Linking farm and soil nutrient balances with economic performance of main agricultural livelihood system types in a semi-arid region of Burkina Faso
Thiombiano, Boundia Alexandre
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Providing sufficient food to increasing populations in SubSaharan Africa without undermining agro-ecosystems is a growing challenge. Addressing this challenge requires developing an array of sustainable soil nutrient management options for conditions specific to different livelihood types in order to improve the eco-efficiency of production systems. However, there is a lack of studies linking farm ecological and economic performance that also account for livelihood heterogeneity. The aim of the present study was to contribute to filling this research gap using soil nutrient balances as ecological indicators. Five agricultural livelihood system types for a total of 15 farms were monitored for one year in Ioba province, south-western Burkina Faso. Results showed that farm heterogeneity strongly influences nutrient balance and economic performance. Two main cases were identified. The first case consisted of farms showing negative soil nutrient balance with low profit that needed to (i) better integrate crops and livestock; (ii) use affordable erosion control measures; and (iii) recycle crop residue. In the second case, farms were profitable and showed negative soil nutrient balance. These farms need to (i) consistently implement technologies to reduce soil erosion; (ii) reduce nutrient gaps by recycling crop residues; and (iii) combine the use of mineral and organic fertilizers as compost to improve soil organic matter and physical properties, thereby improving soil resistance to erosion. For both cases, nutrient management options integrating crops and livestock were found to be the most promising options for reaching eco-efficiency. Therefore, policy intervention should promote crop-livestock integration and further studies should deepen investigation into the linkages between crops and livestock.