Agricultural expansion is the greatest driver of the loss of nature and its biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide. In Africa, this is primarily the expansion of food crops to meet growth in domestic food demand. Further losses are inevitable before the situation stabilises.

Boosting agricultural production to meet the food demands of growing and more prosperous populations increasingly comes with a cost to the ecosystems upon which human life more broadly depends. Yet many developing countries (and some developed countries) do not acknowledge or understand these trade-offs.

How can agricultural production increase to meet the rapidly growing food demand in sub-Saharan Africa without reducing its precious forest areas? This is one of the greatest challenges in achieving sustainable land use and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region.

Equity is gaining increasing attention in international conservation policy. Specifically, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Target 11 calls for “effectively and equitably managed … protected areas”.

Forest cover in sub-Saharan Africa declined by nearly 10 per cent between 2000 and 2010. Of this loss, 75 per cent was caused by the conversion of forest to agriculture, largely for food production to serve rapidly growing domestic food demand.