Livelihood heterogeneity in shaping smallholder farms' nutrient management and efficiency: the case of Ioba Province, Burkina Faso in West Africa
Low food productivity and inefficient nutrient management remain the main interrelated problems of sub-Saharan African smallholder farming systems. Understanding the problems is framed by the varying livelihood conditions across the smallholder population. Knowing how the heterogeneity of livelihood conditions influences smallholder farming system performance in food production and nutrient management is of significant interest in informing effective agricultural policies. This study identified the livelihood typologies of smallholder farming systems and analyzed the relationship between livelihood types and nutrient management practices and crop production performances. We surveyed 360 smallholder farms across Ioba Province, Burkina Faso in West Africa, with variables guided by the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF). We used multivariate statistical methods to identify distinct livelihood types of smallholder systems, as well as standard metrics to compare soil nutrient management practices, food productivity, and economic efficiency among the livelihood types. We found that livelihood heterogeneity, represented by the defined smallholder typology, shaped the patterns of nutrient management practices, crop productivity, economic efficiency and drivers of mineral fertilizer uses. The common thinking that cash income had a positive influence on mineral fertilizer use is not likely the case for off-farm oriented farmers. We demonstrated the added values of the functional livelihood typology approach to sustainable nutrient management. Intensification in smallholder farms needs to be supported by an improvement of nutrient use efficiencies through approaches guided by the livelihood specificity of the smallholder systems. Rather than pursuing uniform interventions, interventions targeting the livelihood constraints of specific livelihood types of smallholders should be designed to leverage sustainable soil nutrient management and improve food productivity. The study contributed to the overall deficit of studies on this subject field in West Africa where is a hub of international efforts for improving food security and combating soil degradation.