Farming Differentiation in the Rural-urban Interface of the Middle Mountains, Nepal: Application of Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) Modeling
Journal of Agricultural Science
This article investigates the dominant factors of farming differentiation in the rural-urban interface of the densely populated Kathmandu Valley, using the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) modeling. The rural-urban interface in the Kathmandu Valley is an important vegetable production pocket which supplies a large amount of the vegetables in the city core. While subsistence farming in the rural area is characterized by a system which integrates livestock and forestry with agriculture, the
... iculture, the intensification in the urban fringe is characterized by triple crop rotations and market-oriented intensive vegetable production. Seven factors which were supposed to cause farming variation in the interface were incorporated in the AHP framework and then subjected to the farmers' judgment in distinctly delineated three farming zones. These factors played crucial yet differing roles in different farming zones. Inaccessibility and use of local resources; higher yield and accessibility and agro-ecological consideration and quality production are the key impacting factors of subsistence, commercial inorganic and smallholder organic farming respectively. The quantification of such factors of farming differentiation through AHP is an important piece of information that will contribute in modeling farming in the rural-urban interface of developing countries which are characterized by a high diversity of farming practices and are undergoing a rapid change in the land use pattern. 38 Households with poor road access, for instance, have larger holdings, lower productivity and are much more reliant on subsistence agriculture. Biophysical factors such as variations in the weather, landforms, topography, soil types and resource availability also affect the rural-urban growth pattern (Verbung et al., 2004) . In addition, socio-economic factors such as social structure, family composition and needs, economic opportunities, technological availability, cultural needs, demography and political systems also affect the land use change (Briassoulis, 2000) , leading to the adoption of different farming practices. Farmers in the Middle Mountains of Nepal face several challenges: variations in the biophysical situations such as high degree of slope, altitude and accessibility; weather variability, differential rates of soil erosion, a fragile landscape and poor socio-economic base of the farm families and rapid growth in population. Farmers are frequently confronted with making decision on what crops to plant, which crop combinations to apply, which farming components to integrate and at what composition and which farming practice is to adopt and keep it going. These decisions are to be made tactfully considering the knowledge and experience of the farmers along with those factors mentioned above. It is, therefore, important to distinguish the impacting factors involved in farming differentiation. This is done using analytic hierarchy process (AHP) modeling. The AHP, a flexible method that assigns weight to various factors in a hierarchical structure (Eagan and Weinberg, 1999) , is fundamentally a way to quantify the significance of the factors using pair-wise comparisons (Whitaker, 2007) . The AHP has proven useful applications in decision making in varieties of the areas (Palcic and Lalic, 2009) involving several factor comparisons. Kauko (2004) argues that most of the classical multi-attribute modeling techniques are based on the assumption of utility functions. However, the AHP is based on the assumption that quantification of a factor without comparing it in a pair doesn't capture better picture. Therefore, the relevant dominance of one attribute over another can be measured by a pair-wise comparison of preferences, systematically made on each level of a hierarchy of factors (Banai-Kashani, 1990; Ramanathan and Ganesh, 1994; Kumar et al., 2009) . Modeling factors that shape up the land use change or the predominance of a particular farming is a challenging job as various factors play different roles at different scales in a particular location (Thapa and Murayama, 2010) . Many of such factors are intertwined and hence they may have high degree of relation between them (Bray et al., 2004; Zang and Huang, 2006) . Thus, AHP serves the purpose of comparison and finds the important impacting factors of different farming practices. Present investigation employs AHP to understand the determinants of farming differentiation in the rural-urban interface of the Kathmandu Valley, which essentially is a highly variable and rapidly changing farming area with a diversity of farming resources. The rationale of selecting rural-urban interface of Kathmandu Valley The rural-urban interface of the Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts, which are two of the three districts within the densely populated Kathmandu Valley, in the Middle Mountains of Nepal was selected (Figure 1 ) considering the following facts. This area historically has been dominated by the farming activities. The soil fertility of the Valley is better due to a unique soil formation process occurred in that part of the country while rural farmlands are characterized by fragility, marginality and inaccessibility with a high rate of soil erosion. Variation in topography, slope and aspect and resource availability are features of the rural-urban interface of the Kathmandu Valley and its adjoining areas. These variations produce a diversity of farming practices. The selected areas represent a unique rural-urban interface in Nepal as many villages in the districts are not too far from the urban core but have a rural flavor to them. Also many locations have urban concentration with all fundamental amenities accompanied by a decent standard of living (Thapa et al., 2008) . Peri-urban farmers of these districts pursue intensive vegetable and niche market-based organic vegetable production. This area supplies a large volume of vegetables to meet the demand of the urbanites in the Kathmandu Valley. Close to 23% of the vegetables consumed in the Kathmandu are produced by the farmers in urban and peri-urban fringes of the Kathmandu Valley and its adjoining areas. This figure can be improved further to 76% by improving the existing farming practices and constructing a road network from the peri-urban to the urban area (Pradhan and Parera, 2005).