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Managing trade-offs between growing food and conserving forests in sub-Saharan Africa

Governments in sub-Saharan Africa face a dilemma: how to reconcile pledges to feed fast-growing populations with forest conservation? Under Sustainable Development Goal 2 (end hunger, achieve food security etc), African countries aim to fully meet domestic food demand by 2030 — projected to be 70 per cent higher than in 2010. At the same time, under Sustainable Development Goal 15 (sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems etc), countries aim to reduce and then halt deforestation, which, in sub-Saharan Africa, is mainly driven by the need to grow more food. Since imports, waste reduction and yield increases are rarely sufficient to meet future food demand, agriculture will continue to expand at the expense of forests. Based on research in Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania, this briefing provides pointers towards better managing the inevitable trade-offs, emphasising the importance of addressing governance and political economy issues alongside technical aspects.

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With the support of country partners, IIED is conducting research to better understand existing and future competition and trade-offs between food production and natural forests, and the implications for land use policies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Food demand and forests in Sub-Saharan Africa