Smallholders in mixed crop–livestock systems make up a large proportion of the farming enterprises in developing countries. In these systems, crop residues are an important component of production since they have multiple uses including livestock feed, construction materials, cooking fuel and organic fertilizer for the fields.

Mixed crop–livestock systems are very dynamic and are evolving rapidly in response to external drivers such as demographic pressure, development of urban markets, climate variability and climate change. In addition, recent interest in biofuels has further implications for land use and resource allocation.

This study aims to improve understanding of the tradeoffs among different crop residue uses in cereal-based systems in four regions: millet-, sorghum-, and maize-based systems in West Africa; maize-based systems in eastern Africa, maize- and sorghum-based systems in southern Africa; and wheat/rice-based systems in South Asia. The major trade-off in most systems is the short-term benefit gained from using crop residues to feed livestock versus the longer-term benefit gained from leaving crop residues in the field to improve soil fertility and control erosion.

The study focuses on decision-making processes at the farm and household level and the findings will capture the diversity and contrasts as well as recent changes in crop residue uses at various scales. The results will help decision makers to target technical, institutional and policy options to improve livelihoods, without compromising the long-term sustainability of these farming systems.

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