Sustainable agricultural intensification in four Tanzanian villages—a view from the ground and the sky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Agricultural intensification based on smallholders is among many economists viewed as a necessary developmental path to ensure food security and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa. Increasingly, a one-sided focus on raising productivity in cereals has been questioned on environmental grounds, with the concept of sustainable agricultural intensification (SAI) emerging from the natural sciences as a way of advancing environmental and social needs simultaneously. SAI approaches have, however, been criticized for being both conceptually and methodologically vague. This study combines socioeconomic survey data with remotely sensed land productivity data and qualitative data from four villages in Tanzania. By triangulating and comparing data collected through ground level surveys and ground-truthing with remote sensing data, we find that this combination of methods is capable of resolving some of the theoretical and methodological vagueness found in SAI approaches. The results show the problems of relying on only one type of data when studying sustainable agricultural intensification and indicate the poor environmental outcomes of cereal monocropping, even when social outcomes may be forthcoming. We identify land use practices that can be considered both socially and environmentally sustainable. Theoretically, we contribute to a further problematization of the SAI concept.


External organisations
  • Sokoine University of Agriculture
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • Economic Geography


  • Agricultural productivity, GIS, Interdisciplinary approaches, Smallholder agriculture, Sustainable agricultural intensification
Original languageEnglish
Article number8304
Number of pages20
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Oct 2
Publication categoryResearch