Disaggregating the value of conservation agriculture to inform smallholder transition to sustainable farming: a mexican case study
Conservation Agriculture (CA) is promoted by research and development (R&D) agencies to sustainably intensify agricultural systems with the goals of improving food security and livelihoods and adapting food systems to global climate change. Despite the many benefits of CA, there are few farmers around the world that have simultaneously implemented all facets of the strategy. In part, this reflects the challenges in applying, adapting, and understanding this complex and multi-dimensional agricultural innovation in the context of diverse farming systems. In this paper, we applied an integrated framework that combines bioeconomic simulation, risk analysis, adoption theory, and impact assessment to investigate how various combinations of CA components (no-tillage, soil cover, crop diversification, plus growing a new crop or variety) performed over a 10-year period in representative farms in a central Mexican case study. We found significant differences in profit, net value, downside risk, and risk-aversion cost between double-component scenarios (and improved CA to a lesser extent) and all other scenarios, which suggested that disaggregating CA into smaller component packages could increase farmer adoption in risky contexts. Our findings provided valuable insights on CA feasibility and could help establish policy and reporting metrics. The study highlighted the need for employing a range of research tools to understand the relative value of agricultural innovations and to identify and reduce trade-offs and uncertainty in farming systems.