Forest conservation and Food production
Many forest and biodiversity policymakers and key stakeholders seem to underestimate the degree to which natural forests in SSA will be lost to agricultural expansion to meet growing food demand. Policymakers and key stakeholders in agricultural development should also not overlook the potential significance of commitments to conserve natural forests in constraining certain agricultural development options as resource competition intensifies in coming years.
The political and economic forces in the food system are far stronger than those in the forest sector and are therefore likely to prevail in business-as-usual scenarios. Nevertheless, viable alternatives to such scenarios exist in which the better management of risks and trade-offs enables more informed decisions on where and how to intensify agriculture and which forest areas to lose, conserve and restore, thereby reducing the loss of natural forests and helping maintain crucial forest ecosystem services.
The question of how to reconcile goals of forest conservation and food production in the three case-study countries reflects a broader issue of tensions between some of the SDGs, notably SDG2 and SDG15.
There are significant technical constraints and information gaps, but most of the issues go beyond technical fixes to organisational and governance aspects — and in many cases, to matters of political economy.