RUFORUM in new partnership with IIED and UK universities to study Development trade-offs in African agriculture

Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) is one of 37 projects that will be supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) of the Research Councils UK Collective Fund launched today to address challenges in fields such as health, humanitarian crises, conflict, the environment, the economy and technology. Led by the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), the SENTINEL Project will be jointly implemented by experts from the UK and Africa. RUFORUM will play a lead role in strengthening capacity building of individuals, institutions and for engagement.

A major challenge with the Sustainable Development Goals is that they are all interconnected – so pursuing one without taking the others into account could do more harm than good overall. Nowhere is this more obvious than with the need to cut hunger rates to zero (goal 2) whilst also keeping our ecosystems healthy so that they maintain the clean water, healthy soils and biodiversity essential for humanity’s long-term welfare (goal 15).

SENTINEL partners, have identified these two goals, combined with a third – reducing social inequality (goal 10) – as particularly intractable. A major issue is that there is a huge gap between researchers trying to understand the complex relationships between these goals, and governments, development agencies and private firms trying to implement plans on the ground. The SENTINEL team plans to close this gap in three African countries (Ghana, Ethiopia and Zambia) and help key decision makers – as well as the civil groups that lobby them – understand the different ways of developing agriculture without impacting negatively on the natural environment and depriving people of the goods it has historically provided. Lessons learned from these three countries will be useful for the entire sub-Saharan Africa region.

IIED, who will provide overall leadership for the SENTINEL Project through Dr. Barbara Adolph, are cognisant of the magnitude of the challenge ahead. “The twin goals of food self-sufficiency and protecting the natural environment are on a collision course and we don’t yet have the tools to effectively manage the trade-offs and synergies,” said Dr. Phil Franks, a Senior Researcher with the Institution and an expert on the social dimension of natural resource management and conservation.

Dr. Moses Osiru, Deputy Executive Secretary of RUFORUM is enthusiastic about the Project and stated that, “For the first time, a project will look realistically at the trade-offs intrinsic in many development policies and strategies.”

The four year UK5million Pounds sterling Project is supported through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Councils (UK) Collective Fund.  Overall, £225 Million will be invested across the 37 projects in one of the most ambitious international research programmes ever created. The full list of projects is available at:

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