This article analysed farmers' perceptions of the effects of coconut mite in their livelihood and assessed crop diversification as a copping strategy for reduced coconut production. A socio-economic model of farmers' decisions on intercropping as an indicator for overall crop diversity was developed. The study was conducted between November 2009 and March 2010 in five districts in Tanzania, which were selected on the basis of the coconut's economic importance, using structured questionnaires which were administered to 200 household heads. Respondents were categorized in three groups – resource-poor farmers (43% of sample), medium-level farmers (50%) and well-off farmers (7%) according to six criteria. More than 80% of farmers were aware of the negative effects of the coconut mite. The result further indicated that the damaged nuts cause a loss of more than 30% of the cash income from coconut. Intercropping coconut with cassava, maize, cashew nut, sorghum and pineapples were the alternatives used by farmers to cope with declining coconut production caused by coconut mite and lethal yellowing disease. Land ownership and size, income from crops, non-farm income and family size were the main factors that influenced the farmer's decision to diversify crops. Although farmers diversify their cropping systems in order to be self-reliant, there is still a need to promote policies and programmes that will address coconut production constraints such pests and diseases such as rehabilitation of old plantations.
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