How farmers cope : case studies of decision-making in six farm households in south of Malang, East Java

S.A. Wahab

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    <br/>This thesis is about decision-making in six farm households in East Java. The research carried out uses the case study approach and focuses on the intellectual locus of the actors who took decisions. The indigenous knowledge and the way it is generated and used by farmers when they make decisions is considered relevant in this respect. Beginning with Chapter 1, the central issue is, how do poor farmers arrive at decisions regarding their farm household's and what is the rationale underlying the decisions they make?<p>In Chapter 2 four theories are discussed to illuminate farmers' decision-making. It begins with van Dusseldorp's basic linking-loop-model. Van Dusseldorp's model gives a sequence of steps in the decision-making process and is mainly used as an instrument for systematizing and organizing the research data. In this chapter also Christina Gladwin's theory of real life choice is mentioned, in which Gladwin distinguishes between two stages in the decision-making process: During the first stage, farmers eliminate potential alternatives by comparing their aspects with the assets available to them. In the second stage, the farmer subsequently elaborates on the alternative he has chosen. The study, however, will principally focus its attention on the first stage of Gladwin's theory. In chapter 2 also the attentive and pre-attentive decision-making theory of Hugh Gladwin and Michael Murtaugh is discussed. This theory states that decisions are often made pre-attentively when it comes to routine activities. Huijsman's theory of decision-making under risk and uncertainty, also described in Chapter 2, states that there are two possible ways in which farmers make their decisions when they make them under uncertain situations: The first way is through cautious optimization. Here farmers gradually improve their agricultural productivity and increase the income generated from their agricultural activities, while keeping production and financial risks at a manageable level. The second way entails improving existing techniques and experimenting,<p>Chapter 3 explains methodology used: the case study approach. The most important techniques that are applied are open-ended interviews, structured interviews, and participant observation. Life histories have also been made.<p>The description of the area is given in Chapter 4. The research area is situated in the limestone range, south of Malang. The villages Kedung Salam and Putukrejo Salam were researched because they contain farm households confronted with a relatively low income, a low crop productivity, and a high level of soil erosion. Kedung Salam is approximately 66 kilometers south of Malang and Putukrejo about 49 kilometers.<p>The case studies of the farm households are finally presented in Chapter 5. The studies speak for themselves. They simply tell about the farmers, the decisions they made in regard to their farms, and why they made those decisions.<p>A comparison and an analysis of factors influencing the decision-making processes is discussed in Chapter 6. Four families were mature households, one family was a child bearing household, and one was occupied with child rearing. With the exception of Pak Sahara family, the five remaining had holdings less than one hectare, and only a small part of their land consisted of very good soil. All the farm households reared livestock which they either owned or shared. Some farmers were relatively educated, while others were illiterate. Out of all the farmers, Sabar was the most innovative. With regard to income, three farm households (Simin's, Bagong's and Karman's) fell I under the poverty line whereas the other three (Bani's, Sahara and Matori's) were somewhat above it.<p>A recapitulation of the theories cited and their relationships to the findings are presented in Chapter 7. The basic linking-loop-model proved to be useful for organizing and systematizing the material.<p>Additionally, the findings of the study seem to agree with the characteristics of the first stage of the real life choice theory. The decision-making process concerning cropping patterns have shown that a farmer will choose an alternative or a combination of alternatives of crops only when it meets the necessarily minimum conditions. A crop or combination of crops will be chosen on the basis of two sets of criteria: when the aspects of the alternatives match the assets available, and when the needs of a household are met, most notably its food security. For most farm households in this study, food security and survival were the most important objectives; however, for households (e.g. Sabar and Bani) with fairly large holdings, good soil, and a reasonable degree of food security, market-oriented objectives were significant and, so, greater risks were taken. The final decision regarding the selling of livestock was always preceded by a comparison of various alternatives.. as was shown in the cases of Pak Simin and Pak Matori.<p>In the decision making processes concerning non-farm activities. farmers and their wives carefully assessed various aspects of each potential, non-farm activity. Only when the aspects of the alternative matched a family's assets was an alternative selected. Striking in the studies was that the alternative chosen was not the one which could render the highest return. In the case of Pak Karman, for example, the safety of the family took precedence over a possible higher return. For Pak Bagong, collecting of firewood, however profitable, was seen as too risky because of the chance of arrest.<p>The case studies have shown that all the decision-making processes were initially made attentively. There are four possible reasons for this: 1) The selected issues were so important for the small farmers because they could affect the continuity of the farm and the household; 2) the region south of Malang belongs to a risk prone agricultural area and, so, farmers were always confronted with uncertainties; 3) the households had no capacity to absorb the consequences of a certain decision: e.g. a crop failure. A wrong decision, after all, could bring disaster to a family; 4) the issues involved and the way questions were asked during the interviews forced farmers and their wives to go back to the past when they made decisions for the first and, therefore, attentively. Because farmers and their wives gave detailed descriptions of their decision-making processes without having to be prodded, It may be assumed that they made the decisions, they described, attentively. For poor farmers in risk prone areas, it seems that there is little room for pre-attentive decision-making when it comes to selecting alternatives.<p>The findings also correspond to the theory used by Huijsman, especially as regards the strategies for cultivating new cropping varieties. The study found that farmers and their wives were experimenters. The decision making processes of the poor farmers were mainly influenced by household needs and survival. Only Pak Sabar made decisions that in the long run could improve his family's socioeconomic position. Cautious optimization can be seen by the way farmers managed their farms. Farmers usually did not begin to cultivate their crops until a minimum of seven successive days of rain had gone by. This, they hoped would reduce the risk of a false start of the season. They preferred to use a mixed cropping system in which different crops grew on the same plot. This is another indication that their intention was to minimize the risk of crop failure and to economize their agricultural production. This strategy was flexible and, as a result, best in coping with environmental uncertainty.<p>Chapter 8 discusses some decisive factors that will affect the future development of the households and the area. Important factors that will determine the future development of the area are the climate and the condition of the land, Chapter 8 predicts that pressure on the land will intensify because of increasing land fragmentation and over exploitation.<p>The socio-economic progress of farmers is largely determined by the land they inherit at the start of their farming career. Inheritance, in fact, serve as a foundation for his subsequent success or failure. The way land is divided among the heirs is the reason why land is becoming more and more fragmented and will create serious problems in the near future. Further fragmentation of land holdings will not only bring many more families below the poverty line but will also cause a further deterioration of the land due to a loss of fertility and to erosion.<p>Small holders are extremely vulnerable. Their entire property often only consists of a very small piece of land, a house often in poor condition, old furniture, little equipment, and a few heads of livestock which they often share with an owner. The sickness of a household member, therefore, especially when he or she is ill for a prolonged period of time, is likely to be a disaster. His or her illness has a direct impact on both on the farm and the economy of the household. Sick household members bring costs for doctors and medicines; consequently, these families often have to sell their cattle and their land and, as a result, their ability to farm is made more difficult. Often they are forced to live on credit which they find difficult to pay off.<p>The social network of the farmers, based on kinship, neighbourliness, and economic relationships, plays a significant role in the lives of small farmers. It is important for obtaining credit, for gaining access to land, for sharing cattle. It is also significant for acquiring information and inputs. Social networks are particularly crucial when young, married couples start off and when a family member becomes sick. These networks allow the people to share their poverty and, as a result, enable poor households to escape complete ruin when they encounter difficulties.<p>The impact of government programs for improving the socio-economic well being of rural people in the area has been limited. Up till the time of the research, the government in this area has mainly dealt with the re-greening program. Still the Brantas watershed project provided target groups (mainly men) with planting material for trees and fruit trees. The motive behind this program was not only to improve the socio-economic conditions of poor farmers in this area, but also to protect the lake behind the Sutami dam (Karangkates) from silting as a result of soil erosion in the upland areas south of Malang<p>The development efforts sponsored by the government in the area north of Malang has stimulated a considerable industrial development. The industries are mainly concentrated between the cities of Surabaya and Malang, but very little of the economic growth has trickled down to the villages south of Malang. In this area, there are only several small scale, low technology industries such as rice miils and limestone kilns.<p>Taking all factors into consideration, the development of the limestone area is extremely problematic. Whatever governmental programs are designed and implemented for this area, or however rational, systematic and innovative the farmers and their wives make their decisions , viable agricultural development will still only be possible when the number of farmers in the area is reduced either through diversification or through out-migration.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • van Dusseldorp, D.B.W.M., Promotor
    • Speckmann, J.D., Promotor, External person
    Award date16 Oct 1996
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789054855699
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


    • decision making
    • farm management
    • households
    • social classes
    • farmers
    • agriculture
    • indonesia
    • java

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