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Low-cost economic and environmental performance assessment of farm households systems: Application to mixed crop-livestock systems in the Ethiopian highlands

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  • M. C. Rufino
  • A. Verhagen
  • H. Hengsdijk
  • J. W.A. Langeveld
  • R. Ruben
  • J. M. Dixon
  • K. E. Giller
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/10/2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Sustainable Agriculture
Issue number4
Number of pages31
Pages (from-to)565-595
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The farm household system (FHS) is one of the main entry points for interventions for rural development. To identify appropriate interventions, it is necessary to assess a priori potential impacts of these interventions on the livelihoods and environment of rural households. This study presents an analytical approach to assess concurrently the environmental and economic performance of FHSs. The approach combines qualitative resource flow diagrams for rapidly assessing the organization and resource flows of the FHS with quantitative economic and environmental performance indicators of the household. We apply the approach to three types of mixed crop-livestock FHSs in Northern Ethiopia, i.e., wealthy, medium, and poor FHS. The wealthier FHS diversifies production, recycles nutrients, and makes substantial use of common resources, with the risk of degrading them. Diversification leads to increased labor productivity at the expense of low land productivity. The livelihood strategy of the poor FHS is based on a combination of off- and on-farm activities. Although the medium FHS is fully engaged in farming, the household is not able to produce sufficient food on-farm, but is able to use cash generated from selling products to bridge the food deficit. The low-cost analytical approach uses existing databases and a limited set of indicators to evaluate economic and environmental performance of FHSs. The methodology can be used to assess and evaluate the current performance of different types of FHSs. This information can be used to identify FHS-specific interventions (recommendation domains) aimed at poverty reduction or improved resource use efficiency and to assess environmental effects of these interventions.