Does Crop-Livestock Integration Mean Resilience to African Farmers?

The decision of African farmers to plant only crops, raise only livestock or operate a mixed system which incorporates both, will be largely affected by a changing climate. However, the specific climate changes, i.e. increased or decreased precipitation, as well as intensity and abruptness of climate patterns will determine the severity and necessity of adaptation to new methods for farmers all across the continent. Niggol Seo (2010) studied the association between temperature and precipitation with farmers choice of methods concerning specialization or diversification of on-farm practices. Using surveys of around 9000 farms from ten countries, the research indicated that a hotter, drier climate will result in many more integrated farms. The expected profitability of an integrated farm as a method for farm resilience does, however, depend on the climate model applied. The research found that by 2060 integrated farms will be much more common and profitable in Africa. —Asa Kamer
Seo, S., 2010. Is an integrated farm more resilient against climate change? A micro-econometric analysis of portfolio diversification in African agriculture. Food Policy 35, 32–40.


The data for this study was taken from a 2002–2003 growing year collection produced by the GEF/World Bank project on climate change. Countries were selected so that each region of Africa would be represented and data collection took place clustered in villages in order to make survey taking more affordable. The countries were Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ghana representing West Africa, Cameroon for Central Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia for East Africa, South Africa and Zamibia for southern Africa, and Egypt for Northern Africa. These data reflected decisions already made by farmers regarding their farm management choices in response to varying environmental factors of the preceding years. The data collectors attempted to understand how African farmers react when forced to continue profitability despite lower yields as temperature and precipitation change threaten previously profitable methods. The data on these previously executed decisions by farmers was then extrapolated to explain what farmers will do under circumstances predicted by climate change models. Of those surveyed, 7% specialized in livestock while 40% specialized in crops, making about half of the respondents specialized, and half integrated. The profitability of integrated farms was higher per hectare than it was for specialized farms, considering own food at market cost and labor costs only for hired laborers. Livestock only farms and mixed farms tended to be in hotter and drier regions, while milder areas with more precipitation featured many more crop only farmers. Areas which had access to heavy springtime stream flow tended to be crop farmers because of the available water at planting time and the potential to store water for the hotter summer, whereas farmers in regions which get more summer rains tended to have livestock only  because local irrigation is less viable for planting. In addition to lands of high water flow, specialized farms tended to be in areas with electricity.
    Distinct ecological and agricultural regions are diverse and plentiful in Africa. The farmers surveyed live in landscapes from high mountains to flat plains, and the resulting crop and livestock used can be quite different. Accordingly, the way that farmers adapt to climate change will also show a diversity of strategies. However the research did show that across the board, the switch to integrated farms will be profitable into the future. An increase in temperature of one degree C is expected to raise the number of integrated farms and lessen the number of either kind of specialized farm. An increase in precipitation of any amount correlates with an increase of the number of farms with any crops, be they mixed or specialized.
    The research found that any significant and abrupt change in climate would be greatly harmful to African farmers, causing a possible 75% reduction in productivity. However, even under extreme climate changes, diverse farms are estimated to fare better than specialized ones. Given the predicted longterm and consistent nature of the changing climate, farmers will likely have to continue adapting their practices to new temperatures and precipitation levels. Farms which remain livestock or crop only will continue to face mounting ecological pressure to integrate as time goes on and the climate continues to change. The paper suggests that aid and government programs attempting to help farmers in the process of climate adaptation should do so with an eye toward the regional differences in ecology and policy. They also suggest that their data on adaptation was created assuming the current practice of communal land for grazing and planting, and that aid projects which alter those land use patterns would also alter the predicted results of this research.

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