Wetenschap - 10 oktober 1996

Farmers risk aversive

Farmers risk aversive

In making on-farm decisions, farmers in the limestone area south of Malang, Indonesia, do not select the alternative that could give them the highest income. Instead they choose the alternative that satisfies their needs but involves the fewest possible risks.

Furthermore, PhD student Solichin Abdul Wahab argues that agricultural development in this poor area of East Java will only be possible when the number of farmers has been reduced either through diversification or migration of farmers away from the area. Wahab will graduate next Wednesday, 16 October 1996 from the Department of Sociology of Rural Development. He carried out his research under a programme of cooperation between Brawijaya University in Malang and the Universities of Leiden and Wageningen. Besides its role in training staff, the Interdisciplinary Research & Training Project (INRES) aims at developing quantitative farming systems analysis and options for small farmers in the limestone area. Compared to the rice growing areas on East Java, which have been extensively studied, little is known about farming systems in the limestone areas.

Wahab, the sociologist in the research team, focuses on how farmers and their families in the limestone area arrive at decisions concerning the farm household, and the motives for these decisions. In his thesis How farmers cope, he provides a detailed description of the process of decision making within six farming households in the area. He found that the socio-economic progress of farmers depends largely on the land inheritance situation at the start of farming activities. At present, the fragmentation of land through inheritance leads to holdings which are too small to sustain a farm household, even at subsistence level. Wahab is pessimistic about the future prospects for farmers in the area. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood and opportunities for off-farm activities are very limited.