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Land 2016, 5(1), 6; doi:10.3390/land5010006

Do Smallholder, Mixed Crop-Livestock Livelihoods Encourage Sustainable Agricultural Practices? A Meta-Analysis

1
Departments of Human Ecology and Sociology, Rutgers University, 55 Dudley Rd., New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
2
The Commission for SSK Multicultural Research, Hanyang University, Seoul 04763, Korea
3
Tropical Forages Program, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cali, AA 6713, Colombia
4
Livestock Research Program, INRA (L'Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), Guadeloupe 97170, France
5
Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 0G4, Canada
6
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
7
Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
8
Research for Development and Conservation, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
9
Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion, Tlalpan, DF 14080, Mexico
10
Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales Agrícolas y Pecuarias, Tecoman 28930, Mexico
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 15 July 2015 / Accepted: 1 February 2016 / Published: 6 February 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Changing Land Use, Changing Livelihoods)
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Abstract

As calls for bolstering ecosystem services from croplands have grown more insistent during the past two decades, the search for ways to foster these agriculture-sustaining services has become more urgent. In this context we examine by means of a meta-analysis the argument, proposed by Robert McC. Netting, that small-scale, mixed crop-livestock farming, a common livelihood among poor rural peoples, leads to environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. As predicted, mixed crop-livestock farms exhibit more sustainable practices, but, contrary to predictions, a small scale of operation does not predict sustainability. Many smallholders on mixed crop-livestock farms use sustainable practices, but other smallholders practice a degrading, input-scarce agriculture. Some large farm operators use soil-conserving, minimum-tillage techniques while other large operators ignore soil-conserving techniques and practice an industrialized, high chemical input agriculture. The strength and pervasiveness of the link in the data between mixed crop-livestock farming and sustainable agricultural practices argues for agricultural policies that promote mixed crop-livestock livelihoods. View Full-Text
Keywords: mixed crop-livestock farming; sustainable agriculture; conservation agriculture; smallholders; agro-ecology mixed crop-livestock farming; sustainable agriculture; conservation agriculture; smallholders; agro-ecology
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Rudel, T.K.; Kwon, O.-J.; Paul, B.K.; Boval, M.; Rao, I.M.; Burbano, D.; McGroddy, M.; Lerner, A.M.; White, D.; Cuchillo, M.; Luna, M.; Peters, M. Do Smallholder, Mixed Crop-Livestock Livelihoods Encourage Sustainable Agricultural Practices? A Meta-Analysis. Land 2016, 5, 6.

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