MSc Thesis/research practice opportunity: Exploring smallholder farmers crop rotation practices in smallholder farming communities in southwest Tanzania

March 21, 2024


The benefits of crop rotation are widely acknowledged in the agronomic literature. In maize-dominated smallholder farming systems in Africa, crop rotations with grain legumes are seen as highly beneficial as they: (1) can contribute to more diverse and nutritious diets; (2) are an increasingly important source of cash in many areas, and; (3) can improve field and farm-level productivity as they add nutrient to what are generally poorly fertilized soils.

A recent review of experimental studies on the residual effects of grain legumes in cereal-based systems of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) showed an overall mean yield increase of 0.49 t/ha cereal yield (or an increase of 41%) after legume cultivation, as compared to continuous cereal yield (Franke et al. 2018). However, the variability in residual effects is large, related to geography (agro-ecological zone), and to the type of cereal and legume crops involved.

Whether the agronomic benefits of legume rotations can also be observed outside (on-farm) experiments, in smallholder farmer’s fields, is less clear. Farmer management in smallholder farming systems is often highly variable, field areas dedicated to different crops may differ a lot due to the different input and labour demands of cereal and legumes, and market prices and farming households’ food needs and preferences may be important drivers of farmers’ crop rotation options.

The aim of this student project is to explore the effects of actual crop rotation practices of smallholder farmers in the Songwe region of southwestern Tanzania. Using field-level agronomic management and yield data of several seasons, as part of an effort to provide field-specific nutrient management advice to large numbers of resource-poor smallholder farmers. You will explore this multi-season data to identify the effects of crop rotation practices and subsequent cereal yields. You may also formulate additional research questions that can be addressed through fieldwork in the area. Your findings may directly contribute to the development of new, field-specific advice protocols for advice provision to smallholder farmers.

Type of work

Desk study: analysis of crop management database, statistical analysis and visualization will be performed in R


Background in (tropical) farming systems studies, agronomy, or related fields. Experience in R and statistics is advised.


Plant Production Systems department (Radix Nova - Wageningen)


Flexible (6 months for an MSc Thesis, minimum 4 months for a research practice)