Research theme 2: Impacts of expansion

Understanding the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of agricultural expansion into forest and other natural habitats in Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia


About the theme

The aim of this research theme is to understand the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of agricultural expansion into forest and other natural habitats in Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia. 

We will research land-use change, caused by the expansion of agriculture, and its impacts on ecosystem functions and services. We will investigate impacts on biodiversity (species and habitats), as well as the social and economic impacts of agricultural expansion and loss of natural habitats, including forests (e.g. loss of ecosystem services, trade, potential increase in populations and settlements, improvements to infrastructure, etc). As part of this research theme, we will also examine the drivers and impacts of agricultural expansion on food production and food security at the country level, along with the impacts of these on local livelihoods, which might vary according to differences in gender and wealth. 

This theme will build on the findings of Research Theme 1 (understanding the dynamics of agricultural expansion), as well as providing a grounding for Research Theme 3 (understanding trade-offs between agricultural development, the environment and socioeconomics). Given our expertise with large datasets, and in the field, we aim to consider as many aspects of the ecological and agricultural systems that might be affected, directly and indirectly, by agricultural expansion as data allow, as well as increasing the availability of data through field-based projects. 


Our research questions

The main research questions we will focus on under this theme include: 

  • What are the determinants of agricultural expansion? 
  • What have been the socioeconomic impacts (positive and negative) of agricultural expansion - on food production? on other socioeconomic aspects? on gender differential impacts?
  • What are the likely future socioeconomic impacts of agricultural expansion?  
  • What have been the environmental impacts of agricultural expansion (extent and nature of these)?
  • What are the likely future environmental impacts of agricultural expansion? 


Our methods

We will use spatial analysis and mapping tools, as well as the R programming language, to map and model the impacts of agricultural expansion on the environment at a range of scales (e.g. from site-level, for the present day, through fieldwork; to country-level, for the recent past and projected future, through the use of large-scale, freely-available data and modelling tools). To understand the socioeconomic impacts of agricultural expansion, we will conduct econometric analyses based on cross-community level data, as well as panel longitudinal data from the central statistical authorities, and data from field surveys. 


The 4 main hubs used for the Sentinel workshop
Sentinel holds final partner workshop

Ahead of Sentinel’s project close at the end of March 2022, partners came together in mid-February to hold a final project workshop. 

Sentinel team members deliver online training to consultants in Ghana.
Sentinel qualitative research commences in Ghana through online training

In May this year, the qualitative research to examine the Sentinel project’s key research questions kicked off across the three project countries of Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia. However logistical delays put the research in Ghana on hold. 

On field drone demonstrations at the Kpong irrigation scheme in Ghana
Can agriculture 4.0 technology adoption reduce agricultural expansion in sub-Saharan Africa?

Conversations around how to ensure sufficient food for the growing sub-Saharan African (SSA) population are driving discussions among agricultural policy makers on how to promote food self-sufficiency.


Serious gaming to inform local scale scenarios of land cover change to 2050 in North-Western province, Zambia

Geoffrey Griffiths - University of Reading, Syed Amir Manzoor - University of Reading, Barbara Adolph - IIED, Jo Davies - University of Reading, Adam Devenish - Imperial College London, Phil Franks - IIED, Nugun P Jellason - University of Reading, Jane Kwenye - Copperbelt University, Elizabeth Robinson - LSE, Monika Zurek - University of Oxford
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More agricultural intensification, more deforestation? Recognising the risk of profitability-driven expansion of cropland in Zambia

Barbara Adolph - IIED, Phil Franks - IIED, Jane Kwenye - Copperbelt University
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Landscape Management Scenarios Image

Impact of Landscape Management Scenarios on Ecosystem Service Values in Central Ethiopia

Abera Assefa Biratu, Bobe Bedadi, Solomon Gebreyohannis Gebrehiwot, Assefa M. Melesse, Tilahun Hordofa Nebi, Wuletawu Abera, Lulseged Tamene, Anthony Egeru
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Research report