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

Departments of Human Ecology and Sociology, Rutgers University, 55 Dudley Rd., New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
The Commission for SSK Multicultural Research, Hanyang University, Seoul 04763, Korea
Tropical Forages Program, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cali, AA 6713, Colombia
Livestock Research Program, INRA (L'Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), Guadeloupe 97170, France
Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 0G4, Canada
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
Research for Development and Conservation, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion, Tlalpan, DF 14080, Mexico
Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales Agrícolas y Pecuarias, Tecoman 28930, Mexico
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Received: 15 July 2015 / Accepted: 1 February 2016 / Published: 6 February 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Changing Land Use, Changing Livelihoods)
PDF [1065 KB, uploaded 17 February 2016]


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

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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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