Agriculture is the main driver of deforestation globally due to the growing demand for agricultural commodities (and timber and wood energy). In Latin America, most deforestation is due to large scale agriculture, whilst in Africa and South East Asia small scale agriculture, including for commodity crops, dominate. Our research on this theme focuses on smallholder farmers and farming systems, their interaction with forests (linking to theme 7) and the biodiversity and other ecosystem services they support.
Exploring the forest-people-water nexus through serious games
In the SESAM project, we analyse and improve decision-making processes related to water and (agro)forest landscape management across the tropics. To achieve this, we develop and implement serious games, so-called ‘Scenario Evaluation Games’, which are tools to analyse, support and enhance social learning, decision-making, and action. The Scenario Evaluation Games are developed and played with people and organisations who are involved in complex decision-making processes around the forest-water-people nexus.
There is an increasing recognition of agronomic, socio-economic, and environmental benefits of agroforestry systems.For example, agroforestry is seen as a potential win-win solution to meet the increasing demand for shade-loving perennial crops such as cocoa and coffee whilst reducing pressure on forests. The assumption is that integrating shade trees can support (increased) productivity of cocoa systems or landscapes (so not just the cocoa itself), help diversify farmer incomes and reduce their risk, including in the face of climate change, and therefore avoid further expansion of cocoa growing into forests. Also, agroforests can likely play a role protecting local biodiversity and other ecosystem services (e.g., water, pollination). Agroforestry systems are also increasingly promoted as a tool to restore degraded agricultural lands or forests, supporting global climate change mitigation objectives through carbon sequestration whilst providing crops and other local benefits. Through our research, we seek to understand how the potential for agroforestry to meet these objectives varies according to management regimes, biophysical, socio-economic, and institutional contexts, to inform the development of sustainable (reduced- or zero-deforestation) pathways for agricultural development in the tropics (linking to theme 7).
A specific topic under this sub-theme includes the assessment of the forest transition on (agroforest) landscapes. Along the forest transition, forests are degraded through human use over time, subsequently deforestation for agricultural use may occur, but many areas now become forested again. Many of these “new” forest systems are agroforestry systems. We assess the ecosystem services that degraded forests, croplands and agroforestry systems provide across such land-use gradients. Other research topics aim contributing to assessing and balancing food security, forest conservation and climate change mitigation objectives at national scale.