Methods and data sources

Auricht, C.M., Dixon, J., Boffa, J.-M., van Velthuizen, H., & Fischer, G. (2020). Methods and data sources. In: Farming Systems and Food Security in Africa Priorities for Science and Policy under Global Change. Eds. Dixon, J., Garrity, D.P., Boffa, J.-M., Williams, T.O., Amede, T., Auricht, C., Lott, R., & Mburathi, G., Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 978-1-138-96335-1 10.4324/9781315658841.

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Key messages

• This book applies a unique, structured, systems methodology for characterizing and grouping large populations of farm households with broadly similar livelihood, production and consumption patterns, and for whom similar development strategies would be appropriate.

• As a result African households across the continent are grouped into 15 major farming systems and 58 subsystems.

• The farming systems analysis integrates an extensive range of spatial data, administrative statistics, assessment reports and expert knowledge, in order to update the African component of the 2001 FAO/World Bank farming systems analysis.

• Pattern recognition is key to teasing out the diversity inherent in African agriculture and in understanding common livelihood patterns (derived from crops, trees, livestock, fish and off-farm income), constraints and opportunities which define each farming system.

• The principle of central tendency is used to identify the core length of growing period and travel time to the nearest market town, which are two key indicators of access to agricultural resources and access to agricultural services, respectively, that shape livelihood patterns in each farming system.

• The method allows farming system drivers, trends and strategic interventions to be identified for policymakers, investors and research planners, using a synthesis of UN statistics, assessment reports and expert knowledge.


This chapter describes the farming systems analysis methodology used to characterize African farming systems in this book, in particular the methods for identifying a common livelihood pattern (derived from crops, trees, livestock, fish and off-farm income) and the constraints and development opportunities for each farming system. The analysis integrated a wide range of data and information from spatial databases, administrative statistics, assessment reports and expert knowledge of the particular farming system characteristics, drivers and trends, constraints and development opportunities. The skill of pattern recognition is essential for identifying common mixes of system livelihoods. The farming system is shaped by access to agricultural resources (a basic indicator is length of growing period) and access to agricultural services (a basic indicator is travel time to the nearest market town), and these factors underpinned the mapping and characterization. The management and development of farming systems depend on the strategies of farm households for escape from poverty or improvement of farm incomes. The multidisciplinary analysis teams who identified the farming system constraints and opportunities, and the household strategies, subsequently wrote the relevant farming system chapters.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Programs: Water (WAT)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 12 May 2020 13:47
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:33

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