Use and management of biodiversity by smallholder farmers in semi-arid West Africa

Félix, Georges F.; Diedhiou, Ibrahima; Garff, Marie Le; Timmermann, Cristian; Clermont-Dauphin, Cathy; Cournac, Laurent; Groot, Jeroen C.J.; Tittonell, Pablo


Strategies that strengthen and use biodiversity are crucial for sustained food production and livelihoods in semi-arid West Africa. The objective of this paper was to examine the role of biodiversity in sustaining diverse forms of multifunctional farming practices while at the same time providing ecological services to subsistence-oriented farming families in the region of study through mechanisms as (a) crop species diversification, (b) management of spatial heterogeneity, and (c) diversification of nutrition-sensitive landscapes. Our analysis shows that crop associations between cereals and legumes or between perennials and annuals, have overall positive effects on soil characteristics and often improve crop yields. Soil heterogeneity is produced by woody perennials and termites. Local management provides opportunities to collect a diversity of nutrition-rich species year-round and sustain household nutrition.