Application of system dynamics modelling in evaluating sustainability of low-input ruminant farming systems in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

Tawanda Marandure, Kennedy Dzama, James Bennett, Godswill Makombe, Cletos Mapiye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As a complex and dynamic concept that requires understanding from an ecological, economic and socio-cultural perspective, sustainability of agriculture and food systems is currently being strongly promoted by many governments and rural development practitioners. However, advances in monitoring and evaluating the sustainability of low-input ruminant farming are hindered by a lack of tools that simultaneously consider the interrelationships and dynamic behaviour of the different components of the system. Here we report on the application of a system dynamics model to evaluate the sustainability of low-input ruminant farming systems. This draws on nine indicators grouped as ecological; (soil organic matter, water availability and biomass supply), economic; (livestock productivity, labour supply and household income, and social: (farmer training, credence attributes of ruminant grazing systems and gender equality) to describe system behaviour over a ten-year period. The outputs from model simulations were used to compute index values for each of the indicators and the indices were subsequently used to evaluate sustainability of low-input ruminant farming systems. Household income, gender equality and farmer training had the highest sustainability indices whereas, soil organic matter and biomass supply recorded the lowest values. Overall, the low-input ruminant farming system was found to be moderately sustainable.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109294
JournalEcological Modelling
Early online date29 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Ecological Modelling. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Ecological Modelling, 438, (2020) DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2020.109294

© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation (DST-NRF) Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Food Security (grant number: 140102 )


  • Complex systems
  • Dynamic feedback mechanisms
  • Sustainability evaluation
  • Sustainability index
  • System dynamics modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modelling

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