Introduction: Agriculture is one of the most influential sectors in the Iranian economy, playing an essential role in the country’s political and economic independence. In this regard, horticulture activities in areas with sufficient potentials greatly contribute to the rural livelihood. Meanwhile, one of the Iranian most important horticultural products is pistachio.Pistachio production in Iran is one of the main sources of income for the rural people and national economy. This product provides about five percent of the total value of agricultural production and plays a pivotal role in non-oil exports of the country. Since cultivation of pistachio is predominant in rural areas of Sirjan County, this study seeks to analyze the effects of this product and its role in the livelihoods of rural households in this County.This paper attempted to examine the pistachio production status, constraints and its role based on the appropriate criteria. This research was conducted in response to the major question whether the rural household income from pistachio production is desirable compared to other income sources, while evaluating the relationship between the constraints of pistachio production and livelihood desirability level.
Research Methodology: This research is a descriptive-analytical research in which documentary and field methods have been employed for data collection. In field studies, the survey was conducted at the level of village and household. In this regard, the villages with more than 50 households in four rural districts were identified as the samples. Then for related studies about households, the number of households living in villages calculated using Cochran formula and 241 households were selected as the sample size.
To study the livelihood condition, a set of indicators related to the dimensions of human capital in financial, social, physical and natural aspects, and to examine the limitations of pistachio production, a set of indicators related to economic, social, environmental and physical-spatial dimensions were considered. To analyze the data gathered through questionnaires, AHP method and statistical analysis were employed. The pistachio production constraint and household livelihood were determined based on multi-criteria evaluation, involving several stages such as formulation of evaluation matrix, weighing the related indicators and standardization of data. Furthermore, the weighted combination method was used to summarize data. In this regard, SPSS and ArcGIS were employed for statistical and spatial analyses as well as determining the intensity of pistachio production constraints and household livelihood level.
Research Findings: Ebrahim-Abad accounted for the largest percentage of household producers with 85% of households producing pistachio. In contrast, Kurgah and Yahya villages covered the smallest percentage of household producers with only 2% of households producing pistachios. According to the results, 40% of rural households under study earned their annual income mostly from pistachio production. In other households, however, pistachio production did not contribute to income at all or was secondary to other businesses such as livestock, agriculture, regular employment, shopkeeping, driving, construction, etc. The estimates of average household production in villages under study suggested that the households living in Malekabad and Darestan villages accounted for the highest average household income by producing 7.5 tons of pistachios. Moreover, evaluation of how these villages have been dispersed in terms of pistachio production rates revealed that Malekabad and Darestan covered the largest pistachio production rates with approximately 2,500 and 2,100 tons during 2013, respectively. Among the indicators of livelihood, the most important factors contributing to various aspects of rural livelihood across Sirjan County were income level in dimension of financial capital (0.850), available safe drinking water in dimension of human capital (0.650), trust level in dimension of financial investment (0.530) and housing quality in dimension of physical capital (0.100). Among the indicators of pistachio production constraints, the greatest factors were costs of dredging wells in economic dimension (0.137), water limitation in environmental dimension (0.730), non-participation in societal dimension (0.730) and inadequate warehouse for products storage in physical dimension (0.390). On the other hand, the intensity of pistachio production constraint in several villages widely varied, due to water shortage, land quality and weather conditions to name a few. In this regard, the frost during spring sometimes leads to lower yield, which ultimately affects the livelihood of rural households. Moreover, the farmers’ poor awareness of market prices of their products leaves a great portion of the profit margins for the middlemen.
Conclusion: The research findings show that there is a significant relationship between the limitations of pistachio production and the desirability level of livelihood in the villages of Sirjan County and the pistachio production acting as a contributory factor in increasing the income and purchasing power of local people. According to the findings, in the last decade, the production of pistachio has increased and Pistachio had a role as an important source of income for the villagers in this County. There is no doubt that pistachio production is highly profitable for these rural households, while providing seasonal employment opportunities for a large number of day laborers. This practically circulates the capital throughout a broad range of local people. Given the favorable natural conditions for pistachio production in Sirjan County, it is crucial to provide the necessary facilities and careful planning, while recruiting specialists throughout the production process, so as to further develop these villages in economic terms.