Section 0

Section 2 


Tradeoff Analysis: On-line course Kenya

Section 1 - Introduction to the tradeoff analysis 


Increasingly, agricultural scientists are using new data and quantitative tools to understand the behavior of agricultural systems as complex systems composed of interacting physical, biological and human components that vary over space and time. 

Figure 1. Example of a tradeoff curve between production and environmental quality

Tradeoff analysis is a process designed to link policy decision makers to teams of scientists with these new data and tools that can be used to understand the behavior of complex agricultural systems and how they may respond to changes in policy, technology, and environmental conditions. The Tradeoff Analysis software allows scientific teams to quantify and visualize tradeoff relationships between key sustainability indicators under alternative scenarios designed to represent changes in policy, technology and environmental conditions that are of interest to policy decision makers and other stakeholders.

Tradeoff analysis provides a systematic approach to design and implement multi-disciplinary research projects. This process is illustrated in Figure 2. Input from stakeholders (i.e., the general public, policy makers and scientists) is used to identify the critical dimensions of social concern, i.e., criteria for assessment of the sustainability of the system. Based on these criteria, hypotheses are formulated as tradeoffs between possibly competing objectives, such as higher agricultural production and improved environmental quality. Once the key tradeoffs are identified, research team leaders can identify the appropriate scientific disciplines to further design and implement the research needed to quantify these tradeoffs. The next step, critical to quantifying tradeoffs, is the identification of disciplinary models and data needed to quantify each sustainability indicator. A key element at this stage is for all of the disciplines to agree upon basic spatial and temporal units of analysis, e.g. will analysis be conducted at the field scale or watershed scale and will time steps be daily, monthly, or yearly? Once these fundamental issues in research design have been resolved; data collection and disciplinary research can proceed. Upon completion of the disciplinary components of research, the respective data and models can be linked to test hypotheses about tradeoffs, and the findings can be presented to policy makers and the general public.

Figure 2. Tradeoff Analysis research design and implementation process

An overview of the tradeoff analysis model is presented here

Exercise 1.  Tradeoffs - Indicators - Scenarios 

This exercise is based on the mixed crop and livestock system in the Machakos region of Kenya. Stakeholders in the policy community have identified poverty, food security, nutrient degradation, and sustainability of productivity as key indicators of the performance of the system. In this exercise, each breakout group of 4-6 people (with a designated leader) will identify key policy, technology, and environmental scenarios, and develop hypotheses about possible tradeoff relationships among the indicators listed above (poverty, food security, nutrient depletion, sustainability). The group leader should prepare a summary of the discussion using 2-dimensional graphs between pairs of indicators.

Section 2