Increasing agricultural production to meet rapidly growing demand for food – predicted to rise in sub-Saharan Africa by 150 % by 2050 – while safeguarding vital ecosystem services and promoting social equality, lies at the heart of sustainable development.


Over the four-years, SENTINEL will address the challenge of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 (zero hunger), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), and SDG 15 (ecosystem conservation) in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on three countries – Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia.

Our vision is for key government and private sector actors to adjust their policies, strategies and investments to take more account of the impacts, risks and trade-offs within and between socio-economic and environmental dimensions of different agricultural development pathways, and for civil society organisations to have a greater role in shaping the national discourse on agricultural development.
 

Why now?

Research has shown that conflicts between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on improving food security (SDG 2), reducing inequalities (SDG 10) and ecosystem conservation (SDG 15) are intensifying in sub-Saharan Africa because of factors such as rapid progress in economic development and population growth. Decision makers in government and the private sector continue to act on an insufficient understanding of the socio-economic and environmental impacts of different agricultural development pathways.

Current agricultural development strategies are poorly informed – particularly considering projected regional changes in climate – and, in some areas, are on a collision course with forest conservation and restoration policies. This is contributing to increasing inequalities and further marginalises people and communities who depend on agriculture or forests for a living.
 

Our objectives

SENTINEL research will focus on three African countries – Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia – while working with a wider network of stakeholders and universities across Africa and the UK to share lessons and build capacity. The project aims to enhance:

  • Knowledge
    Through co-production of novel scientific research by UK and African researchers, SENTINEL will generate new knowledge on the impacts, risks and trade-offs within and between social, economic and environmental dimensions of different agricultural development pathways that relate to SDGs 2, 10 and 15.
     
  • Relationships
    The project will enhance relationships between UK and African organisations by creating and strengthening collaborative research partnerships, to maximise responsiveness to development challenges and foster a deeper understanding of sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa.
     
  • Research capacity
    Using a participatory process that combines state-of-the-art research with effective engagement with research users, SENTINEL will enhance capacity of researchers in the UK and Africa to investigate sustainable development challenges using a more interdisciplinary approach.

    Building capacity of teams and individuals to co-develop cutting edge and applicable research is a key goal of SENTINEL. It is also important to identify and address capacity gaps in institutions and organisational systems in the UK and Africa. This will ensure that research is relevant and builds on existing knowledge, and that researchers are well connected, motivated and rewarded. SENTINEL will tackle these goals through a programme of collaborative research and learning, training and mentoring of junior staff, and direct engagement with senior university managers.
     

    Planned project outcomes

    • Government
      Policies & plans take more account of impacts, risks & trade-offs of different agricultural development pathways and request more relevant research to be conducted by research organisations
       
    • Civil society organisations
      Are shaping national discourse on agricultural development to take more account of impacts, risks & trade-offs of different agricultural development pathways and hold government accountable
       
    • Research organisations
      Have enhanced capacity and UK-Africa research relationships, enabling stronger formulation, execution & communication of relevant applied research
       
    • Private sector actors
      Investment decisions and engagement in national policy processes take more account of impacts, risks & trade-offs of different agricultural development pathways
       

    Planned project impact

    • Medium term impact
      Agricultural policies, strategies and investment decisions are informed by high quality research on the interrelationships between the social, economic and environmental effects of agricultural development
       
    • Long term impact on practicse
      Government agencies effectively implement agricultural policies to better manage the impacts, risks and trade-offs among social, economic and environmental dimensions of agricultural development
       
    • Long term impact on people and planet
      Conflicts between food security, natural ecosystems and social justice arising from agricultural development are managed to maximise benefits for sustainable development