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Can the right composition and diversity of farmed species improve food security among smallholder farmers?
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Food security and livelihoods among smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are often constrained by limited farm resource endowment. It can be difficult to improve resource endowment given barriers such as low land availability and the unaffordability of agricultural inputs, so here we ask whether farmers can gain a better return on their resources through optimizing their farm strategy in terms of the composition and/or diversity of crop and livestock species raised. Our survey of 1,133 smallholder farmers in western Kenya and northern Nigeria, using a modified version of RHoMIS, indicated that different farm strategies were related to differences in food security and farm incomes. In particular, we found that it was possible for farms with a high species richness but low resource endowment to achieve similar or better food security and income outcomes than farms with low species richness and high resource endowment. This indicates strong potential for diversification to improve food security and livelihoods among smallholder farmers. However, further research will be required to prove a causal relationship. We also noted some exceptions to this trend that require investigation: increasing species richness was not beneficial for low-resourced, livestock-focused farmers in western Kenya, and increasing species richness was associated with a decline in dietary diversity in northern Nigeria (due to declines in purchased dietary diversity that outweighed increases in on-farm and other sources of dietary diversity). Similar analyses could be applied to a wider RHoMIS dataset covering a greater diversity of countries and agro-ecological zones to help identify where, and why, different farm strategies result in better or worse outcomes for smallholder farmers.
We would like to thank all enumerators and other team members who assisted with undertaking the surveys, as well as RHoMIS staff who assisted with survey modifications and data management. Thanks also to Tunrayo Alabi for assisting withGIS during the sample selection, and to Jim Hammond for advice on earlier versions of this manuscript.
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Permanent link to this itemhttps://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12478/7444
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