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Michelet, Matthieu, 2020. Innovative agricultural intensification to cope with demographic and climatic changes for subsistence producers : a case study of Sandfly Island, Solomon Islands. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Soil and Environment



This research aims to study the dynamics of agricultural intensification amongst the small island community of
Sandfly Island, Solomon Islands, and to observe the spreading of new agricultural practices of intensification that
can help mitigate the pressures of climate change on the one side; and on the other side of a growing food demand
from a growing population. The intention is to describe the variety of agricultural practices and the variation of
production parameters such as fallow length, length of cropping period, number of plots in agricultural rotation and
size of plots as to assess the state of agricultural intensification and to find what are the environmental constraints to
production. Conducted interviews also focus on the state of knowledge and awareness of producers about the
pressures on land of climate change and population rise; then on producers’ knowledge of mulching and composting
as innovations that can help mitigate the effects of these two pressures. Finally, producers’ reasons of adoption or
non-adoption of these innovations are explored. This is done by the means of soil analysis and the interviewing of 62
producers across 8 different localities of Sandfly Island.
What is found is that producers across the island share the same agricultural practices of no-external-input bush
fallow, except for one producer who farms his land under the system of non-shifting multi-cropping with mulching
as input. Some few other producers who have integrated mulching in their shifting agriculture. Nevertheless,
producers from higher population density areas are shown to have shorter fallow lengths, to clear smaller gardens
and to generally have less available land for production than producers from lower density population areas of the
island. Producers who have less land available for agriculture also tend to have shorter fallow lengths; they occur in
majority in high population density areas but not exclusively. Evidence was found of pressure on land both because
of intensification and because of changing climatic conditions as producers complain of longer periods of drought
broken by more violent episodes of rain and decreasing agricultural productivity. It was also found that roughly two
thirds of producers know of composting and mulching though only 10% of them have adopted the innovations.
Adoption rates vary from one source of knowledge to the other: school teaching and workshops led to adoption rates
of 10 and 20 % respectively. Reasons of non-adoption vary significantly across groups of producers as big
landowners and producers from the less populated areas state threefold more often that the adoption asks for too
much work. Big landowners mention 97% and 25% more respectively a need for guidance and a need for further
knowledge to adopt the innovations. The argument that adoption goes against the custom way is mentioned by 23%
of the population and is not stated in significantly different proportions across clusters. The island’s soil analysis
showed that there is great variability in fertility amongst soils of the island that can be traced to either a difference in
topsoil accumulation and thus soil organic carbon amongst soils of similar origins, or because of different parent
These findings imply that, despite bush fallow being an appropriate and efficient method to restore soil fertility in the
conditions of Sandfly Island, the heavy non-innovative intensification of agriculture in zones of high population
density is no longer ensuring long-term sustainability of land use. Climate change aggravates this pressure. Such a
situation offers great opportunity for appropriate agricultural innovations that can help mitigate the pressures; such as
contouring to reduce soil erosion, mulching and composting as soil amendment. Some producers have made the
decision to adopt such innovations, showing that the process of innovation diffusion is on the way on Sandfly Island,
though at an early stage. Stated reasons of non-adoption show that small landowners and producers from higher
populated areas perceive a higher relative advantage to adopt innovative agricultural practices as they are keener to
accept the higher labour input it requires. In comparison, big landowners and producers from low population density
areas still have the possibility of non-innovatively intensify their land use without increasing labour input. In
consequence, there are reasons to believe that diffusion will happen more effectively amongst small landowners and
producers of high population density areas. Further research could bring relevant insight on whether this proves to be

Main title:Innovative agricultural intensification to cope with demographic and climatic changes for subsistence producers
Subtitle:a case study of Sandfly Island, Solomon Islands
Authors:Michelet, Matthieu
Supervisor:Karltun, Erik and Bech Bruun, Thilde
Examiner:Öborn, Ingrid
Series:Examensarbeten / Institutionen för mark och miljö, SLU
Volume/Sequential designation:2020:14
Year of Publication:2020
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM025 EnvEuro - European Master in Environmental Science 120 HEC
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Soil and Environment
Keywords:Subsistence agriculture, fallow, mulching, composting, innovative intensification, Melanesia, climate change
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Agricultural research
Organization, administration and management of agricultural enterprises or farms
Soil science and management
Deposited On:21 Sep 2020 06:49
Metadata Last Modified:22 Sep 2020 01:04

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