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Abstract

Land degradation is one of the most serious problems facing resource-poor tropical hillside farmers. Studies examining determinants of farmers’ decisions to invest in land improvement technologies have focused on economic and financial factors, neglecting individuals’ perceptions and awareness of the problems and how they affect land use and behavioral change that enhance environmental sustainability. This study examines Haitian peasants’ environmental behavior structure using a structural equation modeling approach. Specifically, the study examines the effects of perceived susceptibility, seriousness, benefits, and barriers to change on attitude, and the causal effect of attitude on behavior. The influence of the level of resources extracted from the land per capita on perceptions, attitude, and behavior is examined. Results show that Haitian peasants’ attitudes toward the environment are significantly affected by their perceived susceptibility and severity of land degradation. The path coefficients linking perceived susceptibility, severity, and benefits to attitude are 0.49 (t=5.43) and 0.21 (t=3.78), respectively. A positive attitude toward the environment seems to cause a greater inclination to behavioral change. The coefficient from attitude to behavior is 0.21 (t=3.81). The results indicate that agricultural productivity significantly shapes hillside farmers’ perceptions of susceptibility to and severity of land degradation. Per capita resource extraction significantly affects people’s perceptions of the benefits of good environmental quality and the barriers to behavioral change.

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