Integrated analysis of opportunities and trade-offs for mixed crop-livestock farm types in Amhara, Ethiopia

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CONTEXT: In Ethiopia, many agricultural interventions have been introduced for mixed farm types in different biophysical and socioeconomic conditions. The contribution of such interventions to multi-objectives at farm level and beyond remains unclear. OBJECTIVE: To derive insights into interaction of multi-objectives on economic profit-, nutrition security-, and environmental performance that are relevant for improvement of farm household living income in Amhara, Ethiopia. METHODS: FarmDESIGN model evaluated performance of four stylized medium- and small-scale farm types in a low (Lay Gayint)- and high (South Achefer)- potential district: LG-M, LG-S, SA-M and SA-S. Pareto-based multi-objective optimization was performed to maximize farm profit, livestock density, dietary energy and vitamin A yield, and minimize GHG and soil N losses. Further analysis resulted in 3–4 clusters per farm type with varied farm configurations. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Higher dietary energy- and vitamin A- yield that meets household and Ethiopian society requirements increased synergistically with profit in three of the four farm type clusters, while LG-S clusters could only increase vitamin A yield substantially with profit. Only LG-M clusters intensified livestock by addition of 4–8 crossbred cows and 1–10 chickens, supported by imported feed and off-farm grazing but face strong environmental trade-offs of increased GHG and soil N losses. Chicken production (eggs and chicken meat) is an option to reduce environmental impact, increase profit and contribute to both human nutrition requirements. In LG-S, SA-M and SA-S farm type clusters, profit was generated mainly from sale of eucalyptus, maize, potato, carrot, finger millet, garlic, beetroot and banana, with eucalyptus accounting at least 35% of the crop profit. Livestock diversification in these clusters also contributed to farm revenue, but always to a smaller extent, due to relatively high management costs. A living income from farming activities was only achieved on SA-M3 as 3.96 USD/capita/day (+0.36 above the threshold). This cluster had a 2.90 ha land area, farm income almost equally generated from crop and livestock production, and successfully met all set objectives except maximizing livestock density. SIGNIFICANCE: Our study infers the need to increase land area, expand poultry and rear crossbred cows, and cultivate high value crops to realize a living income solely from agricultural activities. For implementation, current land-use policies should support farm area expansion. The suggested agricultural options, which already align with current Ethiopian development plans, must utilize sustainable measures that will not lead to short- or long-term challenges as higher GHG and soil nutrient mining.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103665
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Cluster analysis
  • Environmental impact
  • Farm performance
  • FarmDESIGN
  • Food and nutrition security
  • Food system outcomes


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