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Critical factors for crop-livestock integration beyond the farm level: A cross-analysis of worldwide case studies

Asai, Masayasu, Moraine, Marc, Ryschawy, Julie, de Wit, Jan, Hoshide, Aaron K., Martin, Guillaume
Land use policy 2018 v.73 pp. 184-194
case studies, decision making, farming systems, issues and policy, monitoring, operating costs, social networks, sustainable agriculture, Asia, Europe
Despite their recognized agricultural sustainability benefits, mixed crop-livestock farms have declined in the Northern hemisphere. As such, crop-livestock integration beyond the farm level is a promising alternative to this trend, but the knowledge of critical factors and strategies towards its successful implementation is still lacking. We developed an analytical framework to assess the critical determinants of the emergence and outcomes of integration, which helped us understand farmers’ collective strategies for reducing integration transaction costs. The resulting framework distinguishes between three types of transaction costs: information gathering, collective decision-making, and operational and monitoring costs. These costs are influenced by several factors: external environment attributes, resources engaged in crop-livestock integration, and participating actors and their arrangements. Application of the framework onto six case studies all across the world (Asia, Europe and America) demonstrated it can be utilized for various projects implemented at multiple organizational levels (farm-to-farm, local groups, and regional levels) over distinct farming systems (conventional and organic). Specific policies should be developed to strengthen social networks through the mutual understanding of such integration benefits, since they play a key role in lowering the costs of information gathering and collective decision-making. A legal framework to establishing a formal contract should contribute to lower long-term monitoring costs, especially when trust among actors developing. Operational costs largely depend on the spatial proximity of farms, but this can be overcome by extending the scale of integration in terms of covered area and number of participants. Here, appropriate coordination by third-party entities is essential, and should be targeted by financial and technical support.