Valuing cattle on mixed smallholdings in the Eastern Amazon

M. Siegmund-Schultze*, B. Rischkowsky, J.B. da Veiga, J.M. King

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Cattle on smallholder farms are kept for socio-economic reasons, rather than physical production, which explains why farmers favour low input and discontinuous management. To find out how this form of livestock husbandry relates to the other main farming sub-systems, cattle-keeping was compared with cassava and black pepper production. Data was collected from 37 cattle-keeping, mixed smallholdings, during 15 visits, at monthly intervals. The three sub-systems were studied in terms of productive efficiency of resource use, socio-economic contribution, and ecosystem-friendliness, using cash flow, non-market output and non-parametric rankings. Their relative performances in each domain were ranked and put on an AMOEBA diagram, "a general method of system description and assessment". The markings connected across functions produced an outline of a polygon, reminding the shape of an amoeba. It was found that productive efficiency was lowest in cattle, benefit:cost ratio was highest in cassava, while return to labour was especially strong in black pepper production. The highest status, lowest production risk, highest liquidity and ease of sale, related to cattle. Cattle and pastures ranked worst in terms of biodiversity, damage to and pollution of water courses. Nutrient losses were highest in cassava, due to the large amount harvested. The differences in function meant that the three polygons occupied different segments of the circular diagram. Nevertheless, together they formed a well-rounded shape. The amoeboid nature of these polygons can be used to predict the effect of a shift of activity on the farm, making the diagram a useful illustrative tool for planning and teaching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-867
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • AMOEBA approach
  • Cattle
  • Eastern Amazon
  • Mixed smallholdings
  • Multi-functional valuation


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