Attitudes Behaviors and Sustainable Agriculture

Attitudes are defined as a disposition to respond favorably or unfavorably to an object, person, institution, or event. An attitude is (a) directed toward an object, person, institution, or event; (b) has evaluative, positive or negative, elements; (c) is based on cognitive sustainable agricultural attitudes and behaviors beliefs toward the attitude object (i.e., the balancing between positive and negative attributes of an object leads to an attitude); and (d) has consequences for behavior when confronted with the attitude object (Bergevoet et al. 2004; Karami and Mansoorabadi 2008).

Attitude is a predisposition to act in a certain way. It is the state of readiness that influences a person to act in a given manner (Rahman et al. 1999). Therefore, attitude surveys in agriculture could lead to a more adequate explanation and prediction of farmers' economic behavior and have been used on conservation and environmentally related issues focusing on the influence of attitude variables as predictors of conservation behavior (Dimara and Skuras 1999). Dimara and Skuras (1999) concluded from their research that a significant relationship was found between behavior and the goals and intentions of farmers. This relationship is even stronger when statements on attitudes, social norms, and perceived behavioral control are included (Bergevoet et al. 2004)

Calls for the study of farmers' behavior and what motivates that behavior are not new (Gasson 1973). However, the number of studies that have considered farmers' attitudes toward conservation (MacDonald 1984) is small. Fewer still have studied farmers' conservation actions. Potter (1986) points out that a very limited number have tried to link farmers' actions to their underlying motivations, notwithstanding the discourses on the conservation issues in the countryside (Beedell and Rehman 2000). Almost all studies related to the motivational elements of behavior have stressed that the decision to act in a certain way is affected by a "balancing" or weighing of a number of influences. Lemon and Park (1993) concluded that farmers, when trying to achieve "good practice" on their farms, balance environmental, physical, and commercial factors in their decisions about their farming system. Clark (1989) suggested that farmers' decisions about whether to take advice about conservation were affected by three distinct dimensions: the policy environment facing farmers, the advisory structures in place, and the personality of the farmer.

Discussions of the value to be attributed to the preservation of a natural system invoke two distinct sources of value: extrinsic and intrinsic values. Extrinsic value arises from the fact that the environment increases the satisfaction or utility of humans. In this utilitarian philosophy, nature has value insofar as it is useful or agreeable to humans. The intrinsic value of a natural system exists irrespective of its usefulness or amenity to humans. This view explicitly grants rights to exist to nonhuman species or to the environment as a whole. The intrinsic value approach may thus require decision makers to make decisions knowingly counter to their own present on future interests (Pannell and Schilizzi 1999).

Potter (1986) finds any change in the countryside to be, "both 'determined' by policy, institutional, and family influences and 'intentioned' by the farmer acting as a problem-solving individual." This study differs from most previous studies of farmers' conservation behavior as it does not explicitly consider farmers' investment in conservation (Potter 1986); instead, it is concerned with how and why farmers manage the existing features on their farms (hedges, field margins, woods, and trees). This difference is crucial as there is considerable evidence (Potter 1986; Pieda 1993) to suggest that most farmers have a "creative" rather than "preservative" view of conservation. Most of the previous research shows that advice on tree planting, pond creation, and woodlands is most commonly sought, and that leaving seminatural areas undisturbed is not seen as conservation (Beedell and Rehman 2000). Newby et al. (1977) found that farm size alone could not explain farmers' attitudes toward conservation as larger farmers were both more hostile (agri-businessmen) and more sympathetic (gentleman farmers) to conservation than farmers in general. This finding has led further investigations on the topic to consider both a farmer's interest in conservation and his financial constraints as factors that determine his attitude to conservation (Gasson and Potter 1988). In studying voluntary land diversion schemes, Gasson and Potter (1988) found that the financially least constrained and most conservation orientated farmers were the most receptive to the schemes, asked for below average compensation for the land diverted and offered the most acres.

The way farming is presently practiced across the world and the impact of agriculture on wetlands is determined, to a great extent, by the levels of environmental awareness, knowledge and attitudes of farmers, and stockbreeders (Oakley 1991). A stronger "utilitarian" attitude to the natural environment has been found among farmers owing vulnerable ecosystems compared to other population groups (Wilson 1992; Pyrovetsi and Daoutopoulos 1999). Gigerenzer (1996) pointed out that social context of behavior, such as values and motivations, play an important role in the rationality in peoples' decisions. Thus attitudes have causal predominance over behaviors (Heong et al. 2002).

There is consistent evidence in the literature indicating a relationship between farmers' attitudes toward environment and their farming practices (Fairweather and

Household Sustainable Agricultural Behaviors

Fig. 2.1 Theoretical framework of factors influencing farmers' sustainable agricultural attitudes and behaviors (From Karami and Mansoorabadi 2008). According to this theoretical framework, farmers' action is guided by two kinds of considerations: attitude toward sustainable agriculture and presence of factors that may further or hinder performance of the behavior

Campbell 2003; Rezaei-Moghaddam et al. 2005; Karami and Mansoorabadi 2008). Karami and Mansoorabadi (2008) developed a theoretical framework to explain the relationship between sustainable agricultural attitudes and behaviors. A schematic representation of the theoretical framework of this study is shown in Fig. 2.1. Briefly, according to this theoretical framework, farmers' action is guided by two kinds of considerations:

Attitude toward sustainable agriculture: Religious and spiritual values, quality of life, access to information, personal characteristics, and attitudes of reference group are the factors, which influence farmers' belief system and contribute toward formation of sustainable agricultural beliefs. The framework assumes that religious and spiritual beliefs contribute to farmers' attitudes toward sustainability, or more specifically that spirituality can be a resource in maintaining environment. Furthermore, a correlation between farmers' quality of life and attitudes toward sustainable agriculture is assumed. Farmers who enjoy a better quality of life are expected to possess more positive attitudes toward sustainable agriculture. One feature of this framework is that access to information and type of information received is a fundamental contributor toward attitude formation. Knowledge and information bring confidence, skills, ability, and experience. If farmers believe that it is easy for them to perform, then they are likely to engage in the behavior. Personal characteristics such as farming experience and education are strong determinants of attitudes. Finally, farmers beliefs about the normative expectations of significant others (attitudes of reference group) is a major determinant of attitudes. The view that women are closer to nature because of their nurturing and caring role, leads the model toward assuming that women, due to gender-based division of labor, and their role in attending to the everyday needs of the household, posses an intimate knowledge of the environment. Therefore, even under similar conditions women may develop different attitudes than men regarding sustainable agriculture.

Control factors: These are beliefs about the presence of factors that may further or hinder performance of the behavior (access to resources and feasibility of sustainable agricultural practices). The framework assumes that behaviors are not within a farmer's control. In their respective aggregates, determinants of attitudes result in perceived social pressure or subjective norms; and control factors give rise to perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behavior. In combination, attitude toward the behavior, subjective norm, and perception of behavioral control lead to the practice of a sustainable agricultural behavior. As a general rule, the more favorable the attitude and subjective norm, and given a sufficient degree of actual control over the behavior, farmers are expected to carry out sustainable agricultural behaviors when the opportunity arises. However, because many behaviors pose difficulties of execution that may limit volitional control, it is useful to consider control factors. To the extent that people are realistic in their judgments of a behavior's difficulty, a measure of perceived behavioral control can serve as a proxy for actual control and can contribute to the prediction of the behavior in question. Farmers, who believe that they have neither the resources nor the opportunity to perform sustainable agricultural practices, are unlikely to form strong behavioral intentions to engage in it even if they hold favorable attitudes and believe that important others would approve of their performing the behavior. We would thus expect an association between perceived behavioral control and actual behavior that is not mediated by attitude and subjective norm. Economic factors, access to resources, and feasibility of sustainable agricultural practices significantly affect sustainable agricultural behaviors.

Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but didn't know what to do? Here are the best tips on how to become a true and envied organic gardner.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment