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11/03/2014

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Griffin Cook

I think everyone else has pretty well covered issues relating to human capital addressed in the paper, so I’ll try to focus a bit more on the Keynesian concept of “weight.” One of the most interesting parts of this concept actually relates to the Schulz Nobel Prize lecture we read for last week. In addition to emphasizing information and good policy, weight takes human agency into account. Aside from the human capital factors like education and information provided to farmers, a great deal of the decision to adopt the practice of agroforestry relies in a farmer’s own level of confidence in him or herself and the ability to achieve the potential gains by adopting a new farming practice or technique. If a farmer does not understand the information provided or does not trust in his or her ability to properly execute agroforestry, the farmer will decide to keep using the same methods which are less effective but also perceived as being more reliable and capable of being maintained. I think that in the end one of the most fascinating aspects of this paper is that while higher levels of human capital certainly increase the likelihood that agroforestry is adopted by a farmer, a farmer’s own agency and self-determined level of ability or confidence in interpreting and implementing new ideas has a significant effect on the potential “weight” of new ideas.

Austin Pierce

What I find particularly interesting is how radically the "traditional" farming practices already have changed. In my ANTH 403 on Human Geography, a large focus was put on polyculture farms as a common traditional practice in the tropics. It hedged the uncertainty in planting a particular crop and also helped to itself reduce the spread of species-specific blights. However, in addition just to just annual crops, fruit trees were often included.

Is there any documented evidence as to how farming use to be done in the area? Understanding how the practices have changed might illuminate a particular focus within either human capital or other investment that could most effectively change the incentive structure to promote agroforestry.

Another important issue I think when looking at the agricultural issues is that the externalities are quite important. What is important are the entire ecosystem and the farmlands as a unit. If one farmer on a small plot invests in this but the surrounding ones do not, the investment might seem like a bad decision. But this is largely due to a coordination failure between the 9 or so farms that touch each other. If they all participated, the system could actually perform effectively.

The importance of that is that, if only a few farmers have the formal training/human capital to invest, and therefore there is still a coordination failure, then how will the other farmers indirectly learn/gain confidence if the results are no better.

Granted, a lot of that is speculation, as I don't have the data on tropical agroforestry. But if it is at all analogous to issues like livestock and vaccination (which I would be surprised if it wasn't), then a few people confident enough to participate is not enough.

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