Article / CIAT / Crop-Livestock / Environment / Feeds / LIVESTOCK-FISH / Research / Systems Analysis / Value Chains

Do smallholder, mixed crop-livestock livelihoods encourage sustainable agricultural practices?

As calls for bolstering ecosystem services from croplands have grown more insistent during the past two decades, the search for ways to foster these agriculture-sustaining services has become more urgent.

The authors examine by means of a meta-analysis the argument that small-scale, mixed crop-livestock farming, a common livelihood among poor rural peoples, leads to environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.

As predicted, mixed crop-livestock farms exhibit more sustainable practices, but, contrary to predictions, a small scale of operation does not predict sustainability. Many smallholders on mixed crop-livestock farms use sustainable practices, but other smallholders practice a degrading, input-scarce agriculture. Some large farm operators use soil-conserving, minimum-tillage techniques while other large operators ignore soil-conserving techniques and practice an industrialized, high chemical input agriculture. The strength and pervasiveness of the link in the data between mixed crop-livestock farming and sustainable agricultural practices argues for agricultural policies that promote mixed crop-livestock livelihoods.

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Rudel, Thomas K.; Kwon, Oh-Jung; Paul, Birthe K.; Boval, Maryline; Rao, Idupulapati Madhusudana; Burbano, Diana; McGroddy, Megan; Lerner, Amy M.; White, Douglas; Cuchillo, Mario; Peters, Michael. 2016. Do smallholder, mixed crop-livestock livelihoods encourage sustainable agricultural practices? A meta-analysis. Land 5(1), 6. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/land5010006

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