Sustainability, Vol. 11, Pages 6567: Exploring Farmers` Management Practices and Values of Ecosystem Services in an Agroecosystem Context--A Case Study from the Eastern Cape, South Africa (Sustainability)
Globally, farmers remain the key ecosystem managers responsible for increasing food production while simultaneously reducing the associated negative environmental impacts. However, research investigating how farmers’ agricultural management practices are influenced by the values they assign to ecosystem services is scarce in South Africa. To address this gap, a survey of farmers’ agricultural management practices and the values they assigned towards ecosystem services was conducted in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Results from the survey show that farmers assign a high value on food provisioning ecosystem services compared to other ecosystem services. Irrigation and fertiliser decisions were mostly based on achieving maximum crop yields or good crop quality. The majority of farmers (86%) indicated a willingness to receive payments for ecosystem services (PES) to manage their farms in a more ecosystems-oriented manner. To encourage farmers to shift from managing ecosystems for single ecosystem services such as food provision to managing ecosystems for multiple ecosystem services, market-oriented plans such as PES may be employed. Effective measures for sustainable intensification of food production will depend on the inclusion of farmers in the development of land management strategies and practices as well as increasing farmers’ awareness and knowledge of the ecosystem services concept.