importance of land restoration has been increasingly recognized as a crucial part of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. One approach to encouraging land restoration is to implement tree crop support programs, which aim to actively involve farmers in the process. However, a crucial question arises: What motivates farmers to continue these environmentally friendly practices once the support programs are completed? This issue of ‘behavioral persistence’ is at the heart of a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Pretoria(1). The research focused on the Mogazang landscape in Cameroon, where such tree growing support programs exist. Through a combination of farmer surveys, interviews with key informants and extensive literature review, the researchers sought to uncover the factors that influence whether farmers continue their tree nursery activities after program support ends. The results were enlightening. The researchers found that a farmer’s decision to continue with restoration practices was influenced by several factors. Positive attitudes towards growing trees, perception of its benefits, continued motivation and the financial profitability of maintaining the trees were all significant. Furthermore, community influence played a crucial role in encouraging farmers to continue their efforts. One of the key insights from the research was that the design of these support programs often did not sufficiently take the aspect of behavioral persistence into account. The initial phase of the programs generally did not prepare farmers for the eventual withdrawal of support, which may have left them less equipped to move forward on their own. The findings of this study are especially relevant when looking at previous research on the maintenance of behavior change(2). The previous study emphasized the importance of motives, self-regulation, psychological and physical resources, habits, and environmental and social influences in maintaining behavior change. The University of Pretoria’s research builds on these themes and shows that these factors are indeed critical in the context of land restoration practices. For example, the concept of self-regulation can be linked to the continued motivation that farmers need after completing support programs. Farmers’ positive attitudes and perceptions reflect the role of motives in maintaining new behaviors, while financial benefits align with the resource theme. Community influence refers to the environmental and social factors that can support or hinder the maintenance of behavior change. This research highlights the need for support programs that include strategies that focus on the long-term maintenance of tree growth behavior. By understanding the factors that contribute to behavioral persistence, program designers can create more effective interventions that not only initiate change but also sustain it over time. In conclusion, the University of Pretoria research provides valuable insights into the factors influencing the behavioral persistence of tree growing among farmers. It highlights the gap in current support programs in sustaining behavior change and provides a framework for future program design and policy formulation. By integrating the concept of behavior change maintenance from previous research(2)this study paves the way for more sustainable land restoration practices that can continue to flourish even after initial support fades.



Main study

1) An analysis of the behavioral persistence of tree breeders in the Sudano-Sahelian region of Cameroon

Published on April 19, 2024

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