For the foreseeable future, there is probably a need for both types of production environments. In some cases, individual producers are incorporating both into their overall agricultural enterprises. Concerns about sustainability in agriculture are central to most of the programs in this emphasis area. While it is possible to maintain economic sustainability for an agricultural activity through artificial means, this approach may not be sustainable for the long term.
Eventually, environmental costs, regulations, and market changes will make artificial supports untenable. On the other hand, an agricultural activity that is designed to be environmentally and ecologically sustainable can be made economically sustainable through regulatory and market pressures and the application of new technologies. These mechanisms are driving many of the research, education, and extension activities of the following NIFA programs:. When animal feeding operations are large and concentrated, however, manure and nutrient management becomes much more difficult.
Odors, nitrogen gases, and pathogens accumulate if the waste cannot be distributed to farm fields readily and widely. This program addresses environmental issues associated with manure management, as well as the many beneficial uses of manure for plant nutrition and useful by-products. Organic operations seek to lower production inputs and costs, to apply environmentally sound practices natural manures, cultural pest management, and minimal soil disturbance , and to maintain healthy agro-ecosystems.
These farms tend to be smaller, closer to the consumer both geographically and in the supply chain , and individually produce a variety of products. Organic activities rely more on site-specific information that ties in closely with new precision farming technologies. Precision Farming : Enabling technologies are converging with agriculture and forestry to provide the measurement, storage, analysis, and decision-making needs of these industries.
Techniques are being developed to:. Make precise measurements and continuously monitor field, forest, or product conditions through sensors and controls. Analyze and interpret that information using decision support systems that allow producers to make economically favorable choices. A readily available portfolio of such technologies increases the nation's readiness, enabling us to effectively confront current and future problems in our food and fiber systems.
Small Farms : Agricultural advancements, coupled with relatively low prices for farm products, have encouraged many agricultural producers to farm more acres and raise more animals. However, the presence of smaller farms helps to enhance the quality of life in rural communities by preserving open green space, providing locally produced fresh produce, sustaining local businesses, and creating opportunities for rural youth.
By supporting education programs and access to services, technical assistance, and other resources, this program increases the viability of the small-farming culture. Sustainable Agriculture : Rural community vitality and prosperity are closely tied to agricultural sustainability. Not only do rural residents benefit financially from agricultural enterprises, but they also enjoy living amidst the physical and social environments they create. Consequently, maintaining these latter amenities is critical to the financial success and well-being of communities.
The success of neighbors who improved their income and overall wellbeing already after the first year of cultivating maize also persuades farmers to adopt maize. Another supporting factor for increasing the area of cash crop cultivation is the availability of agricultural land. The greater availability of agricultural land in the southern districts, as shown in Table 2 , is generally due to the larger amount of level terrain that can be allocated for cultivation. This, in combination with the fact that farmers of the southern districts generally own larger tracts of land as shown in Table 3 can be an explanation why they are potentially able to allocate a larger share of their land for cash crop cultivation.
There is, however, a significant geographical difference. In the major northern districts Xayaburi and Phiang maize was planted over a smaller area than rice. Nevertheless maize production has slightly diminished after This shift was analyzed through key informant interviews and the household survey. The major push factor for this shift is a set of problems that affected the maize trade.
The low selling price of maize in the north, due to limited access to the maize market, greatly affected northern farmers especially when prices fells in After that, many farmers in the north did not continue maize farming and attempted to find alternative crops. The expansion of cash crop cultivation resulting from improved market accessibility in the south has strong effects on basic wellbeing. The data from our household survey in Table 5 show that average income from cash crops is more than twice as high in the south than in the north.
Although northern households earn higher non-agricultural income than southern households, this type of income is much less than cash crop income of southern households, resulting in the lower total income for northern households. The correlation analysis of both village and household level data provides further evidence of the contribution of cash crop cultivation to income.
However, unlike absolute cash crop area, percentage of cash crop area, at the household level, though significantly related to income, is not significantly related to wealth. Therefore, households with a high percentage of cash crop area are not necessarily rich or wealthy, especially those households whose cash crop area is less than 2 ha.
On the other hand, households who manage a cash crop area of more than 3 ha have at least a medium level of wealth. Most of the southern districts, except for Paklai, appear to have higher rice production per person than northern districts despite lower total rice production see Table 4. The reason for higher rice production of southern farmers is the larger paddy area per household as compared to the north see Table 2. The survey at household level, nevertheless, produced the contradictory result that northern households produce a slightly higher amount of rice than southern households see Table 5 [unit for rice production is per household].
Households in both subregions own similar amounts of paddy area but the fact that northern household dedicate a larger amount of land to upland rice cultivation see Table 3 could be a reason for their altogether higher rice production. The difference between district and household level data can be due to the fact that district data is from while the household survey was conducted in when farmers in the south possibly allocated more land for cash crops than for rice.
The inverse or moderately positive relationship between the share of cash crop area in total land area and rice production can be explained by the fact that some households with higher share of cash crop area use less area for rice, particularly households with small agricultural land so that they have lower rice production. In contrast, a relative larger cash crop area does not necessarily imply a relative lower area for rice cultivation for a household.
The cross tabulation analysis between cash crop area and rice production based on the data from household survey shows that most households owning a relative larger cash crop area also own a relative larger paddy area and produce a greater amount of rice see Table 8. The cross tabulation analysis between agricultural area and rice production based on the data from household survey shows a similar trend see Table 9.
In other words, farmers tend to use part of their land for rice and the rest for cash crop cultivation. Therefore, it can be concluded that whether farmers use part of their land for rice and part for cash crops depends on the size of their landholding. Farmers with small landholdings of less than 2 ha tend to grow rice on most of their agricultural land. However, Table 9 shows that several households do not follow this trend.
Thirty percent of households 13 of 43 , the majority of them in the north 10 of 13 , produce over 3 tons of rice per year but have less than 3 ha of total agricultural land or, in other words, their rice production is higher on a relatively smaller amount of land. Northern households with, on average, a smaller amount of agricultural land available to them, use a larger amount of their land holding for rice and the remaining land for cash crops.
On the other hand, southern households that own larger land areas can use part of the land for rice and still have more land left over than a household in the north to use for cash crops.
Adding better level of market accessibility, southern households can earn a much higher income from cash crops due to both higher production and higher selling price than northern households and can still keep a good level of food security. In some cases, households in the south focus on cash crops only and spend their income to buy food. The results thus indicate that in general households in the north focus on rice production while households in the south focus on generating income from cash crops.
Regarding rice sufficiency, the household survey has revealed that most farmers keep rice which they produce primarily for their own consumption and sell the surplus for income only when they can fully satisfy their domestic consumption needs. Rice sufficiency, in this study, can therefore be equated with rice production per household. The results thus indicate that households in southern districts maintain a sufficient level of rice production as well as earn more income from cash crops to buy food, contributing to their basic wellbeing, while households in northern districts earn a much lower income than households in the south, resulting in a lower level of their basic wellbeing.
Government data of poverty incidence, determined by percentage of poor villages and households, reveal a similar trend of wellbeing in the study area. Government data show that poverty incidence is more severe in northern districts see Table 4. In general, the southern districts of Xayaburi, characterized by better market accessibility, availability of more arable land and more land under cash crop cultivation, have a higher level of basic wellbeing than the northern districts as indicated by higher relative income, lower poverty and higher rice production.
This suggests that local people in the south can achieve both income generation and rice sufficiency to improve their basic wellbeing. It also suggests that the ability of households to earn a good income through cash crop cultivation is not necessarily at the cost of rice sufficiency.
The higher level of market accessibility in the southern part of Xayaburi is due to many factors. Cash crop production in Laos is heavily influenced by the demand of neighboring countries like Thailand, China, and Vietnam [ 13 , 16 , 18 ]. Southern Xayaburi has advantages of market accessibility due to its proximity to Thailand. The great number of important border crossings facilitates market access across the border. The relatively high selling price of maize in the south in combination with the lowest transportation cost at the shortest distance to market demand source leads to the best selling price for local produce as argued by Petron et al [ 53 ] and Rodrigue [ 54 ].
Bonnin [ 55 ] identified four major factors for greater market prevalence and accessibility which includes cross-border trade, physical terrain, road development, and consumer groups. All of these factors are prominent in southern Xayaburi.
Eric Clayton; Agrarian Systems and Rural Development, The Economic Journal, Volume 90, Issue , 1 September , Pages – The "agrarian system" consists of the "institutional, economic, socio- organizational, and ethical patterns found in the agricultural sector and rural areas that are.
Access to markets across the border, better road conditions, and a larger amount of level terrain support a higher amount of products, services and traders, and more money value in the southern districts than in the north. All of these factors lead to better market infrastructure and more market availability in the forms of traders, marketplaces, commodities, and information; altogether resulting in a higher market accessibility in the south. Agrarian change as we can observe in the study area consists of the transformation of subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture with a strong focus on crop monocultures, especially maize.
This resonates with the observation by Akram-Lodhi and Kay [ 20 ] already mentioned above concerning the emphasis on the promotion of an agricultural export-led strategy as the principal means of enhancing rural accumulation. In order to serve these cross-boundary markets, the Lao government supports export-oriented agricultural commercialization by opening border crossings, infrastructure development, and land use policies.
Similar developments can be observed within the Mekong region in SW China, where the government promotes rubber monocultures as a means of eradicating poverty [ 56 ].
The main intrinsic driving factor of agrarian change as manifested in the study area is the desire of farmers for higher incomes as confirmed by the results of our research. The results show that many households built better houses and bought assets such as vehicles or television sets within 3 years after they started growing maize. Contract farming provides market opportunities and other incentives for farmers to focus on cash crop cultivation.
Improved market access leads to the transformation from a subsistence economy to a market-oriented economy, especially by intensifying cash crop cultivation. Evidence for this transformation in the southern districts includes the higher absolute cash crop area and higher share of cash crop area out of the total agricultural area as well as by the higher percentage of cash crop farmers.
Messerli et al [ 51 ] reviewed a large number of studies from Laos and found a trend of increasing area of paddy and permanent farmland in areas of high accessibility. The increasing portion of agricultural land under cash crop cultivation shows that farmers alter their farming practices to adapt to emerging market opportunities, as argued by a number of studies [ 17 , 18 , 58 , 59 ]. As asserted by Mertz et al [ 60 ], market opportunities following infrastructure improvement can act as pull factors for farmers to change from traditional upland rice to permanent agriculture.
This has been observed in many areas of Southeast Asia [ 10 ] as well as in India and Africa [ 35 ]. The difference between households in the northern and southern parts of Xayaburi with respect to the share of cash crop area reflects that farmers respond differently to changing market situations depending on their access to markets, knowledge, information, labor, natural resources and social status as argued by Douxchamps et al [ 8 ], Ellis [ 44 ] and Wiesmann [ 52 ].
Cash crop cultivation allows farmers to earn higher incomes especially in southern Xayaburi, while maintaining a level of rice sufficiency that is still much higher than the Lao National rice security standard. Income from cash crops constitutes a higher share than incomes from other sources in the total income of southern farmers.
Through the combination of the two, farmers in the south experience higher standards of basic wellbeing than farmers in the north who rely more strongly on subsistence agriculture. Similar to the case of northern Xayaburi, farmers in areas with low market accessibility in Romania [ 5 ] and India [ 19 ] produced more food, but had a low income and a lower level of basic wellbeing.
There is a concern that replacement of food crop production by cash crop cultivation due to improved market accessibility may result in food insecurity when market failures reduce incomes and the ability to buy food. This has been proven to constitute a serious concern through many case studies in developing countries such as Guatemala [ 38 ], Tanzania [ 47 ], Nigeria and South Africa [ 30 ], Mozambique [ 46 ], the Meghalaya plateau in India [ 27 ] and also in Laos [ 62 ].
Broegaard et al [ 57 ] found that the shift towards maize cultivation in Laos created pressure on land and diminished the share of wild food in daily diets and thus the quality of nutrition. With respect to staple crops, the situation is different in Xayaburi, where cash crop cultivation has not replaced rice production. Households in the south of Xayaburi grow just enough rice for household-consumption, which is typically around 1—2 ha, and devote the rest of their land to cash crops. The strategy to keep a part of land for rice to meet household minimum demand is a key to alleviating the risks of rice insufficiency that may result from cash crop failure and market uncertainties.
Rice insufficiency, in the sense of not enough rice being available for household consumption, can become a problem of farmers who grow only a cash crop when the crop is damage by disaster or when the price of the crop goes down, so that farmers do not have enough money to buy rice. This strategy fits the multi-faceted strategies proposed by Wiesman [ 52 ] and matches suggestions from Immink and Alarcon [ 38 ], Hazra [ 28 ] and Porter and Howard [ 30 ] of balancing food crops and cash crops by increasing productivity for food crops and lowering the risks from cash crop production and marketing.
The same strategy was also observed in many other areas in Southeast Asia [ 10 ]. The strategy of combining cash cropping with a minimum of food production to meet domestic demand is more effective when the household owns a sufficiently large amount of land as is the case in southern Xayaburi. Higher availability of agricultural land thus is a critical factor for supporting farmers in capitalizing on market opportunities and expanding cash crop cultivation.
In the same way, some studies [ 19 , 63 ] argue that small land size is a major limitation preventing poor farmers from crop diversification or achieving income generation from cash crop cultivation. To reduce the limitations imposed by the availability of land, Douxchamp et al [ 8 ] and Mabiso et al [ 46 ] suggest intensification as a means for increasing productivity. The correlation analysis showing that larger areas of cash crops strongly correlate with good basic wellbeing confirms the importance of land availability. The correlation analysis also shows that larger area of cash crops is a stronger factor than higher rice production in influencing basic wellbeing positively.
The greater amount of land suitable for cultivation in the south is to some extent due to a larger proportion of level terrain, as compared to the north. Geographical conditions thus provide farmers in southern Xayaburi with an advantage that contributes to the improvement of their basic wellbeing. Another major concern in the context of agrarian transformation to commercial cash cropping is vulnerability to market inadequacies and uncertainties, in other words, that cash crop specialization may increase the danger of income loss from crop failure, price fluctuation, inefficient market institutions and exploitation from buyers [ 10 , 30 , 38 , 44 ].
Income loss and decreased food production caused by the agrarian transformation can result in food insecurity and lower level of wellbeing [ 29 , 46 ]. Many studies found that reduction of income from cash crop cultivation is mainly due to the lack of well-functioning markets and to low market accessibility [ 17 , 27 , 47 ]. This is the case in the north of Xayaburi, where accessibility to maize markets is relatively lower than in the south resulting in lower selling price and lower incomes of farmers which make them susceptible to price fluctuations.
For this reason, many northern farmers have abandoned maize and turned to other crops or back to upland rice after the drop in prices for maize in The same drop of price for maize in caused many farmers in Huaphan, northeastern Laos, to change their crop from maize back to upland rice [ 64 ]. Similarly the drop of rubber prices in caused many farmers in Luang Namtha, northern Lao and Xishuangbanna, in the southern part of Yunnan Province, China [ 65 ] to change their cash crop to banana. Although price fluctuations are a feature also in the southern districts of Xayaburi, farmers there are still able to make a profit as the selling price is comparatively higher than in the north due to better market access.
This reflects that the vulnerability of farmers engaging in cash crop agriculture can be mitigated through good market accessibility, in other words, market accessibility is another key to achieve cash crop cultivation and improved basic wellbeing of farmers [ 8 , 10 , 27 , 47 ]. Messerli et al [ 51 ] confirm that accessibility is the key to poverty alleviation and to better rural wellbeing.
Though improved market accessibility may lead to lower rice production, the impact is not so significant when farmers still grow rice to meet their minimum consumption needs, and when the income from cash crops, enhanced by improved market accessibility, can compensate for losses from rice production. Market accessibility can be improved not only by infrastructure improvement but also through selection of crops that have marketing potential in a specific area.
The case of Xayaburi has demonstrated that three factors: availability of land, good market accessibility and the strategy to keep a part of land for rice to meet household minimum demand, are instrumental for farmers in southern Xayaburi to achieve higher income through market-based agriculture without facing the problem of rice insufficiency.
These three key factors are interrelated and can support one another or compensate for one another when one of them faces limitations. Larger amount of agricultural land makes it easier for farmers to respond to market opportunities by increasing the cash crop component in their farming strategy while accessibility improvement increases these opportunities. This finding matches the argument by Douxchamps et al [ 8 ] and Turner et al [ 17 ] that wellbeing is determined by market accessibility, land possession and economic diversification. Among the three factors, the strategy of farmers to keep a portion of land for rice to maintain rice sufficiency is probably the most critical.
The case of Huaphan in northeastern Lao where maize was grown in monocultures shows that though farmers were able to raise their income and improve their basic wellbeing initially, they faced the problem of profit loss and rice shortage when the price of maize came down [ 64 ]. In the case of Xishuanbanna and Luang Namtha [ 65 , 66 ] where rubber has been monocropped, farmers faced similar problems due to a drop of rubber prices in Therefore farmers with good market access and sufficient agricultural land can still face the issue of income loss or rice insufficiency if they pursue the strategy of cash crop monoculture.
The reasons why farmers in Xayaburi keep part of their land for rice are difficult to ascertain and require more research. They may include that rice can be both food and cash crop, but also that rice can be grown in different environments even in the steep hill or mountain areas that are less suitable for certain cash crops [ 67 ].
The cultural values of rice can also play a role, especially in Laos, where rice is consumed not only because of its nutritional but also because of its spiritual value [ 68 ]. The southern part of Xayaburi Province has a higher level of market accessibility than the north due to several factors, including better transportation infrastructure, greater amount of level terrain, more border crossings, and greater proximity to demand sources.
The northern part of Xayaburi Province, despite the fact that the provincial capital is located there, cannot provide the same level of market functions mainly because of its distance from demand sources. Greater or improved market accessibility especially in the south has led to the expansion of cash crop cultivation and the shift to market-based agriculture. Cash crops particularly maize have become popular and to some extent have replaced rice, the traditional food crop. On the other hand, farmers in the northern districts of Xayaburi, where market accessibility is lower and availability of arable land is more limited, generally maintain a higher level of subsistence agriculture, but cannot generate enough profit through cash crop cultivation to considerably improve their basic wellbeing.
Some of them lose money due to fluctuations of the maize price while others face problems of rice insufficiency regardless of whether they practice more traditional subsistence production or intensified cash crop cultivation. We identified three key factors for farmers in the south which are keys to overcoming the concerns of rice insufficiency and market uncertainties and to improving their basic wellbeing: availability of land, good market accessibility and the strategy of retaining a part of their land for rice cultivation in order to meet minimum household consumption needs.
Governments and farmers can improve these factors through various means or strategies. Governments can improve market accessibility through investment in market infrastructure development while farmers can enhance their market access through crop selection strategies that fit the market potential of the area. Governments can enhance availability of agricultural land through change in land allocation policy while farmers can enhance productivity of their land through intensification strategies.
Governments should encourage or provide incentives for farmers to produce enough food or to maintain this strategy where it is already in place such as in southern Xayaburi. Those key factors should be encouraged in development policy and planning to achieve wellbeing improvements for rural farmers through market-based agriculture channels. This file contains the table showing the information of data obtained from the government which include the name of the data sets, the exact government unit, obtained format and period for which the data were obtained.
This file is the household interview form that is translated from the original version written in Laos. This excel file contains raw data of the household survey regarding personal, agricultural and market data of household samples from 15 different villages in the study area. The file explains the criteria for selecting sample villages for the household survey. It also contains a table that reveals the different characteristics of sample villages along the criteria and a figure that illustrates the locations of sample villages.
Sincere thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry MAF of Lao, Provincial government of Xayaburi province, and District governments of Xayaburi, Phiang, Paklai, Thongmixai, Kentao and Boten district for generous provision of valuable help, support and resources to facilitate the research. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. PLoS One. Published online Dec Derek Johnson, Editor. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Received Jul 25; Accepted Nov This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
S2 File: Household Interview Form. S3 File: Summary results of land use change from satellite image analysis and document analysis. S4 File: Supplementary statistic data on land use and land use change. S5 File: Data from household survey. S6 File: Selection of sample villages for the household survey. Abstract This study investigates the effects of improved market accessibility on agricultural land use and basic wellbeing, defined by income and rice sufficiency, in Xayaburi province, Lao PDR through a meso-scale and actor-oriented approach with data collection at both district and household level.
Introduction Rural areas in developing countries are often prone to poverty [ 1 — 3 ]. Methods This study applied two approaches: the meso-scale approach and the actor-oriented approach. Table 1 Comparison of accessibility to agricultural markets at the district level. Open in a separate window. Table 2 Agricultural land use at the district level. Districts Agri. Source: DPIs Table 3 Agricultural land use at the household level. Region No. Table 4 Income and rice production at the district level. Districts Avg. Table 5 Income and rice production at the household level.
Region Avg. Results The study area: General characteristics and market accessibility The study area consists of seven districts in the middle and southern parts of Xayaburi province in the northwest of the Lao PDR see Fig 1. Fig 1. Fig 2. Locations of district centers, main roads and border crossings in the study area. Expansion of cash crop cultivation The government supports agricultural commercialization in various forms such as opening border crossings, infrastructure development, and land use policies.
Comparison of income and rice production along a gradient of market accessibility The expansion of cash crop cultivation resulting from improved market accessibility in the south has strong effects on basic wellbeing. Table 6 The correlation between cash crop area and income and rice production at the village level. Table 7 The correlation between cash crop area and income and rice production at the household level. Variables Agri. Table 8 Cross tabulation analysis between cash crop area and rice production at the household level.
Table 9 Cross tabulation analysis between agricultural area and rice production at the household level. Discussion The higher level of market accessibility in the southern part of Xayaburi is due to many factors. Conclusion The southern part of Xayaburi Province has a higher level of market accessibility than the north due to several factors, including better transportation infrastructure, greater amount of level terrain, more border crossings, and greater proximity to demand sources. DOCX Click here for additional data file.
S2 File Household Interview Form. DOC Click here for additional data file. S3 File Summary results of land use change from satellite image analysis and document analysis. S4 File Supplementary statistic data on land use and land use change. S5 File Data from household survey.
XLS Click here for additional data file. S6 File Selection of sample villages for the household survey. Acknowledgments Sincere thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry MAF of Lao, Provincial government of Xayaburi province, and District governments of Xayaburi, Phiang, Paklai, Thongmixai, Kentao and Boten district for generous provision of valuable help, support and resources to facilitate the research.
Data Availability All relevant data are within the paper and its supporting information files. References 1. Chambers R. What is Poverty? Who asks? Who Answer? In: International Poverty Centre. Poverty in Focus: What is Poverty? Concepts and Measures. Available from: www. Edward P. Kakwani N. Rural Poverty Report Rome, Italy.
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