Abstract: Botswana is a semi-arid, middle-income African country that imports 90 percent of its food. Despite its relative prosperity, Botswana also suffers from one of the highest measures of income inequality in the world, persistent poverty, and relatively high levels of food insecurity. The objective of this paper is to explore how political economy, climate change and livelihood dynamics are synergistically impacting household food security. The major finding is that the marginalization of smallholder farming in Botswana has as much or more to do with domestic, regional and international political economy as it does with climate change. As such, international efforts to support climate change adaptation in Botswana will have a limited effect on smallholder farming livelihoods and rural food security unless such efforts take account of political economic constraints. Effective support must be based on a grounded understanding of the real drivers of marginalization and food insecurity. One initiative that merits further exploration is the government’s backyard gardening initiative, which could be viewed as a pro-poor climate adaptation strategy. The findings of this paper are based on semi-structured interviews with policymakers and surveys with urban, peri-urban and rural households undertaken in 2012 and 2015.
Abstract: Medium-scale farms have become a major force in Malawi’s agricultural sector. Malawi’s most recent official agricultural survey indicates that these account for over a quarter of all land under cultivation in Malawi. This study explores the causes and multifaceted consequences of the rising importance of medium-scale farms in Malawi. We identify the characteristics and pathways of entry into farming based on surveys of 300 medium-scale farmers undertaken in 2014 in the districts of Mchinji, Kasungu and Lilongwe. The area of land acquired by medium-scale farmers in these three districts is found to have almost doubled between 2000 and 2015. Just over half of the medium-scale farmers represent cases of successful expansion out of small-scale farming status; the other significant proportion of medium-scale farmers are found to be urban-based professionals, entrepreneurs and/or civil servants who acquired land, some very recently, and started farming in mid-life. We also find that a significant portion of the land acquired by medium-scale farmers was utilized by others prior to acquisition, that most of the acquired land was under customary tenure, and that the current owners were often successful in transferring the ownership structure of the acquired land to a long-term leaseholding with a title deed. The study finds that, instead of just strong endogenous growth of small-scale famers as a route for the emergence of medium-scale farms, significant farm consolidation is occurring through land acquisitions, often by urban-based people. The effects of farmland acquisitions by domestic investors on the country’s primary development goals, such as food security, poverty reduction and employment, are not yet clear, though some trends appear to be emerging. We consider future research questions that may more fully shed light on the implications of policies that would continue to promote land acquisitions by medium-scale farms.
Abstract: The poverty and environmental degradation vicious circle hypothesis considers the poor as agents and victims of environmentally degrading activities. Despite some studies, however, there still has not been a sufficient empirical examination of the poverty-environment nexus. Based on participatory poverty assessment (PPA) methods with two hundred farm households categorized by wealth status in southern Burkina Faso, six indicators of environmental degradation and a set of land management practices were examined to answer the following questions: (i) Which households (non-poor, fairly-poor, or poorest) are responsible for environmental degradation? (ii) Does poverty constrain adoption of land management practices considered to improve the land? Results indicate deforestation is highest for non-poor farmers, and non-poor and fairly-poor farmers have higher rates of overgrazing. In addition, the entire non-poor group, mainly recent migrants to the area, occupy borrowed lands with tenure perceived as insecure, considered by farmers to be a disincentive for assisted natural regeneration of vegetation. Thus, non-poor and fairly-poor farmers participate most in activities locally identified as environmentally degrading, and the former contribute more than the latter. On the other hand, adoption of land management practices considered to improve the land is relatively low amongst the poorest farmers.
Abstract: European agricultural landscapes have been shaped by humans to produce marketable private goods such as food, feed, fiber and timber. Land-use intensification to increase provisioning services in such productive landscapes alters the capacity of ecosystems to supply other services (often public goods and services) that are also vital for human wellbeing. However, the interactions, synergies and trade-offs among ecosystem services are poorly understood. We assessed the spatial distribution of the services carbon storage, sediment regulation, water yield, crop production, timber supply, and outdoor recreation in the counties Wetterau and Vogelsberg (Hesse, Germany). These counties represent a gradient from intensive arable land use to more extensive mixed land use systems with domination of grassland and forests. Spatially explicit models were used to map the location and quantity of service supply. We addressed the following questions: (1) Where are areas of high and low supply of individual and multiple ecosystem services? (2) Where do the strongest trade-offs and synergies between different services occur? Our results show a pronounced spatial aggregation of different ecosystem services, with locations where at least four services are being supplied at high levels occupying only 5% of the landscape. Indicators for water provision, timber supply, carbon storage, erosion control, and outdoor recreation are positively related to each other, but this relationship is influenced by the trade-offs associated with the ecosystem service food production. Optimization of ecosystem services at the landscape scale has to take these patterns into account.
Abstract: The current Amazon landscape consists of heterogeneous mosaics formed by interactions between the original forest and productive activities. Recognizing and quantifying the characteristics of these landscapes is essential for understanding agricultural production chains, assessing the impact of policies, and in planning future actions. Our main objective was to construct the regionalization of agricultural production for Rondônia State (Brazilian Amazon) at the municipal level. We adopted a decision tree approach, using land use maps derived from remote sensing data (PRODES and TerraClass) combined with socioeconomic data. The decision trees allowed us to allocate municipalities to one of five agricultural production systems: (i) coexistence of livestock production and intensive agriculture; (ii) semi-intensive beef and milk production; (iii) semi-intensive beef production; (iv) intensive beef and milk production, and; (v) intensive beef production. These production systems are, respectively, linked to mechanized agriculture (i), traditional cattle farming with low management, with (ii) or without (iii) a significant presence of dairy farming, and to more intensive livestock farming with (iv) or without (v) a significant presence of dairy farming. The municipalities and associated production systems were then characterized using a wide variety of quantitative metrics grouped into four dimensions: (i) agricultural production; (ii) economics; (iii) territorial configuration, and; (iv) social characteristics. We found that production systems linked to mechanized agriculture predominate in the south of the state, while intensive farming is mainly found in the center of the state. Semi-intensive livestock farming is mainly located close to the southwest frontier and in the north of the state, where human occupation of the territory is not fully consolidated. This distributional pattern reflects the origins of the agricultural production system of Rondônia. Moreover, the characterization of the production systems provides insights into the pattern of occupation of the Amazon and the socioeconomic consequences of continuing agricultural expansion.
Abstract: Current and future impacts of climate change include increasing variability in a number of biophysical processes, such as temperature, precipitation, and flooding. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has suggested that Southern Africa is particularly vulnerable to the anticipated impacts from global climate change and that social and ecological systems in the region will be disrupted and likely transformed in future decades. This article engages with current research within geography and cognate disciplines on the possibilities for responsive livelihoods within socio-ecological systems experiencing biophysical change. The paper draws from an ongoing research project that is evaluating perceptions of environmental change, specifically of precipitation and flooding dynamics, in order to understand social responses. We report on the findings from qualitative interviewing conducted in 2010 and 2011 in the communities of Etsha 1, Etsha 6, and Etsha 13 within the Okavango Delta of Botswana. While flooding and precipitation patterns have been dynamic and spatially differentiated, some livelihood systems have proven rigid in their capacity to enable adaptive responses. We assert this demonstrates the need for detailed research on livelihood dynamics to support adjustments to biophysical variability within socio-ecological systems experiencing change.