Maize production and environmental costs: Resource evaluation and strategic land use planning for food security in northern Ghana by means of coupled emergy and data envelopment analysis

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This paper applies an integrated methodology which is constituted of the following: (i) the Emergy-Data Envelopment Analysis (EM-DEA), (ii) environmental Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA), (iii) Value Chain Analysis (VCA), and (iv) Sustainability Balanced Scorecard (SBSC) approaches, -to support multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) for strategic agricultural land use planning, which could contribute to improve food security in northern Ghana. Five scenarios of land use and resource management practices for maize production were modelled. The business-as-usual scenario was based on primary data, which were collected using semi-structured questionnaires administered to 56 small-scale maize farmers through personal interviews. The dominant land use was characterised by an external input =12 kg/ha/yr inorganic fertilizer with/without the addition of manure in rainfed maize systems. The project scenarios were based on APSIM simulations of maize yield response to 0, 20, 50 and 100 kg/ha/yr urea dosages, with/without supplemental irrigation. The scenarios were dubbed as follows: (1) no/low input systems were denoted by Extensive0, Extensive12, and Intercrop20, and (2) moderate/high input systems were denoted by Intensive50, and Intensive100. The EM-DEA approach was used to assess the resource use efficiency (RUE) and sustainability in maize production systems, Ghana. The measured RUE and sustainability were used as a proxy for further analyses by applying the environmental CBA and VCA approaches to calculate: (a) the environmental costs of producing maize, i.e. resource use measured as total emergy (U), and (b) benefits from the yielded maize, i.e. (b i) food provision from grain measured in kcal/yr, and (b ii) potential electricity (bioenergy) which could be generated from residue measured in MWh/yr. The information which was derived from the applications of the EM-DEA, CBA and VCA approaches was aggregated by applying the SBSC approach to do a sustainability appraisal of the scenarios. The results show that, when labour and services are included in the assessment of RUE and sustainability, Intercrop20 and Intensive50 achieved greater marginal yield, better RUE, sustainability and appraisal score. The same scenarios caused lesser impacts in terms of expansion of area cultivated compared to Extensive0 and Extensive12. Meanwhile the impacts of Intercrop20 and Intensive50 in terms of ecotoxicity, emissions, and demand for resources (energy, materials, labour and services) were lesser compared to Intensive100. The implications of the various scenarios are discussed. The environmental performance of the scenarios are compared to maize production systems in other developing regions in order to put this study within a broader context. We conclude that, the EM-DEA approach is useful for assessing RUE and sustainability of agricultural production systems at farm and regional scales, as well as in connecting the management planning level and regional development considerations.

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