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Psychology, Sustainability

Encouraging farmers to participate in conservation might require more women to participate in decision making

Financial incentives are often cited as a means to get farmers to participate in conservation efforts. Pay them to not use toxic pesticides and they might make the shift. The problem is that a lot of solutions to improve conservation in agricultural areas require the cooperation of multiple different people to be effective.

These were the types of situations that Bell and colleagues (2023) built into three different multiplayer video games. Players from many different regions in the world engaged in playing a multiplayer game. They could take financial incentives to engage in more environmental based action but to be truly effective the group also needed to cooperate. Unfortunately, they didn’t always do this, resulting in worse agricultural and environmental outcomes.

An example of this was using chemical pesticides versus natural pest control through encouraging organisms like spiders. This requires all of the community to cooperate and skip the chemicals. If even one farm applies chemicals everyone gets worse agricultural outcomes. But this is exactly what would happen in many of the groups.

However, groups that were more gender diverse and had better representation of women were more likely to communicate better and more likely to cooperate. As a result, the groups with more women were more likely to see better agricultural and conservation outcomes. Increased education levels also played into increased cooperation. There were other patterns based on country of the players as well but the impact of women was consistent across multiple groups.

I think this is pretty cool and it follows along from other research I’ve looked at about how more diverse groups make better decisions. To me, this is, therefore, one more piece of evidence that if we want to achieve sustainability we need to prioritize diversity and inclusion.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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