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A participatory appraisal of Imperata management strategies for sustainable land use in the subhumid savanna of Nigeria
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Increasing spread of Imperata in the sub-humid Savannah of Nigeria has had many neg- ative results threatening the sustainability of the natural resource base and livelihood of farmers. A community-based participatory approach (PA) was conducted to identify cur- rent and alternative technologies for controlling Imperata , which support sustainable land use. The PA involved Imperata infestation mapping, livelihood analysis, wealth ranking, crops and constraint prioritisation as well as farmers' evaluation of control methods. Results of the PA showed that farmers commonly used hand weeding and herbicides as well as fallow and burning. High crop yield, income, type of crop(s) grown, capital, chemi- cal, knapsack and labour availability, knowledge and sustainability criteria were the major determinants for the choice of control technique among different wealth (or resource) cat- egories of farmers. Ensuring household food security and prevailing land ownership rights governed the choice of crops grown as well as investment in land management technolo- gies for sustainable Imperata control. Farmers' evaluation of weed management techniques ranked herbicide as the most effective method of controlling Imperata particularly in maize, cassava and cowpea rotation cropping systems. The combination of Mucuna and hand weeding was second and third was the combination of Mucuna and herbicides. Other methods favoured by farmers included the use of improved cassava that shaded the Imper-ata, fallow and burning as an emergency control method. These methods reduce labour requirements, may increase costs but can contribute to higher income, food availability, and land sustainability. These control methods were the most preferred by resource-poor farmers, but are least likely to be adopted. It will be important to increase local aware- ness about problems associated with bush burning, ensure ready availability of materials, increase farmer knowledge of alternative control options, and increase access to credit. These will enhance improved management of Imperata, providing options for all categories of farmer.