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Integrated crop-livestock farming offers a solution to soil fertility mining in semi-arid Kenya: evidence from Marsabit County

Lookup NU author(s): John Gowing, David Golicha, Dr Roy SandersonORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Earthscan Ltd, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Food security is a problem throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa. Sustainable intensification has been promoted as a means to address this challenge and deliver food security without negative environmental consequences. Herein lies another dimension of the challenge, since there is abundant evidence of declining soil fertility as a result of soil nutrient depletion. Soil nutrients are being mined by small-scale farmers who continue to remove large quantities of nutrients from their soils without using sufficient manure or fertilizer inputs to replenish maintain soil fertility. This low-input agriculture will not deliver future food security and a large increase in nutrient inputs is seen as a requirement for sustainable intensification. We present here a case study from Marsabit County; the largest, most arid, and least developed region in Kenya. Evidence was gathered from field studies at four locations during 2016 and 2017 combined with a farmer survey. We show that a typical smallholder farm can achieve an acceptable nitrogen balance through better use of available livestock manure. An acceptable balance can also be achieved for phosphorus, however, there is a deficit for potassium. This case study demonstrates that an integrated crop-livestock farming system offers a potential solution to soil nutrient mining and can provide a pathway to sustainable intensification for small-scale farmers in a challenging semi-arid environment.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gowing JW, Golicha DD, Sanderson RA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability

Year: 2020

Volume: 18

Issue: 6

Pages: 492-504

Online publication date: 23/07/2020

Acceptance date: 07/07/2020

Date deposited: 09/07/2020

ISSN (print): 1473-5903

ISSN (electronic): 1747-762X

Publisher: Earthscan Ltd


DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2020.1793646


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