Photo: Wageningen UR | Pierre-Yves Babelon /

Photo: Wageningen UR | Pierre-Yves Babelon /

Highland production systems and sustainability
Madagascar (Vakinankaratra region, central Highlands)
Products: Rice, Beans, Fodder, Ruminants, Fish
Intensification drivers:Diversification, migratory processes, environmental degradation, climate change, exceptional events (droughts), emerging value chains.
Motivation: The agricultural population of the selected area is known for their high technical level as they already had to intensify and diversify their activities because of the demographic and land pressures. Rice cultivation is the primary activity even if strong crop livestock integration exists at farm level (rice, vegetables, poultry, dairy, fish, etc.). The milk industry contributes to the receptiveness of farmers to agricultural innovations. The diversification of agricultural activities meets the need to produce food, but also to limit risks.
Report: Please download the complete In Depth Case Study report here.

Main objectives of the study were to identify the driving forces of changes in family farms in order to generate a comprehensive analysis of the observed agricultural intensification processes of smallholder agriculture with a sustainable development view. Stakeholders involved include main crops grown by farmers (rice, maize, root crops, fruits and vegetables) and livestock products (cattle, pigs and poultry).

In Madagascar, agriculture constitutes the livelihood of 81% of households and 68% consider themselves to be farmers. Poverty is still very high with 90% of the population living on less than US$2 a day, ranking Madagascar among the world’s poorest countries. Poverty is higher in the rural areas. Family farms have low production capacities: small plots (70% cultivate less than 1.5 ha), few equipment, low use of inputs. They face numerous risks (hurricanes, floods, droughts, predatory attacks and diseases, insecurity, price volatility, etc.). Thus, many families live in poverty and in food and nutrition insecurity.

20160119_114205The increase in agricultural production and food security remain the major challenges for the country and are part of the government’s strategic objectives (PSAEP – Sectoral Programme for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries 2016-2020). In order to deal with the rapid population growth and the degradation of natural resources it is necessary to intensify agriculture. This makes part of the Malagasy agricultural policies since many years. But today questions are raised about the direction of intensification to be taken and the pathways to achieve it in a sustainable way. To provide some answers, the study is based on a comparative perspective between the rural development policies and the evolution of the agricultural sector (literature review), on the intensification pathways really followed by farms (empirical data) and on the comments of the rural development stakeholders (focus group).

Therefore, three actions were taken for the in-depth case study in Madagascar:

(i) A literature review, completed by the interviews with the stakeholders of rural development in Madagascar, was carried out from November 2015 to February 2016. This part of the study describes the concept of agricultural intensification and the different interpretations; the way intensification was taken into account in the Malagasy agricultural policies over the past 20 years (1995 – 2015), with a particular focus on the Vakinankaratra region during the last 10 years (2005–2015); and it analyses the challenges of a sustainable intensification.

(ii) Surveys were carried out on 24 farms by four pairs of agricultural engineers from December 2015 to March 2016. They were used to analyse and illustrate the pathways of intensification with the stakeholders involved. The surveys allowed a precise description of the farm’s pathway since its beginning (installation of the manager), the agricultural intensification process carried out (or not) by the farmers, and the analysis of the evolution of some intensification and sustainability indicators.

(iii) Five meetings with all the representatives of stakeholders in the agricultural sector of the Vakinankaratra region were carried out from April to June 2016 at intervals of two or three weeks. The meetings helped opening the discussion to all stakeholders and to have their point of view on agricultural intensification by confronting it with the pathways observed in the farms, and also allowed the identification of the main constraints and ways of intensification. We had a regular participation of representatives of the local administration (including a representative of the security forces due to the problem of rural insecurity that has been repeatedly raised) and of the local government, researchers, farmers and farmers’ organizations, financial institutions, representatives of organizations that support agricultural development and agro-industries.

Each action has been duly documented and a complete 700-page report is now available. We are currently working on a summary of this report that will be available by the end of 2016.