Research Topics

EPAR Research Brief #158
Publication Date: 08/03/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of water buffalo in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and South America). The environmental impacts of water buffalo are less widely studied than those of the other livestock species included in this series; typically, the environmental impacts of water buffalo are incorporated into discussions of cattle without more detailed impacts being broken down by bovine type. In Asia and India, where the majority of buffalo are raised, buffalo are typically kept in small herds of only a few animals, which may minimize the local impacts of their grazing on vegetation, soil erosion and water pollution. Some aspects of buffalo feeding and life cycle patterns, as observed in the Amazon, may cause their greenhouse gas emissions to differ from those of cattle: buffalo can fatten on a wider range of grasses, reach market size in a shorter time, transition better from dry to wet seasons, and are more resistant to bovine diseases. While buffalo grazing and trampling can lead to land degradation, buffalo can contribute to nutrient and resource cycling in farming systems because their manure is considered good fertilizer and they can remove and utilize biomass grown on agricultural plots. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, farm and pastures, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether.

EPAR Research Brief #155
Publication Date: 07/31/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of cattle in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Cattle are frequently cited as having the most severe overall environmental impacts among livestock species due to: methane and nitrous oxide released from digestion and manure; land use and conversion; desertification; inefficient ratio of weight of feed and water consumed to weight of meat and dairy produced; conflicts between livestock herders and wildlife; the large volume of wastewater produced in meat and hide processing; and overgrazing of riparian areas. However, cattle have also been found to provide several environmental benefits such as keeping wildlife corridors open, preventing the spread of noxious weeds, and promoting the growth of local vegetative species. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, farm and pastures, grain and other feed, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether. 

EPAR Research Brief #156
Publication Date: 07/31/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of goats in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We find that the most notable environmental implications of goats stem from their ability to graze on a wide variety of biomass sources in frequently marginal environments; while this intensive grazing stimulates biodiversity loss and may be more severe than grazing by other livestock species, goats are not a major driver of forest clearing due to their low economic value. Environmental benefits of goat production include keeping wildlife corridors open, preventing the spread of noxious weeds, and promoting the growth of local vegetative species through moderate grazing. Goats are also more water-efficient than large ruminants such as cattle. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, grazing intensity and frequency, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether.

EPAR Research Brief #157
Publication Date: 07/31/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of chickens in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Compared to ruminant species (cattle, water buffalo, and goats), chickens produce lower carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions, are a less significant driver of human expansion into natural habitat or of overgrazing, have lower impacts on the water cycle, and cause less destruction of natural habitats. Poultry’s major impacts on land degradation result from the production of their grain-intensive feed. Chicken production also poses a threat to avian biodiversity, as chickens are susceptible to viruses and act as vectors of disease transmission to avian wildlife. Chicken manure is widely viewed as a valuable fertilizer in developing countries, although transportation costs limit manure sales in local markets and the high nitrogen-phosphorous ratio can impact certain soils and water. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, health, livestock feed efficiency, and waste).

EPAR Technical Report #118
Publication Date: 03/16/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report combines analyses from four previous EPAR briefs on the effects of climate change on maize, rice, wheat, sorghum, and millet production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In addition, this brief presents new analysis of the projected impact of climate changes in SSA. We include comparisons of the importance of each crop, of their vulnerability to climate change, and of the research and policy resources dedicated to each. Especially with respect to climatic susceptibility, these rankings provide a comparative summary based upon the analysis conducted in the four previous EPAR briefs, statistical analyses of historical yield and climate data, and future climate model predictions. According to the indicators analyzed, our research suggests that maize leads the cereal crops in terms of importance within SSA and in terms of research and policy attention. Our analysis of climate conditions and the crop’s physical requirements suggests that many maize-growing areas are likely to move outside the range of ideal temperature and precipitation conditions for maize production. Rice is the third most important crop in terms of consumption dependency, fourth in terms of production, but second only to maize in terms of research funding and FTEs. Sorghum and millet rank second and third in production importance and second and fifth in consumption importance, but rank below maize and rice in terms of FTE researchers. Their role is complicated by the fact that they are often considered inferior goods; SSA consumers often substitute away from sorghum and millet consumption if they are able to do so. Wheat is the least-produced crop of the five, and the second to last in terms of consumption importance. However, it still ranks above millet in terms of FTE researchers.

EPAR Technical Report #133
Publication Date: 03/07/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report provides a summary of Tanzania’s agriculture sector, crop production, agricultural productivity and yield levels, risks, and policies and reforms. This review uses resources found on the University of Washington Libraries system and Google Scholar, as well as the websites of the Government of Tanzania, FAO, and World Bank. We find that Tanzanian agriculture workers comprise 80% of the population and farm a wide variety of crops, ranging from staple crops such as maize, cassava, and rice, to export crops such as coffee, cotton, tobacco, tea, and sugar. Smallholder farmers face increasing risks from climate change, pests, diseases, and land degradation, among others. While they have some resources available, such as farmer groups and limited access to ICTs, they lack important resources such as credit and inputs. We find that Tanzania’s land tenure and agriculture policies may further complicate the lives of smallholders through increased taxes and administrative processes. Through the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP) reform, however, the Government of Tanzania hopes to empower farmers and improve service delivery.  

EPAR Research Brief #52
Publication Date: 11/09/2009
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Ecological farming and conventional farming are two approaches to producing food. The term “ecological farming” describes a range of agricultural systems that seek to provide food and environmental and social benefits by using natural processes and local resources rather than off-farm, purchased inputs (commonly referred to as “external inputs”). Recent debate about the merits of ecological farming over conventional methods has centered on each system’s ability to increase production in the context of numerous and varied biophysical and social constraints. A review of the literature suggests that ecological farming can offer some benefits to smallholder farmers, but that specific approaches must be tailored to local climate and soil conditions and availability of labor, training, and organic inputs.

EPAR Research Brief #75
Publication Date: 11/02/2009
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

In Tanzania, agriculture represents approximately 50 percent of GDP, 80 percent of rural employment, and over 50 percent of the foreign exchange earnings. Yet poor soil fertility and resulting low productivity contribute to low economic growth and widespread poverty. Chemical fertilizer has the potential to contribute to crop yield increases. Yet high prices and weaknesses in the fertilizer market keep fertilizer use low. This literature review examines the history of government interventions that have intended to increase access to fertilizers, and reviews current policies, market structure, and challenges that contribute to the present conditions. We find that despite numerous strategies over the last fifty years, from heavy government involvement to liberalization, major weaknesses in Tanzania’s fertilizer market prevent efficient use of fertilizer. High transportation costs, low knowledge level of farmers and agrodealers, unavailability of improved seed, and limited access to credit all contribute to the market’s problems. The government’s current framework, the Tanzania Agriculture Input Partnership (TAIP), acknowledges this interconnectedness by targeting multiple components of the market. This model could help Tanzania tailor solutions relevant to specific road, soil, and market conditions of different areas of the country, contributing to enhanced food security and economic growth.

EPAR Research Brief #44
Publication Date: 08/17/2009
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Bt maize technology involves developing hybrid maize crops that incorporate genes from the soil-dwelling bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The primary benefit of Bt maize technology is the heightened crop protection from stem borers, which are maize pests that can inflict serious crop losses. Bt maize has been cultivated in Mexico, South Africa and several countries in the European Union, with limited cultivation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This report provides a summary of literature on the potential benefits and challenges associated with Bt maize production in SSA. Research studies of Bt maize in the Philippines and South Africa are also briefly reviewed. There is little peer-reviewed literature available, with evidence challenging the assumed benefits of Bt maize for smallholder farmers in SSA. As a result, we also review research briefs and conference proceedings available from reputable international organizations. Although some of the available literature references the ethical concerns over Bt maize production, we focus on searching for science-based discussions related to any potential biodiversity, biosafety, or socio-economic impacts of Bt maize technology for smallholder farmers in SSA.

EPAR Research Brief #79
Publication Date: 07/29/2009
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

The Government of Kenya (GoK) has historically encouraged its farmers to use fertilizer by financing infrastructure and supporting fertilizer markets.  From 1974 to 1984, the GoK provided a fertilizer importation monopoly to one firm, the Kenya Farmers Association.  However, the GoK saw that this monopoly impeded fertilizer market development by prohibiting competing firms from entering the market and, in the latter half of the 1980s, encouraged other firms to enter the highly regulated fertilizer market. This report examines the state of fertilizer use in Kenya by reviewing and summarizing literature on recent fertilizer price increases, Kenya’s fertilizer usage trends and approaches, market forces, and the impact of government and non-government programs. We find that most studies of Kenya’s fertilizer market find it to be well functioning and generally competitive, and conclude that market reform has stimulated fertilizer use mainly by improving farmers’ access to the input through the expansion of private retail networks. Overall fertilizer consumption in Kenya has increased steadily since 1980, and fertilizer use among smallholders is among the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet fertilizer consumption is still limited, especially on cereal crops, and in areas where agroecological conditions create greater risks and lower returns to fertilizer use.