Optimizing livelihood and environmental benefits from crop residues in smallholder crop-livestock system in Southern Africa regional case study

Published on 29 June 2010

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Start Date: 1 January 2010 | End Date: 31 December 2011


Smallholders in mixed crop-livestock systems constitute a very large fraction of farming enterprises in developing countries. In those systems, crop residues (CR) are a strategic production component: their use can be split into animal feeding, construction material, cooking fuel, mulch remaining (sometimes burnt) in the field.

Mixed crop-livestock systems are very dynamic and are evolving rapidly in response to external drivers such as demographic pressure, development of urban markets and increased demand for crop and livestock products, climate variability and change. In addition, the recent interest for bio-fuel production exacerbates further the pressure on biomass in production systems.

This study aims at better understanding the tradeoffs in crop residue uses in cereal based systems in four regions: millet, sorghum, maize based systems in West Africa; maize based systems in Eastern and Southern Africa; and wheat/rice based systems in South Asia. The major tradeoff in most systems is the short term benefits of using crop residues to feed livestock versus leaving the crop residues in the field to improve soil productivity (nutrient balance, erosion control, and soil health).

The study focuses on the decision making processes at the farm/household level and will capture the diversity/contrasts and recent changes in CR uses at various scales in order to better target technical, institutional and policy options to improve livelihood without compromising long term system sustainability.

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