Agroforestry Information Dissemination and the Social Learning Theory in Pontal do Paranapanema, São Paulo, Brazil

By Wendy Francesconi, PK Ramachandran Nair, Taylor V. Stein, Douglas J. Levey, Jaret C. Daniels and Laury Jr. Cullen.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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The conversion of natural habitats to unsustainable practices that continues in many developing countries can further degrade the agricultural landscape and hinder the development of rural areas. Agroforestry is one of the approaches to addressing this problem. Acquiring the information pertaining to such sustainable practices and disseminating it to land users is a critical step in rural development. With a view to assessing whether Social Learning Theory (SLT) would be useful in understanding the dissemination of agroforestry information among farmers, a survey of farm households was conducted in the Pontal do Paranapanema region of São Paulo state, Brazil, where the on-going agrarian reform has resulted in the fragmentation of natural habitat and agricultural areas. A total of 94 heads-of-households were interviewed about farming practices and sources for agriculture information. The results indicated that farmers with greater social networks and agricultural experience were more likely to adopt agroforestry practices than those who did not have such advantages. The results for SLT provide partial evidence of its applicability to understanding agroforestry behavior dissemination. Two of the theory’s constructs (Imitation and Differential Reinforcement) were significantly correlated with agroforestry adoption. Yet, the other two (Differential Association and Definitions) were not. Confusion on behalf of the farmers about what constitutes an agroforestry practice could account for these results. By understanding how to motivate farmers to adopt agroforestry practices, land stewardship could be improved, making agricultural areas more conducive for environmental conservation and sustainable development.

Keywords: Agrarian Reform, Cognitive Learning Theory, Diffusion of Innovation, Homegardens, Shaded Coffee

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 9, Issue 4, December 2014, pp.1-15. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 760.494KB).

Dr. Wendy Francesconi

FL, USA

Dr. Wendy Francesconi is a Research Ecologist, at the USDA-ARS National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory, Gainesville, Florida, USA. She received her Ph.D. in Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida, and holds a master degree in Environmental Science from Yale University.

PK Ramachandran Nair

Distinguished Professor, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

Dr. PK Nair is a Distinguished Professor at the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida, and Director of the Center for Subtropical Agroforestry. The primary focus of his current research is carbon sequestration and environmental quality under agroforestry systems. Other aspects of his research include soil productivity, component interactions and agroforestry system design and evaluation. He has authored and edited several books and published prolifically in international scientific journals.

Taylor V. Stein

Dr. Taylor V. Stein is a Professor at the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida, and he also serves as the school’s Graduate Coordinator. Dr. Stein’s research efforts are focus on the socioeconomic benefits of natural or near-natural landscapes. Before joining the School, he served as a Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s College of Natural Resources.

Douglas J. Levey

Program Director, Division of Environmental Biology, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA, USA

Dr. Douglas Levey is the Program Director for the Dimensions of Biodiversity and the Population and Community Ecology programs at the National Science Foundation. Prior to this position, Dr. Levey was a Professor at the Department of Zoology at the University of Florida. He is an evolutionary ecologist with a focus on tropical ecosystems, and was the director of the Science Partners in Inquiry-based Collaborative Education (SPICE) program.

Jaret C. Daniels

Associate Professor, Florida Museum of Natural History and Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

Dr. Jaret C. Daniels is an Associate Professor at the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of Florida. He is also Assistant Curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity. His research interests include conservation and population biology, ecology, and biodiversity

Laury Jr. Cullen

Research Coordinator, Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas, Teodoro Sampaio, Sâo Paulo, Brazil

Dr. Laury Cullen is a Researcher and Research Coordinator at the Institute for Ecological Research (Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas) –IPE). His research is focus on large mammal ecology, ecosystem restoration of fragmented landscapes, and community work.