Exploring options for sustainable intensification through legume integration in different farm types in Eastern Zambia

Timler, C.J.; Michalscheck, M.; Alvarez, S.; Descheemaeker, K.K.E.; Groot, J.C.J.


In Zambia maize is the main staple food crop and, with a share of 52% in the daily calorie intake of the local population, it is critical for ensuring the national food security (FAOSTAT, 2013). Of the total maize consumed in Zambia, smallholder farmers produce 80% in rain-fed systems under low soil fertility, frequent drought and with a limited use of high yielding varieties or inorganic fertiliser (Sitko et al., 2011). In eastern Zambia, the livelihoods of small-scale farmers depend largely on maize-legume mixed systems characterised by low productivity, extreme poverty and environmental degradation (Sitko et al., 2011). Thus, there seems to be a great need for sustainable intensification of these farming systems, for instance through promoting best practices in maize–legume integration. Maize–legume cropping provides protein-rich food for humans, residues for animal feed, composting and soil amendments and nitrogen inputs through symbiotic fixation by the legume. Sustainable intensification of farming systems can take place through changes in resource use and allocation that increase farm productivity while reducing pressure on local ecosystems and safeguarding social relations. According to Pretty et al. (2011), this entails the efficient use of all inputs to produce more outputs while reducing damage to the environment and building a resilient natural capital from which environmental services can be obtained. Sustainable intensification results from the application of technological and socio-economic approaches that may be categorised into genetic, ecological and socio-economic intensification (The Montpellier Panel, 2013).