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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Combining sustainable livelihood and farm sustainability approaches to identify relevant intensification options: Implications for households with crop-based and gathering-based livelihoods in Tanzania

Ulukan, Defne; Bergkvist, Göran; Lana, Marcos; Fasse, A; Mager, Gregor; Öborn, Ingrid; Chopin, Pierre


In low-income countries, the livelihoods of smallholders are affected to different extent by multiple issues, such as food insecurity or low soil fertility, depending on their multiple assets and farming characteristics. In this study, we aim at assessing the current sustainability of households in Tanzania to suggest potential changes in farming system to increase the household́ sustainability. Household survey data from 891 households in two regions of Tanzania (dry Dodoma and humid Morogoro) were used to build composite sustainability indices representing the three pillars of sustainability (economic, environmental and social), based on 46 basic indicators. Then, a household typology was developed through principal component analysis and hierarchical clustering analysis of descriptive variables, and regression analysis linked the sustainability of farms with household characteristics. The analysis revealed significant differences in household types that relied on different livelihood strategies including particularly a “Gathering-based” type in Dodoma and two “Crop-based” types in both regions. These livelihoods significantly influenced the level of farming system sustainability. Particularly, the households in the “Gathering-based” type performed worst on all three pillars of sustainability. By examining the level of capitals from the different household types, we identified that the “Gathering-based” type and “Crop-based” types could improve their livelihood and be better off if they adopt various upgrading solutions. Such solutions include intercropping and optimised weeding to increase productivity and resource-use efficiency, for which these households have sufficient labour resources. Additionally, livestock rearing and use of fertilisers coupled with rainwater harvesting can increase soil fertility and water use efficiency, and hence food security, without compromising the environmental component of sustainability. To facilitate the adoption of these sustainable intensification options, agricultural policies and appropriate training need to be implemented to fit the local context and diversity of household types.


Farm sustainability assessment; Livelihood analysis; Farming system design; Sustainable intensification; Poverty-trap; East-Africa

Published in

Ecological Indicators
2022, Volume: 144, article number: 109518