Monitoring Small-holder Agriculture using Sustainable Indicators for Central Malawian Farmers

Authors: Leah Mungai*, Michigan State University
Topics: Africa, Agricultural Geography, Remote Sensing
Keywords: Smallholder Agriculture, Malawi, Sustainable Intensification (SI)Indicators, Remote Sensing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Sustainable Intensification (SI) of agriculture is a necessary pathway to simultaneously address the goal of enhancing agricultural production while conserving and protecting the environment (Snapp and Pound 2017). In Central Malawi, subsistence farming is a common livelihood strategy for many smallholder farmers. Agriculture is characterized by cultivating diversified farms that are two hectares or less with little or scarce input resources for food production.

Decades of agronomic research into smallholder faming systems have focused on single villages or small clusters of farms yielding rich ground observations, local knowledge and context specific interpretations. Scientists have used various theoretical frameworks to understand the underlying factors that contribute to the changing agricultural systems. One recent framework is the Sustainable Intensification (SI) Assessment Framework (Musumba et al., 2017) that shows interconnections between various aspects of Socio-economic, Productivity, Environmental and Human interaction and is used to monitor agricultural performance and progress in sustainability. However, the spatial-temporal aspects of SI indicators are a missing gap in this theoretical SI framework.

Current SI indicator research can be improved by developing developing remote sensing proxies in each of the SI indicator domains, and integrating them to improve our understanding of spatial variability in the biophysical environment and social processes in smallholder agricultural systems. We show that scaling site-specific indicators across scale with remote sensing indicator proxies can provide researchers with a better understanding of temporal and spatial patterns in monitoring sustainable intensification of smallholder agriculture.

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