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. 


Global Food Security Conference logo
Achieving national food self-sufficiency or protecting forests? Join Sentinel colleagues debating the trade-offs

On 4 December 2020 Sentinel colleagues welcome you to a session on ’Understanding and managing food security – nature conservation trade-offs: concepts and methods for decision-making’.  

RUFORUM students in discussion
Shining the spotlight on Ghana’s RUFORUM PhD candidates

When the Sentinel project began in 2017 it put out a call for proposals from PhD candidates through its partner, The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM). Candidates were asked to propose topics on: 

Focus Group discussions during community resource mapping where farmers led discussions and documentation.
Sharing experiences on reconnaissance survey implementation in Zambia

The Sentinel Zambia reconnaissance survey was implemented from 15 August to 28 September 2019 in the Kazungula, Katete, Kaoma, Kapiri Mposhi and Zambezi districts of Zambia. 


Contextual analysis of agriculture in Zambia: A review of the agricultural sector in Zambia conducted in 2018-19 as a contextual analysis for the Sentinel project

Mukanga Mweshi - Zambia Agricultural Research Institute, Jacob Mwitwa - Copperbelt University, Phillimon Ng'andwe - Copperbelt University, Darius Phiri - Copperbelt University, Chindi Kapembwa - Copperbelt University, Adam Devenish - Imperial College London, Xiaoting Hou-Jones - IIED, Phil Franks - IIED, Barbara Adolph - IIED
Date published
Material type
Research report

Carbon Stock and Change Rate under Different Grazing Management Practices in Semiarid Pastoral Ecosystems of Eastern Ethiopia

Haftay Hailu Gebremedhn, Tessema Zewdu Kelkay, Yayanshet Tesfay, Samuel Tuffa, Sintayehu Workeneh Dejene, Sylvanus Mensah, Adam John Mears Devenish, Anthony Egeru
Date published
Material type
Research report

The nexus between soil degradation and agricultural expansion in Zambia

Dora Neina - University of Ghana, Jacob Mwitwa - Copperbelt University, Barbara Adolph - IIED
Date published
Material type