Diversification

Diversification is a risk management strategy of incorporating diverse combinations of components in an agricultural or socio-economic system such as a farm or household, in order to spread risk.

What is diversification

At landscape scales, spatial diversification can include different land uses of different parts of the farm, including plots at different altitudes, plots nearby a water source, plots with different soil types, and plots far from home, just to mention a few. Such strategies allow for the efficient utilization of micro-environments, particularly in marginalized environments.

This type of management is a feature of a household if they have access to different plots in different part of their landscape or is the sum of the management of different households located in different parts of their landscape.

Diversification is understood to be a risk management strategy build upon the combinations of individual components of an agricultural or socio-economic system to spread risk. Agricultural diversification refers to an increase in the number of components within an agricultural system and may occur at different ecological (ie. genetic to agroecosystem) and spatial (ie. field to landscape) scales.

Intraspecific diversification can refer to genetic diversity within a crop, or the number of distinct varieties and cultivars, including those recognized within indigenous taxonomies. Genetic diversity can contribute to resilience, for instance reducing vulnerability by stabilizing yields and absorbing shocks, particularly when different varieties or populations have traits that display a negative covariance1,2.

Interspecific diversification can include mixing species in both time and space, including intercropping, polycultures, and crop rotations. This can refer to incorporation of different crops or animal breeds or integration of taxonomically distant species (livestock, plants, fish) into production systems in which they didn’t previously exist.

At landscape scales, spatial diversification can include different land uses of different parts of the farm, including plots at different altitudes, plots nearby a water source, plots with different soil types, and plots far from home, just to mention a few. Such strategies allow for the efficient utilization of micro-environments, particularly in marginalized environments. This type of management is a feature of a household if they have access to different plots in different part of their landscape or is the sum of the management of different households located in different parts of their landscape.

The second type of diversification treated in this review is livelihood diversification, which includes but is not limited to economic diversification. According to Ellis (1998), livelihood diversification can be understood as “the process by which rural families construct a diverse portfolio of activities and social support capabilities in their struggles for survival and in order to improve their standards of living.”

This framework includes the range of activities that members of a household may engage in, both on and off the farm, for the purpose of reducing vulnerability. They may not necessarily be synonymous with economic diversification, which can be understood as the process in which a growing range of economic outputs is produced or the diversification of income sources away from domestic economic activities3.

For instance, diversification of production systems such as adding dairying or fishponds to farms may increase food security and household resilience, whether or not they generate income.


1. Di Falco, S., Chavas, J., & Smale, M. (2006). EPT Discussion Paper 153 Farmer Management of Production Risk on Degraded Lands : The Role of Wheat Genetic Diversity in Tigray Region , Ethiopia. Food Policy, (May).

2. Di Falco, S., & Chavas, J.-P. (2006). Crop genetic diversity , farm productivity and the management of environmental risk in rainfed agriculture. European Review of Agricultural Economics, 33(3), 289–314.

3. Smit, B., & Skinner, M. W. (2002). ADAPTATION OPTIONS IN AGRICULTURE TO CLIMATE CHANGE : A. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, (UNFCCC 1992), 85–114.