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Ecology - Mental Health - Science Policy

Training Programmes Can Change Behaviour and Encourage the Cultivation of Over-Harvested Plant Species
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Author: Sophie J. Williams et al.

by Sophie J. Williams, Julia P. G. Jones, Colin Clubbe, James M. Gibbons

Cultivation of wild-harvested plant species has been proposed as a way of reducing over-exploitation of wild populations but lack of technical knowledge is thought to be a barrier preventing people from cultivating a new species. Training programmes are therefore used to increase technical knowledge to encourage people to adopt cultivation. We assessed the impact of a training programme aiming to encourage cultivation of xaté (Chamaedorea ernesti-augusti), an over-harvested palm from Central America. Five years after the training programme ended, we surveyed untrained and trained individuals focusing on four potential predictors of behaviour: technical knowledge, attitudes (what individuals think about a behaviour), subjective norms (what individuals perceive others to think of a behaviour) and perceived behavioural control (self assessment of whether individuals can enact the behaviour successfully). Whilst accounting for socioeconomic variables, we investigate the influence of training upon these behavioural predictors and examine the factors that determine whether people adopt cultivation of a novel species. Those who had been trained had higher levels of technical knowledge about xaté cultivation and higher belief in their ability to cultivate it while training was not associated with differences in attitudes or subjective norms. Technical knowledge and perceived behavioural control (along with socio-economic variables such as forest ownership and age) were predictors of whether individuals cultivate xaté. We suggest that training programmes can have a long lasting effect on individuals and can change behaviour. However, in many situations other barriers to cultivation, such as access to seeds or appropriate markets, will need to be addressed.