The Theory of Planned Behavior
The natural environment in Iran faces severe threats such as desertification, degradation of forests and rangelands, land use change, declining groundwater table, landslides, etc. (Geravandi et al., 2012; Ravanbakhsh Sangjoei, 2013; Mesgaran et al., 2017). Ecological pressure in agricultural production spaces, frequent use of land, inappropriate and destructive use of water resources, and reduction of the efficiency of the underlying factors of production (water and land) are all signs of agricultural instability in Iran (Afrakhteh et al., 2013). Based on reports published about sustainability indicators and environmental performance also indicate that Iran had weak rating in these indices (Ravanbakhsh Sangjoei, 2013). A glance at the environmental situation in recent decades shows that human activities are the most effective and important causes of environmental changes (Panahandeh et al., 2010). It has led to environmental concerns, so that environmental protection is a major challenge facing societies, currently (Bronfman et al., 2015; Mond?©jar-Jim?©nez et al. 2012).
Environmental sustainability is a key word for all societies since the beginning of the 21st century (Klockner, 2013). All countries need to ensure the adequate short and long term quality of natural resources, ecosystems, plant diversity and animal species (Vlek and Steg, 2007). Meantime, there are many ways to help improvment environmental problems: such as government policy, international agreements, participatory leadership, training programs, technological innovations, etc. But the impact of human behavior should not be ignored (Osbaldiston and Schott, 2012). Humans are frequently faced with choices whose decisions have positive consequences for themselves and negative consequences for the environment (Nordlund and Gorvill, 2002).
The most effective way to protect the environment is evaluating people’s behavior and performance to achieve the basic principles of sustainable life. It means that people must evaluate their behavior in the face of the environment (Muharram Nejad, 2007), which farmers’ behavior is not excluded from other people, and it must be recognized that any agriculture system is harmless to the environment without any exception (Paarlberg, 2009). On the other hand, the social and economic impacts of environmental change are important in developing countries, because of, agriculture is the main source of income and livelihoods (Rao and Rogers, 2006). Thus, it is important to pay attention the farmers’ conservation behavior. Because of, farmers are the main actors in the agricultural sector, which have close relationship with the natural environment through their activities. But, describing human behavior is difficult because of its complexities. However, societies in most countries of the world are heavily concerned about farmers’ behavior in the agricultural sector. Governmental sectors at various levels seek to reduce environmental problems in the agricultural sector (Seymour and Ridly, 2005). On this basis, governments are trying to present sustainable farming systems to farmers. Conservation Agriculture (CA) is one of the farming systems in line with sustainable agriculture.
CA happens to be one of the valid alternatives to achieve sustainable agriculture. It helps realizing sustainable food production, food security in the developing countries, and an efficient way to combat climate changes (Powlson et al. 2016). CA practices are based on the principles of ecology and sustainable agriculture making the use of the land and environment sustainable (Lal 2013; Abdulai and Abdulai 2016). CA is a three-step approach that includes maintaining crop residuals on the soil surface, no-tillage or low-tillage planting operations, and the use of crop rotation or integrated planting (Shetto and Owenya 2007). According to global estimates, about 124 million hectares of lands in the world have been brought under CA (Friedrich et al. 2011), 87% of which are situated in the US, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and Canada (Brouder and Gomez-Macpherson 2014). In Europe, CA is practiced on large tracts in Spain, Italy, France, Finland and Germany (FAO 2015). Most studies have shown that CA has increased the crop yield (Mafongoya et al. 2016; Bayala et al. 2012; Sharma et al. 2012; Mazvimavi 2011). Also, it reduces the production costs, improves energy efficiency by reducing fuel consumption (Sanchez-Giron et al. 2007; Moreno et al. 2011), reduces labor force, reduces soil erosion, improves soil fertility (Bonzanigo et al. 2016), causes carbon sequestration in soil (Piccoli et al. 2016), improves the quality of soil in irrigated and rain-fed conditions (Cantero-Martinez et al. 2007; Madejon et al. 2009; Melero et al. 2011; Cid et al. 2014), and reduced the cost of inputs for the farmers (Brouder and Gomez-Macpherson 2014). Accordingly, this research was carried out with the aim of analyzing the conservation behavior of farmers who participated in CA project by applying Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB).