In Sub-Saharan Africa population growth and increasing agricultural demands have led to many ecosystems being converted or degraded. Poverty and malnutrition are significant problems and the scarcity of suitable land for agriculture has driven subsistence farmers into marginal lands and forested areas. The relationships between forests, agriculture and well-being in these areas are complex. Forests are essential to livelihoods yet yields are often too low to keep farmers out of poverty. Whilst forests provide important ecosystem services which can contribute to crop yields (such as pollination and water regulation) there can be downsides, such as crop damage by wildlife.
The project aimed to provide a framework for trade-off analysis and decision making to guide development towards more sustainable pathways. Land use decisions often involve multiple stakeholders with different objectives leading to complex trade-offs. Many of the current trade-offs do not benefit the poor or simply shift the impact of ecosystem degradation to future generations. This project assessed the implications of current decisions, examined alternative scenarios (and impacts on well-being) and identified how current policies could be adjusted to alleviate poverty.
Marije has worked as a Research Associate at the University of East Anglia and University of Cambridge and has a PhD from the Institute for Environmental Studies at the VU University Amsterdam. Her project, hosted by the University of Southampton, will focus on trade-off analysis and ecosystem service value assessment in agriculture-forest systems.