L3: Farm Systems and Risk Management

Published on 11 December 2011

Research Areas





Start Date: 1 August 2010 | End Date: 30 November 2013


Mixed crop-livestock farming is the predominant system of production in the Limpopo Basin, but livestock production constitutes the main income source in these systems. It offers the most established form of market engagement by small holders and is the more resilient production system under highly variable rainfall. However, crop production for
food is widely pursued by smallholder famers under these dry conditions, even in regions receiving as little as 350mm of rain. This raises the question: would small-scale farmers achieve higher levels of food security, income and water productivity by devoting resources to fodder production in the dry conditions of the Limpopo Basin, especially as fodder is a more resilient production system than grain? Further, from a systems perspective—what farm management practices can be employed by farmers based on their particular skill and resource levels in a specific environment?

L3 will define the interplay between market access, crop and livestock technologies, and investment risks in water- and market-scarce environments that lead to technology adoption by farm families, enabling them to enhance food security and incomes through more efficient water use.

Innovation Platforms: The main entry point for the project will be the Innovation Platform (IP), which brings together value chain actors: input suppliers, farmers, traders, processors, etc in a shared forum to explore their challenges and opportunities. From this, the IP proposes site-specific solutions to align production and market requirements around food and cash crop production, dry season feed, animal health, and poor market performance.

Crop and Livestock Modelling: Participatory modelling will be an entry point to develop scenarios based on local knowledge, to be tested with farmers using on-farm participatory trials. Model testing and calibration will be done using on-farm trials then the model will be used to develop scenarios and extrapolate management effects to other soil types and rainfall regimes across time. Technology interventions linked to market development: This project targets private sector, NGO and CBO agents to bring about market-related changes for smallholder farmers. Such initiatives may include contract farming for groundnut production and a voucherbased input (seed and fertilizer) distribution scheme for smallholder farmers.

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