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Publication | 2022

Can monocultures be resilient? Assessment of buffer capacity in two agroindustrial cropping systems in Africa and South America


Buffer capacity—the capacity of a social–ecological system to cushion stress and shocks—is often seen as an important dimension of social–ecological system resilience. While numerous studies have focused on other dimensions of resilience in social–ecological systems, literature on buffer capacity is scanty.


Two agroindustrial cropping systems were surveyed based on wheat in Kenya, and soybean in Bolivia. The study was carried out in 2017–2018 using mixed methods; interviews, questionnaires, and observation. Two groups of indicators were used (livelihood capitals and functional and response diversity indicators). The five livelihood capitals, and functional and response diversity indicators (number of crops rotated, landscape heterogeneity, and percentage of arable land under natural vegetation) were used. Resilience indicators were assessed using a five-point Likert scale.


Both systems had high scores on physical, financial and human capitals, while the functional and response diversity scores were low. Both systems are found to be vulnerable to economic and climate change related shocks hence need to develop more diversified patterns to increase ecological resilience.


The two cropping systems overall capacity to withstand shocks—particularly related mainly to climate change and variability and economic shocks was extremely low for soybean system and low for wheat. The two systems were found to have low scores of functional and response diversity especially with regard to landscape heterogeneity, crop and breed diversity and percentage of vegetation cover on arable land.