Exploring options for sustainable intensification in different farming system types of fourAfrica RISING countries uri icon


  • Sustainable intensification is proposed as a promising way to increase the productivity ofagricultural systems while reducing pressure on ecosystems, safeguarding equitable relationsamong societal groups, and supporting the economic viability of households, enterprises, andcommunities. In sub-Saharan Africa, the identification and dissemination of options forsustainable intensification is hampered by the large diversity within and between farmingsystems, and their complexity arising from the interactions among different farm componentsand external factors. This study therefore uses an integrated farming systems approach to identifyand assess context-specific improvements that can then be implemented and tested on-farm tofoster experiential learning and facilitate adoption.We conducted a farming systems analysis for nine Africa RISING intervention sites across fourcountries, based on rapid and detailed farm characterizations, followed by model-supporteddiagnosis, and exploration of options for sustainable intensification. Farm diversity wasdescribed and analyzed by means of typologies and cross-site comparisons.Identified constraints varied depending on site and farming system type, but commonly includedlow input availability, climatic variability, poor soil fertility, sub-optimal livestock feeding,biotic stresses, and poor access to training and technical advice, all impairing farm productivity,returns to labor and capital inputs, income generation and food security. We investigated entrypoints that tackle the above constraints by exploring alternative farm configurations,technologies and practices for representative farms. By assessing potential impact of thesechanges on indicators beyond productivity, trade-offs were identified and assessed, for instancebetween profitability and household food self-sufficiency, and between nitrogen availability forcrop uptake and increased nutrient losses. Taking a systems perspective during the entry pointevaluation allowed differentiating potential effects on indicators at the field level versus the farmand household level. The exploration of options for specific farming system types now enablesmore targeted testing of promising innovations with farmers in the second project phase

publication date

  • 2015