Climate change impact, adaptation and mitigation options in smallholder mixed crop livestock systems


Mixed crop-livestock systems in Africa support the majority of rural and urban livelihoods and contribute significantly to food security. These farming systems are affected by climate change through impacts on crop production, feed quantity and quality, and through changes in grazing land production. Climate change also affects the spread and incidence of pests and diseases, as well as the availability and quality of water resources. Whereas animals are in general less vulnerable to drought than crops, extreme droughts can wipe out regional or national herds, which take a long time to recover. At the same time, agriculture is also held responsible for the emission of greenhouse gas emissions both from crop and animal production and also from changes in land use. 

The high diversity of farming systems both across agro-ecological zones and within communities, coupled with the variety of and uncertainty around climate change trends, make generalized conclusions on the most promising adaptation and mitigation options difficult. 

In this project climate, crop and livestock modelling is combined with economic assessments of the effects of climate change, adaptation and mitigation options. This is done based on detailed data collected through surveys and crop and livestock experiments. 

As part of this project, students can focus on one or more of the below topics:

1.Calibration and evaluation of a rangeland model, including simulations of future climate change effects on biomass quantity and quality 

2.Detailed comparative analysis of adaptation and mitigation options to livestock and crop production components

3. Tradeoff analysis on the three pillars of Climate Smart Agriculture: food security, adaptation and mitigation 

The research will focus on modelling, with possibilities for complementary data collection in Mali, Zimbabwe or Uganda. 


In case of field work, this will be done in Africa with local support of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT: Mali or Zimbabwe), or the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA: Uganda)


Students with an interest in interdisciplinary work, modelling and systems analysis. Completion of the courses Systems Analysis, Simulation and Systems Management and Measuring Sustainability of Farming Systems.


Wageningen and Africa: Zimbabwe, Mali or Uganda


Any time


Katrien Descheemaeker                      0317 − 48 61 02