IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Beyond resource constraints - Exploring the biophysical feasibility of options for the intensification of smallholder crop-livestock systems in Vihiga district, Kenya


  • Tittonell, P.
  • van Wijk, M.T.
  • Herrero, M.
  • Rufino, M.C.
  • de Ridder, N.
  • Giller, K.E.


During participatory prototyping activities in Vihiga, western Kenya, farmers designed what they considered to be the ideal farm [Waithaka, M.M., Thornton, P.K., Herrero, M., Shepherd, K.D., 2006. Bio-economic evaluation of farmers' perceptions of viable farms in western Kenya. Agric. Syst. 90, 243-271]: one in which high productivity is achieved through optimising crop-livestock interactions. We selected four case study crop-livestock farms of different resource endowment (Type 1-4 - excluding the poorest farmers, Type 5, who do not own livestock) and quantified all relevant physical flows through and within them. With this information we parameterised a dynamic, farm-scale simulation model to investigate (i) current differences in resource use efficiencies and degree of crop-livestock interactions across farm types; and (ii) the impact of different interventions in farm Types 3 and 4 on producing the desired shifts in productivity towards the ideal farm. Assuming no resource constraints, changes in the current farm systems were introduced stepwise, as both intensification of external input use (fertilisers and fodder) and qualitative changes in the configuration of the farms (i.e. changing land use towards fodder production, improving manure handling and/or changing cattle breeds). In 10-year simulations of the baseline, current scenario using historical weather data the wealthiest farms Type 2 achieved food self-sufficiency (FSS) in 20% of the seasons due to rainfall variability, whereas the poorer Type 4 only achieved FSS in 0 to 30% of the seasons; soil organic C decreased during the simulations at annual rates of -0.54, -0.73, -0.85 and -0.84 t C ha-1 on farms of Type 1-4, respectively; large differences in productivity and recycling efficiency between farm types indicated that there is ample room to improve the physical performance of the poorer farms (e.g. light and water use efficiency was 2-3 times larger on wealthier farms). Simulating different intensification scenarios indicated that household FSS can be achieved in all farm types through input intensification, e.g. using P fertilisers at rates as small as 15 kg farm-1 season-1 (i.e. from 7 to 28 kg ha-1). Increasing the area under Napier grass from c. 20 to 40% and reducing the area of maize, beans and sweet potato in farms of Type 3 and 4 increased their primary productivity by c. 1 t ha-1 season-1, their milk production by 156 and 45 L season-1, respectively, but decreased the production of edible energy (by 2000 and 250 MJ ha-1 season-1) and protein (by 20 and 3 kg ha-1 season-1). By bringing in a more productive cow the primary productivity increased even further in Farm Type 3 (up to 5 t ha-1 season-1), as did milk production (up to c. 1000 L season-1), edible energy (up to c. 10,000 MJ ha-1 season-1) and protein (up to c. 100 kg ha-1 season-1). The impact of livestock management on the recycling of nutrients and on the efficiency of nutrient use at farm scale can be large, provided that enough nutrients are present in or enter the system to be redistributed. An increase in N cycling efficiency through improved manure handling from 25 to 50% would increase the amount of N cycled in the case study farms of Type 1 and 2 by only ca. 10 kg season-1, and only 1-2 kg season-1 in Type 3 and 4. The various alternatives simulated when disregarding resource constraints contributed to narrow the productivity and efficiency gaps between poorer and wealthier farms. However, the feasibility of implementing such interventions on a large number of farms is questionable. Implications for system (re-)design and intensification strategies are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Tittonell, P. & van Wijk, M.T. & Herrero, M. & Rufino, M.C. & de Ridder, N. & Giller, K.E., 2009. "Beyond resource constraints - Exploring the biophysical feasibility of options for the intensification of smallholder crop-livestock systems in Vihiga district, Kenya," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 101(1-2), pages 1-19, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:101:y:2009:i:1-2:p:1-19

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Giller, Ken E. & Rowe, Ed C. & de Ridder, Nico & van Keulen, Herman, 2006. "Resource use dynamics and interactions in the tropics: Scaling up in space and time," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 8-27, April.
    2. Kiptot, Evelyne & Hebinck, Paul & Franzel, Steven & Richards, Paul, 2007. "Adopters, testers or pseudo-adopters? Dynamics of the use of improved tree fallows by farmers in western Kenya," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 509-519, May.
    3. Herrero, M. & Gonzalez-Estrada, E. & Thornton, P.K. & Quiros, C. & Waithaka, M.M. & Ruiz, R. & Hoogenboom, G., 2007. "IMPACT: Generic household-level databases and diagnostics tools for integrated crop-livestock systems analysis," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-3), pages 240-265, January.
    4. Meinzen-Dick, Ruth & DiGregorio, Monica & McCarthy, Nancy, 2004. "Methods for studying collective action in rural development," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 197-214, December.
    5. Waithaka, M.M. & Thornton, P.K. & Herrero, M. & Shepherd, K.D., 2006. "Bio-economic evaluation of farmers' perceptions of viable farms in western Kenya," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-3), pages 243-271, October.
    6. Thornton, P. K. & Herrero, M., 2001. "Integrated crop-livestock simulation models for scenario analysis and impact assessment," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 70(2-3), pages 581-602.
    7. Bouman, B. A. M. & van Keulen, H. & van Laar, H. H. & Rabbinge, R., 1996. "The `School of de Wit' crop growth simulation models: A pedigree and historical overview," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 52(2-3), pages 171-198.
    8. de Ridder, Nico & Breman, Henk & van Keulen, Herman & Stomph, Tjeerd Jan, 2004. "Revisiting a `cure against land hunger': soil fertility management and farming systems dynamics in the West African Sahel," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 109-131, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Brown, Colin & Waldron, Scott, 2013. "Agrarian change, agricultural modernization and the modelling of agricultural households in Tibet," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 83-94.
    2. Tittonell, Pablo, 2014. "Livelihood strategies, resilience and transformability in African agroecosystems," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 3-14.
    3. Giller, K.E. & Tittonell, P. & Rufino, M.C. & van Wijk, M.T. & Zingore, S. & Mapfumo, P. & Adjei-Nsiah, S. & Herrero, M. & Chikowo, R. & Corbeels, M. & Rowe, E.C. & Baijukya, F. & Mwijage, A. & Smith,, 2011. "Communicating complexity: Integrated assessment of trade-offs concerning soil fertility management within African farming systems to support innovation and development," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(2), pages 191-203, February.
    4. Schut, Marc & van Paassen, Annemarie & Leeuwis, Cees & Bos, Sandra & Leonardo, Wilson & Lerner, Anna, 2011. "Space for innovation for sustainable community-based biofuel production and use: Lessons learned for policy from Nhambita community, Mozambique," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 5116-5128, September.
    5. Comas, Jordi & Connor, David & Isselmou, Mohamed El Moctar & Mateos, Luciano & Gómez-Macpherson, Helena, 2012. "Why has small-scale irrigation not responded to expectations with traditional subsistence farmers along the Senegal River in Mauritania?," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 152-161.
    6. Falconnier, Gatien N. & Descheemaeker, Katrien & Van Mourik, Thomas A. & Sanogo, Ousmane M. & Giller, Ken E., 2015. "Understanding farm trajectories and development pathways: Two decades of change in southern Mali," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 210-222.
    7. Diogo, Rodrigue V.C. & Schlecht, Eva & Buerkert, Andreas & Rufino, Mariana C. & van Wijk, Mark T., 2013. "Increasing nutrient use efficiency through improved feeding and manure management in urban and peri-urban livestock units of a West African city: A scenario analysis," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 64-72.
    8. van Wijk, Mark T. & Tittonell, Pablo & Rufino, Mariana C. & Herrero, Mario & Pacini, Cesare & Ridder, Nico de & Giller, Ken E., 2009. "Identifying key entry-points for strategic management of smallholder farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa using the dynamic farm-scale simulation model NUANCES-FARMSIM," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 102(1-3), pages 89-101, October.
    9. Andrieu, N. & Vayssières, J. & Corbeels, M. & Blanchard, M. & Vall, E. & Tittonell, P., 2015. "From farm scale synergies to village scale trade-offs: Cereal crop residues use in an agro-pastoral system of the Sudanian zone of Burkina Faso," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 84-96.
    10. repec:eee:agisys:v:158:y:2017:i:c:p:78-92 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. repec:eee:agisys:v:153:y:2017:i:c:p:32-42 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Komarek, Adam M. & Bell, Lindsay W. & Whish, Jeremy P.M. & Robertson, Michael J. & Bellotti, William D., 2015. "Whole-farm economic, risk and resource-use trade-offs associated with integrating forages into crop–livestock systems in western China," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 63-72.
    13. Le Gal, P.-Y. & Dugué, P. & Faure, G. & Novak, S., 2011. "How does research address the design of innovative agricultural production systems at the farm level? A review," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(9), pages 714-728.
    14. Komarek, Adam M. & McDonald, Cam K. & Bell, Lindsay W. & Whish, Jeremy P.M. & Robertson, Michael J. & MacLeod, Neil D. & Bellotti, William D., 2012. "Whole-farm effects of livestock intensification in smallholder systems in Gansu, China," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 16-24.
    15. repec:eee:agisys:v:163:y:2018:i:c:p:73-88 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Tittonell, Pablo & Gérard, Bruno & Erenstein, Olaf, 2015. "Tradeoffs around crop residue biomass in smallholder crop-livestock systems – What’s next?," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 119-128.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:101:y:2009:i:1-2:p:1-19. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.