Loading...

Perceptions of intercropping and the natural undergrowth in rubber plantations

Master's Thesis 2017 133 Pages

Instructor Plans: Agriculture / Forestry / Gardening

Excerpt

Table of content

List of figures

List of tables

Abbreviations

1. Introduction
1.1 Background and problem statement
1.2 Research field and research question
1.3 Structure of the thesis

2. Methodology
2.1 Research method
2.2 Data collection and interview conduction
2.3 Stakeholder group definition
2.4 Analysis
2.4.1 Microsoft Exel-based analysis
2.4.2 Mind maps
2.5 Limitations of the research

3. Results
3.1 Institutions
3.1.1 Perceptions of reasons for and against intercropping
3.1.2 Perceptions of reasons for intercropping
3.1.3 Perceptions of reasons against intercropping
3.1.4 Perceptions of reasons for and against natural undergrowth
3.1.5 Perceptions of leaving the natural undergrowth
3.1.6 Perceptions of removing the natural undergrowth
3.1.7 Perceptions of the use of herbicides in comparison to cutting mechanically

3.2 Estate farms
3.2.1 Perceptions of reasons for intercropping
3.2.2 Perceptions of reasons against intercropping
3.2.3 Perceptions of leaving the natural undergrowth
3.2.4 Perceptions of removing the natural undergrowth
3.3 Smallholdings
3.3.1 Perceptions of economic reasons for intercropping
3.3.2 Perceptions of social reasons for intercropping
I
3.3.3 Perceptions of ecological/agronomic reasons for intercropping
3.3.4 Perceptions of social reasons against intercropping
3.3.5 Perceptions of economic reasons against intercropping
3.3.6 Perceptions of ecological/ agronomic reasons against intercropping
3.3.7 Perceptions of leaving the natural undergrowth
3.3.8 Social perceptions of removing the natural undergrowth
3.3.9 Ecological/agronomic perceptions of removing the natural undergrowth
3.3.10Economic perceptions of removing the natural undergrowth

4. Summary and comparison within the results
4.1 Intercropping
4.1.1 Reasons against intercropping
4.1.2 Reasons for intercropping
4.2 Natural undergrowth
4.2.1 Reasons of removing the natural undergrowth
4.2.2 Reasons of leaving the natural undergrowth

5. Discussion and a critical reflexion
5.1 Understanding of other perceptions
5.2 Perceptions of intercropping
5.3 Perceptions of the natural undergrowth
5.4 Changing agricultural pattern - who to address for future adaptation approaches?
5.5 Opportunities for approaches
5.6 Further research

6. Conclusions

References

VIII Appendix

Preface

The series ‘Natural Rubber Studies’ aims at popularizing studies, assessments, observations related to natural rubber which would otherwise fall into oblivion although they could contribute to a better understanding and probably management of natural rubber. Due to the strict formal and methodological criteria for scientific publications many of such information would never find its way to a wider audience, despite its basic validity. Therefore, this series encourages everybody with valuable and trustworthy - that is comprehensible and documented – information dealing with natural rubber to make it accessible to a wider audience.

‘Perceptions of intercropping and the natural undergrowth in rubber plantations addresses an aspect in rubber plantation management which is largely ignored in the general discussion, the farmers´ point of view. While it is undoubted that the commonly practiced clean-weeding is physically and ecologically detrimental it stays dubious why farmers still practice it despite all the opposing arguments. A commonly used explanation is the fear of snakes. But, interestingly, there is hardly any study supporting this assumption. Quite the contrary, own observations and discussions in rubber plantations of SW China suggest that snakes are not at all perceived as a noteworthy problem. This case study in Malaysia aims therefore at a better understanding of farmers´ perception and motivation to keep their plantations clean.

Gerhard Langenberger

Abstract

Farmers’ perception is crucial for agricultural projects in terms of technology adapta- tion. However, this is often neglected which results in a knowledge gap, leading to failed projects of implementing ecologically friendly agricultural systems. Furthermore, perceptions vary strongly with context, are highly complex, and difficult to comprehend and retrace. This indicates the fundamentality of mutual understanding. Therefore, the discovery of different perceptions was the main motivation of this research.

The objective of this study is to represent those perceptions. To be more precise, the perception of natural undergrowth and intercropping from stakeholders in the rubber cultivation. An insight opens the possibility to involve farmers’ desires. This may pro- vide a path to the aim of creating sustainable systems and make an implementation meaningful. This goal is aimed at the future design of rubber plantations. The reason for this is that rubber is planted in monocultures and occupies a large area in order to meet the huge international demand of a growing world population. Nature and farmers are affected. This indicates the need for action towards an alternative and sustainable planting system. Several studies show the advantageousness of intercropping and di- versified systems. Nevertheless, initial intercropping is applied, but long-term intercrop- ping hardly ever is. Furthermore, in this case natural undergrowth is frequently mini- mized on big-scale farms and partially, in general before manuring, on small scale farms. This research investigates these decisions. It is conducted in order to recognize potential possibilities of implementation opportunities for sustainable systems.

To approach rubber cultivating stakeholder’s perception, a case study was conducted in Northern Malaysia. The method of 30 interviews in a semi-standardized oral survey included pre-interviews, group discussions, ongoing conversations and expert inter- views. Institutional representatives, as well as large-scale and small-scale farmers, were considered. High complexity and diversity of perceptions result in the need for an interactive investigation. Furthermore, the context changes with time and place. There- fore, this study does not aim to provide a generalization. However, similarities can be found with other cases, as it is with a missing bridge between scientific research and farmer’s perception.

The tendency of preference shows overwhelming argumentation against intercropping and against maintaining the natural undergrowth than in favour of it. A strong focus on social and economic factors and a neglect of ecological/agronomic factors appeared.

Ecological/agronomic advantages are obvious for farmers but of inferior importance. Traditional values and living style, bad experiences with former projects, financial as- pects like risk and profitability, more work, a focus on rubber and a lack of interest in intercropping of the estate farmers were reasons for the majority to not apply intercrop- ping. An additional finding is that ethnic communities form a difficult environment for selling fruits and vegetables and therefore decide market possibilities. Particularly, the preference of having a clean plantation makes natural undergrowth undesired. This is a result of pressure from society which unintentionally sets unofficial rules through the connection to a good character and image for all stakeholder groups. Other concerns are the fear of animals, ghosts and competition for fertilizer. The latter relates also to rubber trees being perceived as extremely valuable by smallholders who are often de- pendent on high yields. Estate owners additionally wish to create an attractive working environment due to labour shortage. There are nearly no reasons to keep it. Further- more, spraying is much cheaper and less time-consuming than cutting. For this reason, herbicides are usually sprayed. On small-scale farms in this case, natural undergrowth partially remains, even though it is not desired. Small farmers initially plant cash crops and estate farmers cover crops for mulching. Initial is preferred to long-term intercrop- ping. Explanations, amongst other things, are the need for better income, already ex- isting experiences, reduced risk, economical profitability, less work for weeding and trustworthy advice. A change in the lack of the need to do so is seen as a motivation for long-term intercropping. Additionally, personal attitude and consciousness of its ad- vantages, which are influenced by society’s recognition and economic proof, improved soil conditions and the preference of agroforestry to fruit trees were advocating rea- sons for the majority.

An implication is that it does not lead far to convince farmers in keeping natural under- growth or applying long-term intercropping, which is not precisely investigated. Re- search-based proof on market situations and profitability must be traceable for the farmers. Due to transforming costs, proof of a profit is needed for estates, that is higher than that achieved with initial intercropping. Working together with institutions through the already existing seminars might be a way to gain trust and to promote ecological consciousness for a positive attitude towards new systems. Additionally, acceptance for intercropping with native wood trees exists. This has potential for estates due to affordability. Financial support and implementation advice and help might include other farm systems as well. Furthermore, this support might be a possibility for smallholders to grow cover crops. This is positively connected to successful systems, which are visible on estates. The need for good experiences of other systems might be provided through a model. Among other reasons, for gaining society’s recognition, certification systems might be a motivation for financially strong large-scale farms. This should not compete with the production of smallholders. A changing agricultural pattern expects an increase in the amount of estate farms. Nevertheless, due to the big part of small farmers in Malaysia they remain important. Consequently, different farming systems should be addressed simultaneously for implementations of sustainable systems. Cur- rently, Thailand is the biggest rubber producer worldwide, which makes this country another starting point. The gain of this study is, in particular, the visible importance of the perception of farmers when implementing new agricultural technologies. It shows a large complexity and the need for understanding the centre, which should be included in any further research projects. A wrong path would be to ignore it, which leads to the following conclusion:

(Small-scale) farmers are the centre of agricultural production and can no longer be pushed out of this position and replaced by agricultural projects.

The quotations are largely reproduced in their original form and were minimal linguistically smooth- ened in order to maintain the reading flow.

List of figures

Figure 1 Rubber cub

Figure 2 Three categories and their interfaces

Figure 3 Screenshot of a part of the smallholder analysis. On the left, the category is counted. On the upper end, it is described. Beneath, the sentences are given in the original shape. Blue coloured sentences are used as quotes. Own thoughts are in brackets. Colours stand for allocations of the cluster: Yellow=social; red=economic; green=ecological/agronomic. If a statement is allocated to more than one category, it is noted (not visible in this example). On the right side, statements are anonymized.

Figure 4 Description of the mind map structure with an example for frequency in the yellow social line.

Figure 5 Numbers of arguments from institutions about intercropping

Figure 6 The image had to be removed due to privacy reasons by the editorial staff.

Figure 7 The images had to be removed due to privacy reasons by the editorial staff. 16

Figure 8 Reasons of institutions for intercropping (Relation of frequency of argument: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments; (1)= if mentioned by only one respondent)

Figure 9 Reasons of institutions against intercropping (Relation of frequency of argument: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments)

Figure 10 Numbers of arguments of institutions about the natural undergrowth

Figure 11 Reasons of institutions for and against leaving the natural undergrowth in the rubber plantations (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments)

Figure 12 Summarized advantages of herbicides and cutting in comparison from the view of institutions

Figure 13 Collection place for latex on a rubber estate farm in Sungai Petani, Malaysia

Figure 14 Estate farm with oil palm and rubber. The steep plantation is going to be prepared for rubber in intercropping with cover legumes closed to Sungai Petani, Malaysia

Figure 15 Numbers of arguments of estate owner, manager and tapper about natural undergrowth and intercropping

Figure 16 Numbers of arguments of estate owner about natural undergrowth and intercropping

Figure 17 Reasons of stakeholders of estate farming for intercropping (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments)

Figure 18 Rubber intercropped experimental with pepper on a plantation closed to Hat Yai, Thailand.

Figure 19 Reasons of stakeholders of estate farming against intercropping (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments; (1)= if given by only one respondent)

Figure 20 The images had to be removed due to privacy reasons by the editorial staff.

Figure 21 The images had to be removed due to privacy reasons by the editorial staff.

Figure 22 Reasons of stakeholders from estate farming for leaving the natural undergrowth in the rubber plantations (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments)

Figure 23 Reasons of stakeholders from estate farming against leaving the natural undergrowth in the rubber plantations (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments)

Figure 24 Expert interviews with small farmers, Malaysia

Figure 25 Numbers of arguments from smallholders about natural undergrowth and intercropping

Figure 26 Economic reasons of smallholders for intercropping (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments; (i)= if given by a Thai respondent, who applies long term intercropping [S12] )

Figure 27 Initial intercropping of rubber with papaya. Papaya was said to be three and the rubber less than five years old. The location is close to Sungai Petani, Malaysia

Figure 28 Agroforestry - Rubber and various wood trees, close to Hat Yai, Thailand

Figure 29 Social reasons of smallholders for intercropping part one and two (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments; (i)= if given by a Thai respondent, who applies long term intercropping [S12] )

Figure 30 "The tree should not be chopped down, just because I build a house"[S12] - attitude and house of an intercropping applying smallholder close to Hat Yai, Thailand

Figure 31 Ecological/agronomic reasons of smallholders for intercropping (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments; (i)= if given by one Thai respondent, who applies long term intercropping [S12] )

Figure 32 Old rubber plantation with a banana tree from the initial intercropping closed to Sungai Petani, Malaysia

Figure 33 Social reasons of smallholders against intercropping part one and two (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments; (i)= if given by one Thai respondent, who applies long term intercropping [S12] )

Figure 34 Traditional Malay fruit yard (so called “pusun”), which is used for self -catering. Here are several fruit trees kept together with cows. [S6]

Figure 35 Economic reasons of smallholders against intercropping (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked; (i)= given by the Thai long term intercropper [S12] ; (+i) argument of long term intercropper and others)

Figure 36 Bee holding, chicken holding and a nursery farm in combination with rubber, different locations in Malaysia

Figure 37 Ecological/ agronomic reasons of smallholders against intercropping (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked; (i)= if given by one respondent, who applies long-term intercropping [S12] )

Figure 38 Reasons of smallholders to leave the natural undergrowth (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked; (i)= if given by one Thai respondent, who keeps very wild natural undergrowth[S12] )

Figure 39 Managed plantation with wild-growing natural undergrowth and a drop irrigation system; Thailand [12]

Figure 40 On the left-hand side is an estate farm that applies blanket spray with the weeding gang. On the right-hand side is an unmanaged small holding with natural undergrowth for, which at times is used for “slaughter tapping”.

Figure 41 Social reasons of smallholders to remove the natural undergrowth (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked)

Figure 42 Two plantations of the same owner with different management preferences in Baling, Malaysia

Figure 43 Ecological/ agronomic reasons of smallholders to remove the natural undergrowth (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked)

Figure 44 Economic reasons of smallholders to remove the natural undergrowth (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked)

Figure 45 Most frequently mentioned reasons for and against intercropping of all stakeholder respondents (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked; Category: yellow=social; red=economy; green=ecologic/agronomic)

Figure 46 Most frequently mentioned reasons for and against leaving the natural undergrowth of all stakeholder respondents (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked; Category: yellow=social; red=economy; green=ecologic/agronomic)

List of tables

Table 1 Interview types and the amount of all conducted interviews

Table 2 Number of interview partners and their category

Table 3 Interview details and anonymization of interview partners from the category of institutions

Table 4 Interview details and anonymization of interview partners from the category of estate farming

Table 5 Interview details and anonymization of interview partners from the category of small farmers

Table 6 Numbers noted during one expert interview [I8]

Table 7 Number of different people, mentioning a crop for initial intercropping during all interviews conducted and during the interviews with smallholders only

Table 9 Focus of interest from smallholders on rubber plantations. Smallholders named up to three different foci

Table 10 Comparison of cutting grasses and using herbicides. Numbers noted during one expert interview from an institutional representative. Information given by smallholders is framed. [I8]

Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. Introduction

1.1 Background and problem statement

“Try to see the world out of different eyes” [I8]

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1 Rubber cub

Natural rubber can be obtained from the para-rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis (Willd. Ex A. Juss.) Müll. Arg., which is an important renewable resource and fundamental in modern industrialization. Its origin is located in the Amazon basin. From there it was distributed to the African and Asian continents. In this way, rubber plantations caused a conversion of forests on a large scale in the early 1900s in Malaysia (Ratnasingam et al., 2015). Malaysia’s rainforest is recognized for a high diversity and one of the most complex ecosystems along with twelve other countries around the world (Jusoff, 2008). However, natural forests declined quickly while, in particular, oil palm plantations grew (FAO, 2011) and thus turning Malaysia into an agricultural-based country.

A large area of land is occupied in order to meet a growing international demand for rubber (Warren-Thomas, Dolman, & Edwards, 2015). Though in total, rubber planta- tions decline as well in Malaysia (FAO, 2011), due to low profitability and unstable prices (Gouyon, 2003; MRB, 2017). Nevertheless, rubber is still important to the Ma- laysian economy and the livelihood of approximately 200.000 smallholder families managing approximately 95 percent and estate farmers approximately five percent of the rubber plantations (Rubber Plantation & Processing Technologies, 2009).The de- pendency of rubber farmers on a good rubber price points to an unsteady situation and contributes to a rural depopulation trend, in particular of young people. An increasing unpopularity of agricultural work creates a labor shortage (Freske, 2013; Gouyon, 2003) on the country side.

Rubber plantations are usually planted in monocultures, which cause ecological ef- fects. Climate change, scarcity of resources, increasing world population as well as forest and species extinction are increasingly gaining attention. Smallholders apply in- itial intercropping with cash crops, while estate farms plant cover crops. Besides, sus- tainable long-term intercropping systems like agroforestry are not practiced in Malay- sia. A similar relation in rubber intercropping systems can be observed worldwide, which was highlighted by a respondent of this study [I10]. This stands contrary to scien- tific research assessments about suitable alternatives and sustainable systems, which indicates a lack of mutual understanding.

Malaysia is a land of diversity, which can be seen in the natural ecosystem as well as the society with a high percentage of minorities and various cultures and religions. This enrichment shows the need to deal with complexity for comprehension. Furthermore, different rubber-cultivation-connected stakeholders make it necessary to consider var- ious perceptions in order to retrace decisions.

Consequently, alternative agricultural systems, in order to spare environmental im- pacts for reaching a sustainable working balance between agriculture and nature and to improve farmers’ situation, are fundamental.

1.2 Research field and research question

The background idea of this case study is to picture the perception of different stake- holders in the rubber cultivation. Many studies deal with ecological/agronomic issues, which often do not consider the perception of farmers. This includes: what they expe- rience in praxis, how they perceive the rubber management and, in particular, what is important to them. Understanding the perception and situation creates a foundation for better communication and makes an implementation meaningful. This might be a pos- sibility to create a sustainable approach towards environmentally friendly systems.

This study was carried out in Northern Malaysia, mainly in the states Kedah and Perlis. The view of two stakeholders from Southern Thailand, closed to Hat Yay were included due to the lack of long-term intercropping systems in Malaysia.

This work illuminates the perception from people who work in rubber cultivation related institutions as well as from estate farming representatives. The opinions from an es- tate owner, estate manager and tapper are included. Likewise, the arguments of ste- reotyped and exceptional smallholders gained attention.

An overview on various opinions in order to understand the perception of different stakeholders in terms of intercropping and the natural undergrowth is consequently provided in the results. By taking a broad view on the current situation, the aim is to answer the following questions:

1. What are the perceptions?
2. What are different and similar perceptions among the categorized groups?
3. What are important arguments for the majority?
4. Whom to address and where is it better not to intervene?
5. What are possible incentives and approaches?
6. Where is further research needed?

1.3 Structure of the thesis

The results of the thesis are structured according to the different stakeholder groups. Beginning with institutions, it leads to the results of estate representatives and ends with findings from typical and exceptional smallholders. Within those groups, their rea- sons for and against intercropping and natural undergrowth are illuminated. Frequently appearing arguments as well as a contemplation of all groups together can be found in the summarized results. Based on these deliverables, the discussion will focus on the above-listed questions, including an outlook on possibilities and further research.

2. Methodology

In the following section, the methodological foundations of the scientific knowledge gained in this thesis are described. In doing so, the approach of the work and the theory of applied methods are described.

2.1 Research method

The research method consists of a case study approach. This is chosen to study the research questions. Case research could be defined as a “research method that in- volves investigating one or a small number of social entities or situations about which data are collected using multiple sources of data and developing a holistic description through an ite rative research process” (Easton, 2010, p.119) The key opportunity case it has to offer is to understand a phenomenon in depth and comprehensively (Easton, 2010, p.119). This allows the researcher to analyse a complex set of factors and re- lationships, albeit in one or a small number of instances” (Easton, 2010, p.119). Nev- ertheless this approach is criticized for providing little basis for scientific generalization (Yin, 2003).

“Indeed, the case study is probably best understood as an ideal type rather than a method with hard and fast rules. Yet the fact that the case study is fuzzy round the edges does not mean that it doesn't have distinctive characteristics” (Gerring, 2009, p.346).

During the interview process, more and different questions arose, which significantly influenced, added and changed the structure towards new insights. As the interviews were conducted, the question of “how and why” was focused on, which offers ad- vantages, compared to other research methods, in understanding complex social phe- nomena (Yin, 2003).

This thesis does not aim to be generalized and follows an approach of exploration during the investigation. Therefore, and for letting the perception of farmers decide the results, this approach is assessed to be suitable.

2.2 Data collection and interview conduction

The data was collected through 30 interviews. Pre-meetings, group discussions, on- going conversations and expert interviews were conducted (table 1). The pre-meetings were crucial for structuring the questionnaires. Furthermore, they enabled contacts op- tions for interview partners. A “snowball effect” started, which means that there were increasing possibilities of connecting with interview partners. Each interview took around one to two hours. They included a start in conversation and continued in fol- lowing the structure of the question guide. Often the conversation continued for several more hours. In order to gain the perception of stakeholders it is more suitable to use qualitative open-end interviews in a small amount then many short-structured inter- views (Hubermann & Miles, 2002). Therefore, different interview types were con- ducted, according to the situation provided.

Table 1 Interview types and the amount of all conducted interviews

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

A semi-standardized oral survey was chosen in order to provide the possibility for the experts to express their opinion and perception (Gläser & Laudel, 2010). This is called a guideline interview, which is part of the qualitative data collection (Gläser & Laudel, 2010). In this way, the structure was maintained, which kept a focus on the hypothesis and results comparable, but left explorative space for new findings simultaneously. This open nature of the study allowed interactive investigation into new insights. Key questions that reflect the central questionnaire as well as eventual questions, which can be asked depending on the conversation history, were included (Schnell, Hill, & Esser, 2011).

A main structure for the guiding questions was prepared with little differences in the eventual questions for the different stakeholder categorizes. The questionnaire begins with general introduction questions about the background of rubber cultivation and continues with questions about management and motivation for growing rubber in monocultures. Then, the perception about mixed cropping is illuminated. Furthermore, it continues with the management and opinion about natural undergrowth and biodi- versity. Relationship and connection questions to other stakeholder groups are in- cluded. Finally, space is given for further suggestions, wishes, concerns and topics that were not addressed. Additionally, a small closed questionnaire followed for com- pletion. Those were taken for the possibility to connect the results to clusters.

Some interviews were not recorded, due to the fact that some felt insecure or insulted, making them feel that their input was untrusted. However, the information was noted during the interviews and used for the analysis. Ongoing conversations took all day, for which reason a recording was excluded as well. During the conversation, due to language barriers, gestures and facial expressions improved the mutual understand- ing. A word-for-word transcription would therefore lead away rather than towards the core. In this case, notes can represent a more realistic image. Eleven recordings were used to verify the transcription. The transcription was performed through documenting notes during all interviews. The statements were directly used as results. In another study, it was argued that individually focused interviews, which “replace audio tran- scriptions with a combination of simultaneously taken and jointly produced notes can be done without affecting reliability, validity and transparency (Clausen, 2012, p.1).

The author of this thesis strongly agrees with the statement that it is difficult to gain deep insight in less than an hour (Silverman, 2013). Therefore, all information given by the interview partners, even when they were out of the official interview time borders were included.

2.3 Stakeholder group definition

The first focus was to cover a wide range of stakeholders. This included representa- tives from institutions, estate farming and smallholding.

Smallholdings accounted for 95,7 percent in 2007 of the planted area in Malaysia, meanwhile the other part is occupied by estate farms (Rubber Plantation & Processing Technologies, 2009). Smallholdings are defined to occupy an area less than 100 acres (approximately 40 hectares) (RISDA, 2017). However, most smallholder respondents of this study said that the majority of them own a plantation area of approximately two hectares [I1].

A relatively large amount of typical Malay smallholders were integrated, since this is most representative in Malaysia (Rubber Plantation & Processing Technologies, 2009). The definition, from own observations for a typical smallholder, is as followed:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In order to not have a biased and rather diverse view, data was selected additionally, following an extreme pattern . This means that farmers with different features were

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The ethnic diversity in Malaysia led to the inclusion of Indian, Chinese and additionally Thai smallholders. Translation was necessary for approximately half of all interviews. This was one of the criteria, related to education, which served to include English- speaking and non-English-speaking stakeholders in the interview sample.

Estate farming in this survey was included by representatives from three different oc- cupations. Estate owner, estate manager and tapper were considered. It is common that employees live on big scale farms, which also have small plantation villages. The weeding gang was not included, due to minimal decision power and their need of pay- ment orientation [E1]. They are mainly foreigners and hired by estate farms [E1].

The institution category included the “custodian of the rubber industry in Malaysia”, the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) (MRB, 2017). Furthermore, Rubber Industries Smallholder Development Authority (RISDA) was considered, which communicates di- rectly with smallholders and is in charge of replanting in this sector. This includes providing items and advice for them (RISDA, 2017). Currently, the institutions support smallholders in poverty with subsidies and give fertilizer to smallholders who are reg- istered with RISDA for the first 6 years (RISDA, 2017). RISDA and MRB interact less with estate farms. Additionally, this study included the opinion from employees of a company, which provides tools for rubber cultivation and from a university representative, who is focusing on rubber ecology and integrates a scientific view.

Beyond that, the survey also included the perception of a villager and a town dweller, who were not themselves participating in rubber cultivation but connected with it through their family. Other extensional cases were two Thai representatives, who were included due to long-term intercropping experiences.

In the following tables one is able to recognize number and distribution of the interview partners (table 2). Furthermore, the anonymization is traceable for institution (table 3), estate farming (table 4) and smallholder representatives (table 5).

Table 2 Number of interview partners and their category

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 3 Interview details and anonymization of interview partners from the category of institu- tions

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 4 Interview details and anonymization of interview partners from the category of estate farming

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 5 Interview details and anonymization of interview partners from the category of small farmers

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

2.4 Analysis

The analysis and evaluation of the expert interviews were achieved with the help of a written version (Fuß & Karbach, 2014). This transference is described by the social research as transaction (Friebertshäuser, Boller, & Richer, 2010).

The summary transcript documents shortened the most important statements, whereby the exact wording does not have to be reproduced. In the journalistic tran- script, the colloquial expressions are smoothened and transferred into a written lan- guage. (Fuß & Karbach, 2014). Interviews were transcribed with written notes and partly by the sound of audio records in a Microsoft Word document. This type of tran- scription corresponds to the two described transcript types. The interview guide was used as an orientation in order to achieve the aim of a comparable text design.

The interview statements were assigned to categories in a Microsoft Exel-based sys- tem. Later they were anonymised to ensure an impossible allocation.

2.4.1 Microsoft Exel-based analysis

The data was evaluated through an Exel-based analysis (figure 3). Categories and subcategories were defined and the interview content was assigned. The same argumentations were clustered and then summarized in a category. This analysis is sup- posed to uphold the content and show the exact perception of the experts. This was conducted separately for institutions, estate farms and smallholdings.

Orientation was the method of Mayring (Mayring, 2015), who distinguishes three basis forms of qualitative content analysis: The summary, explication and structuring through a category system of the interview material (Mayring, 2015). Following this method, categories were deductive and subcategories were mainly developed inductively (Mayring, 2015). A content-based structuring was carried out for the work, so that cer- tain information could be summarized from the material and only non-content-relevant text passages were filtered out (Mayring, 2015).

Within these categories and subcategories of the analysis additional allocations were carried out. Three categories made the results facilitated accessible and graphical. This assignment makes it possible to provide an image and overview of the percep- tions, despite a wide range of responses.

Social arguments are in the first line those who are characterised through society, personal preferences, culture, religion and character. Furthermore, examples are cul- ture, religion, fear, attitude, motivation, tradition and focus with a social explanation.

Economic arguments were most closely related to financial aspects, efficiency, output and the return. Furthermore, time and work aspects were, depending on the way of argumentation, frequently assigned here as well.

Ecological/ Agronomic arguments were related to agricultural, environmental and ecological aspects. Additionally, nature elements, such as animal concerning issues were included.

Those three categories are often closely related to each other (figure 2). But due to the mentioned simplified representation, arguments are assigned mostly to one category.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3 Screenshot of a part of the smallholder analysis. On the left, the category is counted. On the upper end, it is described. Beneath, the sentences are given in the original shape. Blue coloured sentences are used as quotes. Own thoughts are in brackets. Colours stand for allo- cations of the cluster: Yellow=social; red=economic; green=ecological/agronomic. If a state- ment is allocated to more than one category, it is noted (not visible in this example). On the right side, statements are anonymized.

Furthermore, the arguments were counted to gain a general overview of the preferred direction of arguing. The numbers were depicted in diagrams. This method does not pay focus to the exact number but rather towards the trend.

2.4.2 Mind maps

Additionally, mind maps were created. The results are very complex and connected in various ways. For this reason, the mind maps are part of the analysis. It is essential to see the perception structured and allocated to make it accessible. All statements given in the interviews are included in order to give a representative view. These mind maps are simultaneously table of contents for the reader’s orientation. In the written part, the details explain the motivation for clustering the arguments this way. The scheme of colours stays consistent with all methods. Yellow lines refer towards social, red lines to economic and green lines towards ecological/agronomic aspects.

Stars are used to make the frequency of mentioned arguments visible within the mind maps. The relation is always considered within a depicted mind map. Three stars [***] are used if an argument is used by many respondents in relation. With less frequency, the number of stars decreases to [**] and [*]. If it is not marked, it means it was men- tioned relatively seldom, and in most cases only once. The star assessment is also used if an argument is only mentioned by a few people, but with an extraordinary focus. In this case, the stars are marked additionally with the specific number of people in brackets. For instance, ***[1], means one respondent mentioned this argument very often. Another mark added is [i]. This means the argument is said by a Thai farmer who applies long-term rubber agroforestry and maintains wild undergrowth.

The exact numbers of people referring to an argument were not written, due to the large amount of material. If the exact number was written the picture would become even more complex and the focus on gaining an image of the perception would be lost. Furthermore, this survey is not about precise numbers. It was assessed to be negligible if nine or ten people referred to an argument, however a comparison of one to ten people was seen to be meaningful.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 4 Description of the mind map structure with an example for frequency in the yellow social line.

2.5 Limitations of the research

Understanding the perception of others is a complex and time consuming process and requires an intense confrontation with people and their environment. Time was limited to three months, for which the regional exploration towards interviews was restricted.

Therefore, this research focused on the north of Malaysia, also due to this area being the “rubber zone” with the biggest area of planted rubber plantations. Additionally, the research focused on a limited number of interviews, trying to have a broad insight into the perception of intercropping and inter-weeding of rubber.

3. Results

3.1 Institutions

3.1.1 Perceptions of reasons for and against intercropping

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 5 Numbers of arguments from institutions about intercropping

Figure number 5 shows a tendency of the given arguments by representatives of insti- tutions. The arguments against intercropping were stronger in number and, here in particular, those that stress social and economic aspects. Ecological issues did not hold much importance. Reasons for intercropping were more comparable in number in terms of social, economic and ecological related answers.

Figures 6&7 [The images had to be removed due to privacy reasons by the editorial staff.]

3.1.2 Perceptions of reasons for intercropping

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 8 Reasons of institutions for intercropping (Relation of frequency of argument: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments; (1)= if mentioned by only one respondent)

These results include the opinions of the representatives of institutions. These opinions are strongly based on a scientific point of view. Social, economic and ecological/agro- nomic arguments were all included, with a greater emphasis on the economical ones. Social answers were strongly driven by the opinion that farmers’ consciousness plays an important role. This was expressed through statements such as farmers tend to do intercropping if they have an “environmental spirit” or an “open mind”. Another reason mentioned was the awareness that children might benefit from long-term agroforestry systems, which would then be a heritage for them.

“This farmer does intercropping because he has an environmental spirit in his mind. He does not talk about money. This is the way people start with those alter- native systems.” [I8]

This was strongly connected to society, the pursuit of social appreciation, recognition and the feeling of belonging to society and being accepted in order to feel proud, happy and good.

“The recognition of their heart is more important than money.” [I8]

Furthermore, access to the internet opens the possibility to use YouTube (http://www.youtube.com) and to exchange expert knowledge within farmer societies. This maximizes on popularity and could increase the rate of adaptation to intercropping systems.

“Farmers can grow everything; they are experts” [I8]

Trust is another factor that influences the adaptation of intercropping, since theft occurs less if the house is close to the plantation and if wood trees instead of fruit trees are planted in between the rubber rows. Trust in recommendations, either from the gov- ernment or in those given by other farmers, exists partially.

From an economic view, intercropping was supported by many respondents with the argument of lowering the risk of an unsteady income, since the price of rubber is low and unstable. In the case of smallholders, the need for additional income in the initial period was pointed out. The management aspect was also stressed and mentioned frequently by the institutions, meaning less work, less costs for herbicides and more output due to an expanded tapping period. In the case of estate farming, land is some- times leased out in the initial phase to maintain the land. Consequently, a third party produces cash crops in the first years.

Many scientific economic arguments based on scientific papers were addressed by the institutions. One Thai respondent emphasized that agroforestry has a good economic return. Further examples for this argumentation were the good price for wood export and that no negative economic impacts for farmers were found with these systems.

In terms of agroforestry, rubber wood is not allowed to be exported in order to keep local prices affordable. The price for rubber wood is low. Growing other wood trees in agroforestry systems could be beneficial .” [I1]

Furthermore, very few respondents referred to farmers’ associations for transportation in Thailand. This excludes the need for middle men and was seen to make the situation for intercropping suitable. In terms of Malaysia, intercropping was seen to be econom- ically appropriate since the Malaysian Government gives support and advice through MRB and RISDA. A recommendation from MRB and RISDA is to grow cover crops, in particular legumes in the initial phase of the rubber cultivation. Cover crops are applied by estate farmers in the immature phase. This possibility is restricted to farmers who have enough financial resources because of the high investment cost.

Ecological/ agronomic arguments were, in particular about the improved soil quality. In initial intercropping systems, weeds are suppressed, which influences the manage- ment and the need for herbicides. For agroforestry systems, many scientific arguments were mentioned by one Thai respondent: such as better balance, faster decomposi- tion, more nutrients, litter and roots. Considered particularly important was the better root growth, since water is a key factor in rubber production, and more water can be kept in the soil. Those systems contain more young roots, which lead to more water uptake.

“More foliage increases decomposing. It goes 1.5times faster. The ecological sys- tem is more balanced." [I8]

The existence of suitable shade tolerant plants and an increased biodiversity were no- ticed by very few respondents.

3.1.3 Perceptions of reasons against intercropping

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 9 Reasons of institutions against intercropping (Relation of frequency of argument: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments)

Many social reasons were given and often the importance of tradition was addressed (figure 5). This was connected with rejection of adaptation, which was explained by farmers not getting enough recognition for these systems, having doubts, fear of change and in particular that they do not see the necessity for it. Pride and remaining in a comfort zone supported the argument of tradition as well. The opinion is that farm- ers do not have enough incentives for a change, and therefore prefer to handle their plantations in a conventional way.

It always worked. Why should they change it? People change if necessary. Be- fore that they tend to stay in a comfort zone." [I8]

Missing trust was also a significant argument, which was frequently mentioned by the respondents. It includes the unknown, which is connected to risk, failed governmental advice, theft, distrusted middle men (who are needed by smallholders for transporta- tion due to the location) and bad experience with failed projects. In this category, it was highlighted by one respondent that there is no model for orientation, which is necessary for the adaptation of another system.

Different cultures have different argumentations. Even though Thailand and Malaysia are neighbours, there are differences in behaviour. The farmers in Malaysia openly share information about rubber yield with other farmers, whereas farmers in Thailand are more reluctant to do so. Furthermore, Malay farmers prefer simplicity. Many re- spondents explained that cultural characteristics are important factors for the rejection of adaptation of a new system.

Farmers in Thailand do not talk about the yield. This is a very private topic. Only the price is mentioned to anyone. [I8]

It was often mentioned that ethnic communities shape the market and provide barriers for certain smallholders, dependent on the location and their access to different com- munities.

“The Market is controlled by communities. Chinese, for example, they won't buy from Indian or Malay because they have their own supply. [I0]

Many smallholders are old, which sets restriction for intercropping, in that it makes the management more complicated and challenging. Furthermore, carelessness and lack- ing inspiration were arguments that were mentioned peripherally.

The economic arguments were nearly as many as the social ones (figure 5). The ma- jority of respondents explained the financial aspects, including additional cost for ferti- lizer, missing capital and not sufficient profitability.

“If the price is low and the land is occupied, it would be a waste of time. Inter- cropping is recommended, but important is the question which is the best plant, in order to gain the highest return of money .” [I0]

Several respondents indicated that investment costs for cover crops are a barrier for smallholders. Many smallholders cannot afford to grow legumes as cover crops. Be- sides, smallholders often prefer crops which provide a direct income.

A common reason provided by several respondents for bad experiences and failed recommendations of the government, was the market. The crops used for intercrop- ping had worse prices than rubber.

With coffee and rubber, it happened that the prices of coffee deceased during the harvest time of coffee .” [I6]

It was profitable and the better income came from rubber. They removed the cof- fee. [I1]

Rubber together with chicken, goats…even birds. The problem is the same. The price is low.” [I0]

During my time with Rubber Research Institute, we carried out integrated farm- ing with rubber but failed miserably. We can only cultivate other crops on the land planted with rubber for the fi rst two years after replanting.” [I10]

These reasons are strengthened by the lack of sufficient scientific evidence, which was highlighted by some respondents. More investigation is needed to make sure that in- tercropping, in particular long-term agroforestry is profitable.

The aspect of having more work was mentioned frequently as well. Agroforestry sys- tems especially, have greater distances. Therefore, more time is needed to tap the trees.

It is a boring job and nobody wants to spend more time there then necessary.

Maybe they even have to jog with those distances!” [I0]

Animals were mentioned sometimes to play an important role from an economic point of view. Farmers have to protect, or share the food crops with other living beings. If animals are a disturbing factor on the plantations or not, depends on the location of the plantation,

"Elephants are always hungry and angry and like to eat the intercropped bananas. Meanwhile they are destroying the plantation and leave it together with the frus- trated farmer behind". [I0]

It was said by a few respondents that middle men are untrustworthy because they are accused of charging too much. Less of a concern but still mentioned, was that estate farmers are more profit-orientated for a commercial production and consequently will not risk something uncertain. Another point of one respondent related to estate farming was that many different interest groups are involved and often do not see a benefit in intercropping.

They need a middle man, what makes the prices worse. This is necessary because they are selling on a small scale. They often do not have the transportation possi- bilities and own only a motorcycle. [I9]

Ecological and agronomic reasons were far less used compared to social and eco- nomic ones. There were as many ecological arguments against intercropping as there were in favour of it (figure 5). The broadest concern given by some respondents was the impairment of the rubber yield. It was said that the rubber growth is decelerated, delaying the first harvest.

"There is the concern that the rubber plant will be disturbed" [I6]

Rubber together with other plants have a smaller diameter after 4-5 years .” [I0] Regarding initial intercropping, it was also said by very few that farmers do not want to lose the subsidised, valuable fertilizer to less valuable crops.

“They get a certain amount of fertilizer. They don't want to share these subsidies with lower income plants.” [I6]

“Rubber trees do not get enough fertilizer” [I18]

Some described problems with pests for intercropping in the initial phase. Concerning long-term agroforestry, it was said that with regular tree distances it simply gets too shady. Consequently, the number of rubber trees had to be reduced. Fungal problems appeared, due to a higher humidity.

Marginally, it was mentioned by one respondent that more maintenance is necessary and this reverses the advantage of an uncomplicated rubber which can easily be left alone.

"The advantage of rubber is that it can be left alone. One does not have to take care much" [I0]

3.1.4 Perceptions of reasons for and against natural undergrowth.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 10 Numbers of arguments of institutions about the natural undergrowth

According to the number of arguments, leaving natural undergrowth is mainly justified ecologically by the representatives of the institutions, whereas removing it is explained with a focus on social reasons (figure 10).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 11 Reasons of institutions for and against leaving the natural undergrowth in the rubber plantations (Relation of frequency of arguments: ***= strong; **= middle strong; *= slightly stronger then unmarked arguments)

3.1.5 Perceptions of leaving the natural undergrowth

The arguments that focused on ecological/agronomic reasons for leaving the natural undergrowth got the highest attention in the interviews with the representatives of in- stitutions. Still, the attention was not high, compared to the amount of answers that were given against leaving the undergrowth. Within this category there was an agree- ment by a few respondents that natural undergrowth leads to less erosion and contrib- utes to a better soil quality. Especially in the immature phase there should be some weeds for those purposes.

For the young rubber, it is good to leave some weeds.” [I6]

Weeds are needed to moisture the soil and to avoid erosion. More are for those reasons better .” [I5]

It was slightly highlighted as well that in the mature phase there is no need to think about this issue since the trees have closed branches that do not give enough light for weed to grow. Then there is no need for farmers to remove the natural growth anyway.

“Anyway, it is just left naturally if the rubber is mature.” [I0]

The farmers are ecologically conscious that chemicals, especially in a huge amount, have adverse effects also on the trees.

“Sma llholders do not like to apply chemicals because they believe that this is not good for the roots on the top.” [I10]

On the topic of animals, it was said that snakes are there anyway and it does not make a big difference especially since they are not present in large quantities. Previously, there were more accidents with snakes, however in general, they only attack if they feel threatened and nowadays workers use boots, which means serious snakebites have also become rare.

“Snakes hardly attack” [I10]

From the category of social explanations, it was mentioned that there is no advice given, which recommend the total removal of the natural undergrowth. The official rec- ommendation is to leave at least two feet and to put glyphosate only next to the trees.

"The concept is not to have clean weeding. The concept is not a clean concept." [I9] Furthermore, it was explained that farmers do not care much if there is undergrowth or not. Very few representatives of the institutions have the opinion that farmers are not scared of animals, since they are raised in the countryside. They claim that this is more a fear from people, who are not raised in the countryside.

Some people are scared of snakes and animals, but those people are used to all sorts of things, la. They are so much used to work in the bush, so they will work in the bush. [I10]

One respondent mentioned that this is a topic which does not appear to be important for some smallholders and that they do not care if natural undergrowth is growing or not.

Economically it was said by one respondent that herbicides are costly. Therefore, farmers try to reduce the application to the immature phase of the rubber trees and try to cut weeds mechanically in between the rubber rows.

3.1.6 Perceptions of removing the natural undergrowth

Social arguments were strong in representation. Above all, the social aspect of having a “clean” or “clear” plantation was seen to be important. It was mentioned frequently and was underlined by arguments such as: it shows that people are hard-working, disciplined and not lazy. In general, it is regarded as “better”. Another reason was to maintain the tradition and peripherally it was mentioned that there are less animals if the plantation is not too “wild”.

“It is good to keep it clean. Cutting is good as well. Farmers like it this way .” [I9]

“If there is a jungle, nobody wants to go in. [I10]

The MRB and RISDA give recommendations. For example, to apply herbicides next to the trees. It was stressed that these are only given as advice and not rules. The deci- sion stays with the farmer.

From an economic view the most important point was to provide a good working con- dition. Either on estate plantations for the tappers (since nobody wants to do this job anyway) or for the own pursuit of the smallholders making work easier and more en- joyable.

An additional point was that in Thailand it is important to remove the undergrowth since subsidies will not be provided for a “wild” plantation.

For the future, the representatives from institutions assume that the image of farms will change in general and this will bring a change towards an even more “clean concept” in order to have a commercial and profitable production.

The conservative ones will be passed away soon and I guess educated ones will be the next farmers. The children of the farmers will not continue this job. It will be further disconnected and money will gain more and more importance. I guess plantations will not look this wild with herbs in between of the rows. There will be a faster chain production and farms will become bigger. [I8]

Ecologically/agronomically speaking, the argument against keeping the natural un- dergrowth was explained mainly with the reason that the rubber trees, in particular young ones, do not get enough fertilizer.

“Herbicides are used to benefit the young trees, because otherwise they c annot take up the fertilizer.” [I9]

The argument about wild animals coming more often to the plantation was very con- tradictory. Some representatives saw it as a reason against intercropping, but just as many assessed it not to be a problem. It was pointed out that different locations deal with different animals. In some regions, elephants and tigers were seen, whereas in other places farmers never saw these animals. Connected to the ecological side of things, animals could be a problem and cause economic problems. In very wild plan- tation, where one cannot see far animals can cause anxiety, which is part of human nature.

Sometimes there are a lot of animals, even elephants and tigers .” [I6]

“Only leaches will be there” [I10]

When asked about the perception of farmers concerning biodiversity, it was the opinion of the representatives of institutions, that they do not focus on this issue and it is less important to most of them.

[...]

Details

Pages
133
Year
2017
ISBN (eBook)
9783668924888
ISBN (Book)
9783668924895
Language
English
Catalog Number
v454103
Institution / College
University of Hohenheim
Grade
1,7
Tags
Rubber Kautschuk Malaysia Asia Intercropping Natural undergrowth Smallfarmers Estate farmers Sustainability Smallholder agroforestry initial intercropping longterm intercropping social ecological economical Thailand attitude tropical agriculture

Author

Share

Previous

Title: Perceptions of intercropping and the natural undergrowth in rubber plantations