US Long-Term Ecological Research Network
The human dimension of soil and water conservation: a historical and methodological perspective
Although we have had over half a century of federal, state, and private soil and water conservation programs in the United States, the efficacy of these programs on reducing soil loss, reducing further soil quality degradation, and maintaining clean water often is questioned (US GAO, 1977; USDA, 1989). The Iast half century can be characterized by significant investment in the monitoring and modeling of degradation processes, design and cost-sharing the implementation of remedial practices, and developing new institutional arrangements to further the u e of these remedial practices (Bromley, 1991). Nonetheless, erosion, and more recently the recognition of deterioration in oil quality (National Academy of Science, 1993) and its relation to water quality, continues to be of significant concern. Slower to develop ha been a recognition that a comprehensive understanding of agricultural natural resource management must include the belief , motive . and actions of the resource manager; that is, this body of science must include some understanding of the individuals and organizations who manipulate the resource base to achieve their production and profitability objectives. Any scientific analysis of accelerated soil erosion processes must be more than some combination of soil science, agronomy, engineering, accounting, and plant biology-it mu t incorporate the land user or farmer as a central component of this analysis . Simply put, a scientific understanding of erosion processes and their application to the development of technical fixes does not constitute a solution to soil erosion problems. All the good intention of science and technology are meaningless until the farmer actually use the practices. The farmer’ adoption or non-adoption of these practices, and the reasons underlying these behaviors, are critical dimensions for a comprehensive understanding of erosion and conservation processes. Sociological contribution to oil conservation largely are responses to the questions of why accelerated oil erosion occur , its impacts on farmer and communities, how to promote oil conservation, and who is adopting oil conservation and why. The Iast half century has seen a remarkable variety of responses to these questions, and perhaps of equal importance, a variety of methods by which answer to these questions have been pursued. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the sociological research that has examined these questions. Beyond a historical review of these studies, an explicit focus will be on asses sing the extent to which the adoption process for soil conservation practices is predictable, and the research methods used in this effort. The intent is to learn from these past efforts in order to guide future research.
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Ann Arbor Press
Place Published
Chelesa, MI
ISBN Number
NO COPY - 8/06 KG
Citation Key