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An integrated approach to monitoring ecosystem services and agriculture: implications for sustainable agricultural intensification in Rwanda

Rosa, MelissaF., Bonham, CuranA., Dempewolf, Jan, Arakwiye, Bernadette
Environmental monitoring and assessment 2017 v.189 no.1 pp. 15
agricultural land, climate, crop yield, ecosystem services, farmers, food security, fuelwood, household surveys, households, humans, irrigation, land use, landscapes, monitoring, rain, satellites, soil fertility, sustainable agricultural intensification, Rwanda
Maintaining the long-term sustainability of human and natural systems across agricultural landscapes requires an integrated, systematic monitoring system that can track crop productivity and the impacts of agricultural intensification on natural resources. This study presents the design and practical implementation of a monitoring framework that combines satellite observations with ground-based biophysical measurements and household surveys to provide metrics on ecosystem services and agricultural production at multiple spatial scales, reaching from individual households and plots owned by smallholder farmers to 100-km² landscapes. We developed a set of protocols for monitoring and analyzing ecological and agricultural household parameters within two 10 × 10-km landscapes in Rwanda, including soil fertility, crop yield, water availability, and fuelwood sustainability. Initial results suggest providing households that rely on rainfall for crop irrigation with timely climate information and improved technical inputs pre-harvest could help increase crop productivity in the short term. The value of the monitoring system is discussed as an effective tool for establishing a baseline of ecosystem services and agriculture before further change in land use and climate, identifying limitations in crop production and soil fertility, and evaluating food security, economic development, and environmental sustainability goals set forth by the Rwandan government.