Thesis topic: Field locations, input use and yields: Operationalizing management gradients in agronomic advisory for smallholder farmers in Songwe, Tanzania

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Dr. Jens Andersson (PPS-WUR)

Thomas Delaune (PPS-WUR)

(Dr. Renske Hijbeek?)

Project summary

In smallholder farming systems in Africa, farmer management is often the major driver of a field’s performance (yields). Differences in agronomic management (input use, timing of operations, etc.) between fields thus result in differences in productivity (and soil fertility) between fields. Agronomists have analyzed differences in management and soil fertility in terms of in- and out-fields, and soil fertility/management gradients (i.e. Mtambanengwe & Mapfumo 2005, Tittonell et al. 2007).

In this MSc-thesis project you will explore differences in field-level management (manure/fertilizer/purchased seed use, weeding frequency, etc.) and reported yields of smallholder maize farmers, using data collected with the Maize-Nutrient-Manager, an ODK-based mobile phone based advisory tool used by extensionists. The project explores whether: (1) the theory of management gradients applies in the maize-dominated smallholder farming systems of southwestern Tanzania, and; (2) it can be meaningfully be operationalized in field-based advisory for smallholder farmers.

For this project you need to have some skills in using R statistics, and interest to expand these towards the analyses of geo-spatial data. 


Mtambanengwe, Florence and P Mapfumo. 2005. “Organic Matter Management as an Underlying Cause for Soil Fertility Gradients on Smallholder Farms in Zimbabwe.” Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 73(2-3):227–43.

Tittonell, Pablo, Bernard Vanlauwe, N de Ridder, and Ken E. Giller. 2007. “Heterogeneity of Crop Productivity and Resource Use Efficiency Within Smallholder Kenyan Farms: Soil Fertility Gradients or Management Intensity Gradients?.” Agricultural Systems 94(2):376–90.

Also: Carletto et al. 2015.  biases in land size estimates of farmers relate to homestead-field distance