Challenge 2: Agricultural productivity and ecosystem functions

Last changed: 06 February 2023
Malawi villager preparing beans

An increased agricultural productivity to meet a growing food demand and for improving income for smallholders is desired in the agricultural sector. This has to happen while securing the well-needed functions and services from ecosystems. Navigating between these two requirements is the essence of this challenge, that targets practitioners and policy stakeholder by supporting dialogue with scientists.

This AgriFoSe2030 challenge has its starting point in the dependence on well-functioning ecosystem services as a basis for sustainably increasing agricultural productivity. Relevant ecosystem services include water regulation, reliable climate systems, soil productivity, and a diversity of species. Farming in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), South and South-East Asia is still low yielding in many places, particularly in SSA.

Farming often suffers from inadequate management and poor practices leading to land degradation and reduction in ecosystem capacity, which in turn lowers the ability to generate sustainable yields and adapt to climate change. Hence, the challenge is to increase agricultural productivity sustainably to meet demands from a rapidly growing population, while simultaneously maintaining natural ecosystems and adapting farming systems to declining arable land and aggravated climate change. Regardless of temporal or geographical scales or of formal or informal manners of practices, any type of governance over these systems demands certain trade-offs.

Furthermore, at the farm level a smallholder farmers’ need for higher yields and safe water is challenged by changing climatic patterns and decreased soil fertility. This AgriFoSe2030 challenge is focusing on the hurdles, potentials and options for smallholders to improve their incomes and increase their farm productivity and to do so sustainably without degrading the natural capital. Some of these options may include adjusting production for more diversified diets, improved agronomic techniques, empowered individuals and communities, incentives for ecosystem management, secured land ownership and improved access to ecosystem services, markets and value chains.


Rice straw management in Vietnam

Parkland management in Burkina Faso

Projects in Challenge 2

  • Sustainable parkland management in Burkina Faso:
    Full name: Agro-ecological practices for restoring parklands – co-producing science-based skills and knowledge for increased agricultural productivity
    Location: Burkina Faso
    Start date: April 2021 End date: March 2024
    About: The pilot project aim is to disseminate agro-ecological practices that enforce ecosystem functions for sustainable and increased crop production. The project focuses on widely spreading agro-ecological practices that increase tree health, tree density, soil conservation and restoration and good practices for tree and crops for increased food production. The activities will use lessons learnt from the previous phases that continue support the project areas; agro-ecological practices, innovative platforms for co-production of knowledge and action, and synthesis of tools for trade-offs.

  • TRAMAP in Kenya:
    Full name: Science-based and co-produced transformative rangeland
    management practices – how to deal with encroachment of unwanted woody species (TRAMAP Kenya)
    Location: Samburu, Kenya
    Start date: October 2021. End date: September 2023
    About: The overall objective is to support pastoralists and agro-pastoralists to increase agricultural productivity and enhanced landscape ecosystem functions through collective and gender observed adoption of sustainable rangeland management practices and networking.

  • Sorghum-cowpea intercropping systems in South Africa
    Full title: Promotion of sorghum-cowpea intercropping systems in smallholder farming systems in South Africa for climate change adaptation
    Location: South Africa
    Start date: 1 June 2022. End date: 31 December 2023
    About: To unpack barriers of effective communication of scientific findings to improve crop production through the use of sorghum-based rotation and intercropping agriculture among farmers for increasing food security and income generation.

  • Productivity and sustainability in the coffee-banana systems:
    Full name: Participatory analysis of the conventional-agroecological intensification continuum for increased productivity and sustainability in the coffee-banana systems
    Location: Uganda
    Start date: 1 July 2022 End date: 31 December 2023
    About:  To understand farmers attitudes, fears, and ambitions for increasing crop productivity and sustainability of the coffee-banana system of the Mt Elgon Region (MER). To identify and empower model farmers as a platform to promote and showcase sustainable intensification strategies in the coffee-banana system of the MER. To establish information and institutional needs of farmers to enhance productivity and sustainability in the coffee-banana system of the MER. To create platforms for dialogue and engagements of stakeholders and policy for increased productivity and sustainability of coffee, banana, and other crops in the MER.
    Read more here...
  • Rice straw management in Vietnam
    Full title: Sustainable rice-straw management for improving farmer livelihoods and low environmental footprint in rice-based production systems.
    Location: Vietnam
    Start date: 1 July 2022 End date: 31 December 2023
    About: To support smallholder rice farmers and extension workers to decide on the best alternative for rice straw management by utilising technological options as well as value chain business models.


Madeleine Ostwald

Madelene Ostwald, Assoc. Prof.

Challenge leader of Challenge 2
Department of Thematic Studies/Environmental Change
Linköping University 
Telephone: +46 708-51 93 11





Veronica Brodén Gyberg, Dr

 Assistant challenge leader of Challenge 2
 Department of Thematic Studies – Environmental Change,   Linköping University
 Telephone: (+46) 13 28 29 56