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Diversification and Sustainable Intensification of Production Systems

The vast majority of the rural population residing in dryland areas is involved in agriculture, with livelihoods based on crops and livestock. In many areas livestock makes up 50% or more of the produce consumed or marketed.

With this in mind, the development of agriculture and agriculture-related activities is obviously a major driver of rural economic growth and food security. The often low productivity of the production systems of resource-poor, dry land farmers can be improved with cost-effective management, efficient integration of all farming activities (crops and livestock), efforts to address the yield gap, and proper, strengthened linkages throughout the market chain.

ICARDA’s Diversification and Sustainable Intensification of Production Systems Program – or DSIPS- works under the research themes of sustainable intensification, diversification and rangeland management. Programs have two key aims: Sustainable intensification of market-oriented, dryland farming systems, and Diversification of farming systems with different crop, livestock and horticultural options.

Despite their significant economic and cultural value, rangelands suffer from low productivity and increasing rates of degradation and desertification. ICARDA aims to reverse these trends by adopting an innovative, participatory, and multi-dimensional approach that includes all stakeholders involved in rangeland management.

ICARDA’s Rangeland Ecology and Management Unit aims to reverse land degradation and desertification through the development of sustainable integrated range-livestock production systems, and the development and adoption of new technologies.

Activities are undertaken in seven main areas:

  • Rangeland monitoring and assessment
  • Biodiversity characterization and conservation
  • Rehabilitation potential and methods
  • Improved grazing management
  • Institutional arrangements and policy options
  • Assessing and improving ecosystem services
  • Capacity building

Encompassing all rangeland stakeholders – including natural resource managers, pastoralists, agro-pastoralists, and policy makers – initiatives will provide a framework for national agricultural research systems and other partners to plan effective strategies for range management research.

Implementation will exploit advances in rangeland research - the use of remote sensing, GPS, and social science perspectives – to understand how the management of these vulnerable regions can be improved.

Program Director: Dr. Hichem Ben Salem

Given that human resources are the cornerstone of successful rangeland development, it is essential to build the capacities of local individuals and institutions involved. ICARDA therefore aims to provide appropriate training and education – especially in planning and evaluation.

Rangeland issues are complex and require a multi-dimensional approach to fully understand how to effectively manage their dynamic ecosystems.

ICARDA’s approach to rangeland research is governed by six main themes:

  • Monitoring and assessment: inventories, assessments and appropriate mappings are required to properly analyze the use and condition of rangelands. To ensure that lands are capable of providing sustainable products for future generations, their ecological conditions should be monitored against specific standards. 
  • Biodiversity conservation: identifying, conserving, and multiplying highly grazed species. Priority will be given to varieties resistant to drought and salinity which will be introduced to rehabilitate degraded rangeland regions. 
  • Rehabilitation: identifying native and introduced species tailored to different agro-ecological situations; integrating tree and shrub planting for good quality animal feed; and introducing cost-effective water harvesting techniques easily adapted to pastoral communities. 
  • Grazing management: introducing sustainable grazing methods to enhance productivity and alleviate pressures on natural resources such as soil and water. One potential intervention is to adjust the spatial distribution of animals and water resources in a specific grazing area.   
  • Institution and policy options: ensuring community ownership so that pastoralists become long-term guardians of their resource base. Communities and governments need to work together to develop robust rules and regulations so that all stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities. 
  • Ecosystem services: encouraging diversification and alternative sustainable livelihood strategies such as the production of organic animal products and eco-tourism. The program will identify community-based approaches to identify potential activities related to sustainable intensification and market opportunities.

Capacity development and knowledge networks: appropriate training and education will be provided, particularly policy formation, knowledge sharing, support for research and technology transfer, and the sustainable management of common resources.              

Diversification/ Improving opportunities

This theme is focused on market-oriented income diversification and livelihood improvement. The range of options includes alternative cropping, novel livestock systems and the adding of value to primary (raw) products. 

 Within this theme, work strands include:  

  • Market-driven options for crop diversification using crop and forage rotation strategies. These include winter/summer crops and forages with supplemental irrigation; and high value crop options including vegetables, fruit trees, medicinal and aromatic plants as well as the development of novel plant-based and livestock-based products.  
  • Market-driven options for livestock diversification through the development of range/crop/forage integration; the utilization of native breeds; through unlocking the potential of safe, peri-urban production.  
  • Development of improved income flows from value added enhancement of primary livestock products; new options for the production of high quality, hygienic and safe products; better access to market data and market place transactions; assistance to boost the capacity of institutional bodies (public and private) and the development of supporting policies to help this happen.

Intensification/ Raising Productivity

Sustainable intensification of market-oriented, dry land farming systems designed to give increased productivity through exploiting yield potential, improved management, and the sustainable use of genetic and natural resources.

Within this theme work strands include:

  • Methods and options to support crop intensification for boosting productivity, through conservation agriculture, managed food/feed crop integration, cereal/legume rotations and multiple cropping.
  • Agronomic practice development to improve water use efficiency and better economic returns per unit of available water.
  • Intensifying livestock production systems in a sustainable and cost-effective way to capture diverse market opportunities.
  • Developing a framework for community-based livestock breeding to allow easy access by farmers to improved breeds, and in the process, matching the available genetic resources and breed potential to market opportunities.
  • Analyzing the causes of yield gaps through modeling, followed by the identification of interventions designed to fill the gap, including looking at policy implications.

For more information

Contact Person:

Dr. Serkan Ates


ICARDA office: Amman, Jordan