One proposal for preserving rain forests is to promote the adoption of new agricultural technologies, such as improved plant varieties and use of chemical herbicides, which would increase productivity and slow deforestation by reducing demand for new cropland. Studies have shown that farmers in developing countries who have achieved certain levels of education, wealth, and security of land tenure are more likely to adopt such technologies. But these studies have focused on villages with limited land that are tied to a market economy rather than on the relatively isolated, self-sufficient communities with ample land characteristic of rain-forest regions. A recent study of the Tawahka people of the Honduran rain forest found that farmers with some formal education were more likely to adopt improved plant varieties but less likely to use chemical herbicides and that those who spoke Spanish (the language of the market economy) were more likely to adopt both technologies. Nonland wealth was also associated with more adoption of both technologies, but availability of uncultivated land reduced the incentive to employ the productivity-enhancing technologies. Researchers also measured land-tenure security: in Tawahka society, kinship ties are a more important indicator of this than are legal property rights, so researchers measured it by a household’s duration of residence in its village. They found that longer residence correlated with more adoption of improved plant varieties but less adoption of chemical herbicides.
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