SNAPP TEAM:Food and Forests in Africa
What interventions can help governments deliver on both food production and forest conservation targets, while providing more equitable distribution of the benefits?

Food demand in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to triple by 2050. As countries in this region attempt to meet this growing demand, they are placed in a challenging position in regards to sustainable development. Agricultural conversion is the primary driver of deforestation, meaning that sub-Saharan African countries face conflicting commitments to UN Sustainable Development Goals 2 (end hunger) and 15 (protect terrestrial ecosystems).


OUR APPROACH: The team aims to address agricultural expansion as a driver of deforestation and biodiversity loss in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on governance and political economy as drivers. This group is combining spatial and political economy analyses to better reconcile these competing goals. Their work also includes working in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania and building on previous efforts by the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Team Status: COMPLETED
Team Critical Challenges: Food and Freshwater, Social Innovations

Managing Trade-Offs

Agricultural expansion is the greatest driver of biodiversity loss. Managing trade-offs between conserving nature and increasing agricultural production is essential in Africa. Policy makers are more valuable to instituting change than improved technology. It is important to recognize the trade-offs between agricultural production and nature conservation where these can be openly discussed and negotiated.

Management Tools 

A combination of trade-off analysis methods is increasingly common. The most valuable analysis of conservation and agriculture include stakeholder involvement. Knowledge coproduction processes can be a strategy for developing sensitivity to trade-offs and learning how to put these insights into practice.

Efforts to Reduce Social and Environmental Trade-offs 

Current agricultural and forest policies are geared towards economic gain, with little consideration for biodiversity conservation. Agricultural policies focus on productivity increase through agricultural modernization and value-chain development. Better trade-off management will prevent the loss of remaining forests and woodlands outside of enforced protected areas.

Key Products
Creating enabling conditions for managing trade-offs between food production and forest conservation in Africa: Case studies from Ethiopia and Zambia

This working paper compiles research on one of the most challenging development goals in sub-Saharan Africa – increasing agricultural production without doing so at the cost of forests. The working paper compiles lessons learned from work in Zambia and Ethiopia and identifies 10 elements essential to balancing conservation and agriculture in the region.

Conservation versus food production in Africa: better managing trade-offs (Briefing)

Agricultural expansion is the greatest driver of the loss of nature and its biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide. This briefing explains basic concepts of better trade-off management and identifies four key changes in policy and practice needed to conserve nature as well as increase agricultural production.

Agriculture, nature conservation or both? Managing trade-offs and synergies in sub-Saharan Africa

Boosting agricultural production to meet the food demands of growing and more prosperous populations increasingly comes with a cost to the ecosystems upon which human life more broadly depends. This paper summarizes key concepts relating to trade-offs and synergies, including trade-off analysis and management, to make approaches and methods more accessible.

Food and forests: understanding agriculture and conservation trade-offs in Ethiopia (Briefing)

In Ethiopia, as in many countries in Africa, policymakers need to better understand and manage the major trade-offs — existing and future — between two competing objectives: increasing agricultural production to meet growing domestic food demand and conserving nature. This briefing explores this issue within the national context in Ethiopia, and makes suggestions for the way forward.

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Phil Franks
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Barbara Adolph
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Florence Agyei
Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana
Ezra Berkhout
Netherlands Environmental Agency
Rachel Carmenta
University of Cambridge
Tagel Gebrehiwot
Ethiopian Development Research Institute
Habte Kassa
Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Albert Katako
Civic Response
Lucy Magembe
The Nature Conservancy
Charles Meshack
Tanzania Forest Conservation Group
Peter Minang
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
Jacob Mwitwa
Copperbelt University
Dora Neina
University of Ghana
Hambulo Ngoma
Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute
Unai Pasual
Foundation for Science, Basque Centre for Climate Change
Casey Ryan
University of Edinburgh
Marieke Sassen
Wageningen University; World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Yigremachew Seyoum
UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Ethiopia
Tim Thomas
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Joseph Tobias
Imperial College
Anne Trainor
The Nature Conservancy
Bhaskar Vira
University of Cambridge
Monica Zurek
University of Oxford
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