£6.3m funding to develop Africa’s agriculture without losing biodiversity and harming human societies

Researchers from the University of Oxford have been awarded funding from the Research Councils UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) as part of a £6.3 million project to investigate how to achieve food security whilst protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services and promoting social equity.

The project partnership, entitled ‘Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture’ (SENTINEL), is being led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and involves a range of higher education institutions and stakeholders in the UK and across Africa. The University of Oxford component is being led Professor Nathalie Seddon (Department of Zoology) and Dr Monika Zurek (Environmental Change Institute), and will focus on building agricultural development scenarios and strengthening capacity of UK science to address development challenges.

The project aims to address systemic development challenges in African agriculture. It will draw on the challenges outlined by UN Sustainable Development Goals 2 (Zero Hunger), 15 (Life on Land) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities). Focusing on three African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia), it aims to improve our understanding of the different ways of developing agriculture without impacting negatively on the natural environment and depriving people of the goods and services it has historically provided and on which their health, wealth and well-being depends.

The project will bring together researchers with government, development agencies and private firms, and in this way help to inform policy-makers and the civil groups that lobby them.

Professor Nathalie Seddon said, “We are delighted to have been awarded the GCRF funding and we look forward to getting started on this project. We expect project outcomes to have real impact on public and private policy-making. The lessons learned will be useful for the entire sub-Saharan Africa region and beyond.”

Dr Monika Zurek said “I look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with other leading, international institutions to further our understanding of the social and environmental impacts of agriculture in the developing world.”