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To encourage the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices amongst farmers one needs to understand what drives their decision-making processes. This study examined commercial dairy farmers’ perceptions of sustainable agriculture and documented their level of adoption of sustainable practices. Sixty-five respondents, a quarter of the dairy farmers in the Eastern Cape, completed the questionnaire. The farmers emphasized economic and environmental aspects of sustainability over its social dimensions. They were overwhelmingly positive about sustainable agriculture and its potential role in ensuring the long-term success of commercial agriculture in South Africa. Levels of adoption of sustainable practices varied, with certain practices widely adopted (e.g. the calculation of fertiliser requirements based on soil tests), some partially adopted (e.g. limiting chemical pesticides), while in the case of others adoption was limited (e.g. waste recycling). Adoption rates were correlated with attitudes to sustainability. These farmers’ appreciation of the benefits of sustainable agriculture could be used to motivate them to do more but they face many real and perceived challenges in the process of doing so. More research could make it much easier for them to comply with societal ideals.

This Working Paper can be downloaded from here.

Craig Galloway