Mixed crop livestock systems provide half the world’s food and are the dominant farming system for the world’s poor.
Mixed farms are inherently productive, partly through the synergies between crop and livestock enterprises. For example, crop residues provide feed for livestock and livestock provide manure from crop production. However, as global populations grow such farms will need to become even more productive to keep pace with demand for food. Although we know that crop-livestock interactions are a key strength of mixed farms, intervention strategies often focus on either crop improvement of livestock improvement and fail to capture the benefits of integration.
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has been leading various sustainable intensification projects which aim to bring about rural transformation by focusing on system intensification of mixed smallholder farms. These projects include Africa RISING in Ethiopia, ZimCliffs in Zimbabwe and the newest recruit to this suite of projects, the Crop Livestock Integration Project (CLiP) in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.
The CLiP core team including scientists from ILRI and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) met recently in Nairobi. One of our goals was to develop the research agenda for the project.
The project has a number of development targets including improving income, nutrition, gender equity and environmental integrity. How we reach these targets is relatively flexible. As the project has got underway in DRC, a core theme has been the development of scalable packages of interventions. These packages have been designed with farmers and stakeholders to capitalize on the synergies between crop and livestock production. Testing of these packages is now underway in DRC and will start soon in Burundi.
The core team spent time thinking through some of the research questions that the project will address. One obvious question is how the scalable packages impact on our various development indicators. But we are also interested in what the impacts of these packages will be on whole farm productivity – will there be trade-offs at farm level that dilute the overall impact?
The idea of scalable packages has our end users in mind. IFAD and other development actors are always looking for packages that can be easily applied at scale. One question in our minds is which packages will prove most popular with our development partners once the CLiP project phases out.
Very soon the project will launch in Burundi and this gives us a chance to apply some of the thinking around scalable packages in a new setting.
(Article by Alan Duncan)