Theme 2 - Multifunctional landscapes for increased food security

Last changed: 01 August 2018

This theme is interdisciplinary and covers all cross-cutting issues of the programme; sustainable intensification of agriculture, the central role of women and young people in agriculture, and access to markets and value chains.

Smallholder farmers are vulnerable and have many times difficulty in achieving sustainable food production, structural agricultural development and economic growth, particularly in the extensive dry areas where rain-fed system are dominating.

Policies for sustainable development

These systems are often integrated with a mixture of trees, crops and animals. Policies for these regions need to increasingly be up-scaled from the field level to science-based understanding of multifunctional landscapes to include trade-offs and synergies with other goals. This is central to achieve i) sustainable intensification and development, and ii) enhanced resilience in times of disturbances, and especially to climate change and its unreliable rainfall (reduced quantity, increased intensity) and higher temperatures (especially medium and maximum).

Theme 2 is interdisciplinary and covers all cross-cutting issues of the programme (sustainable intensification of agriculture, the central role of women and young people in agriculture, and access to markets and value chains).

Read about some of our projects below.

In the INIKEA Sow-a-Seed rainforest restoration project, degraded lands are rehabilitated. Photo: Ulrik Ilstedt.
The Community Lands Approach involves decentralizing responsibility for land administration to the community level. In Meru, Tanzania, there is a long history of small holders successfully producing cash crops on the fertile and densely populated uplands. Photo: Robin Biddulph.
AgriFoSe2030 study challenges related to land use effects on climate change, sustainable development and natural resource management. Photo: Madelene Ostwald

Piloting edible urban landscapes in cape coast, Ghana

This study seeks to pilot the possibility of mobilizing stakeholders, regulations, policies and incentives for the productive use and active management of unused or underutilized spaces in urban areas from a multi-functional land use perspective. Specifically, the project aims at demonstrating the potential of greening, actively managing and using urban spaces that are currently unmanaged or unused to produce food and green landscapes in Cape Coast in the Central Region of Ghana. The project will install two greenhouses and support four young women and men to produce high value vegetable crops for sale and maintain an aesthetic landscape in the designated areas. In addition, at least, four farmers will be supported to produce vegetables in similar spaces without greenhouses and maintain an aesthetic scenery in the immediate surroundings of their designated areas.

The urban landscapes in Ghana have several pockets of underutilized and idle spaces due to poor land use and physical planning. These spaces offer opportunities for intensification and improvement in urban greenery and aesthetics, food production and livelihoods. Multifunctional land use or landscapes for improved food security, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability is core to the AgriFose2030 program. The ‘piloting edible landscapes’ pilot addresses the cross-cutting themes on women and youth and sustainable intensification of the AgriFose2030 program. Further, this pilot directly addresses the cross-disciplinary themes: socio-economic dimensions of smallholder agriculture and multifunctional landscapes in agriculture. This study will be used to demonstrate the potential contributions of multifunctional urban land use management to food security, livelihoods and landscape management and as a basis for mobilizing stakeholder consensus on supportive regulations and policies for out-scaling.

Principle investigator: David Oscar Yawson

Host institution: Directorate of Research, Innovation and Consultancy, Cape Coast, Ghana

Promoting best management practices in agroforestry parkland systems to improve food security in the Sahel

Parklands are multifunctional landscapes that play a key role in the livelihood of rural people in the Sahel. Indeed, most of the food crops are produced on parklands’ fields, in particularcereals (maize, sorghum, millet), roots and tubers (yam, sweet potatoes, cassava); leguminous (cowpea, peanut, vouandzu) and vegetables (sorrel, okra, chili pepper, eggplant). Trees of parklands provide food, fodder, medicine, wood and several ecosystem services (soil conservation and fertility, biodiversity conservation, climate, water regulation etc.).

Despite the key role of parklands in the rural economy and food security, there is a general trend of a decrease in tree density due to changing circumstances (e.g., climatic, political, agricultural practices). The decrease in tree density results in a reduction of the efficacy (low soil fertility, reduction of crops and trees yields) and sustainability of these agroforestry systems. Much research efforts have focused on reversing the trend of reduced efficacy and sustainability of the Sahelian parkland systems. These scientific works have proposed different practices for improving crop, tree and livestock production in parklands. Unfortunately, most of them are still unknown by farmers or are difficult to implement due to national legislation.

The main objective of this pilot study is to enhance food security and alleviate poverty of Sahelian small-holder farmers through the adoption of best practices in agroforestry parkland management based on local and scientific knowledge. We aim to demonstrate the potential improvement in food production and incomes generation resulting from good agroforestry parklands management. To achieve this goal, a participatory evaluation (with research institute, universities, NGOs and farmers’ organization) of three cropping systems will be done in 90 fields of three sites in Burkina Faso: (1) parkland with tested best practices management, (2) parkland with traditional practices, and (3) a sole cropping system (without trees).

Researchers: Josias Sanou, Hugues R. Bazié, Martin Karlson and Jules Bayala

Host institution: Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso

Vermi-composting for increased agricultural productivity, women empowerment and environmental sanitation in north-Ethiopia

Agriculture in Ethiopia is characterized by low soil fertility, high soil degradation, rain-fed and fragmented land holding, extremely low external inputs such as fertilizer and agro-chemicals, and the use of traditional farming techniques. Women headed households are the most vulnerable to the consequence of the above challenges. Hence, a special focus should be given to empowering women heading households through training and provision of technologies which can boost agricultural production. The provision of training and new agricultural technologies such as vermi-composting (composting with the use of worms) are thought to be the answer to empower poor input access societies, boost agricultural production and achieve food and nutrition security (SDG2). It is believed that women who are economically strong and neat are socially respected.

As a strategy, in the last few years, the use of earthworms as composting technique known as vermi-compost was introduced to farmers in few areas of the country. Researches from within and outside Ethiopia proved that vermicomposting technology provide the following benefits among many: I) it contains plenty of ‘beneficial soil microbes’ which help in ‘soil regeneration’ and ‘fertility improvement’ and protect them from degradation while also promoting food production and environmental sanitation; ii) it can be made by any member of a household (especially women) at any time and place.

Therefore, this pilot study aims at: 1) Scaling up the vermi-composting technology, that exist to some extent, to the entire region so as to contribute for increased agricultural productivity and environmental sanitation; 2) training women headed households so as to empower them economically and socially; 3) determining vermi-compost application rates for different soil types and crops under different agro-ecologies as compared to the blended chemical fertilizer.

The pilot will be implemented in three villages representing three agro-ecologies (highland, midland and lowland) in the Tigray regional state (Northern Ethiopia). The pilot project contains six major activities: 1) Initial Vermi-Worms Culturing; 2) Women headed household Training; 3) Worm Culturing by women headed households; 4) Experimental site setup for Vermi-compost application rate and their economic significance determination (Designing experimental plots, soil and agronomic data collection, and soil and plant attributes laboratory analysis); 5) Women headed households’ Social and Economic Survey; 6) Organizing meeting and site visits with stakeholders (including planners and decision makers).

Researchers: Kassa Teka, Eunice Githae

Host institution: Mekelle University, Mekelle, Ethiopia

Sustainable aquaculture development for food security and livelihoods in western and central Kenya

With a high and growing demand for fish, Kenya has a high potential for aquaculture development. However, this potential will remain largely untapped under the prevailing policy framework which puts emphasis on smallholder systems. With government subsidies no longer available, small-holder farmers need to achieve self-sustainable aquaculture which requires the adoption of integrated aquaculture-agriculture systems as a measure against negative consequences on livelihoods Although the fastest growing food production sector, gains from aquaculture can easily be lost due to pollution, habitat destruction, disease, lack of quality seed and feed. Therefore, there is need to optimize aquaculture development while enhancing environmental sustainability through combined sustainable multifunctional landscapes that involve fish. To minimize the impacts of threats such as climatic conditions and changes in land use, an understanding of rural livelihoods, coping strategies adaptation and mitigation measures is equally important for aquaculture.

The pilot aims to establish key social, environmental and technological issues associated with aquaculture production in Kenya. A multidisciplinary approach will be adopted to carry out gender for determination of the level of technology uptake and management practices. This approach will give detail to the gender issues relating to challenges and opportunities in aquaculture to women, men and youth as well as determine delivery of sustainable intensification systems at household and landscape levels; thus contributing to gender inclusive strategies for policy. Along with this, experimental trials will be conducted at University of Eldoret’s fish farm for production of suitable fish feeds, fish seed and development of disease management protocols and will be used for development of policy guidelines for sustainable aquaculture in Kenya.

Researcher: Geraldine Matolla

Host institution: University of Eldoret, Eldoret, Kenya

Balancing production and ecosystem services from degraded tropical rain forests to aid the transition to a more sustainable bio-based economy

- The INIKEA project

By the year 2030, the demand for wood products will increase by threefold. This will place immense pressure on humid tropical forest ecosystems, where over the next 15 years more than 80% of the growing global demand for forest products will be met. Already now forest use in the tropics is intense, with 8 million ha of tropical forest are cleared each year. An estimated 350 million hectares of tropical rainforest has been deforested, and another 500 million hectares degraded.

The consequence of this degradation is the loss of ecological services such as carbon, biodiversity and soil quality, as well as loss of many goods such as timber and non-timber forest products. These losses are particularly severe for poor rural people in tropical countries, where at least 300 million people now depend on degraded forest ecosystems for their existence. Degraded forests are often converted into industrial monoculture plantations that divert forest profits away from local communities and provide landscapes sensitive to climate change. Both degraded forests and plantations result in long-term reductions in soil fertility via soil nutrient and organic matter loss.

A major challenge for the future is to balance the trade-offs between maximizing production of raw materials while at the same time minimizing negative impacts to ecosystem services, and in turn, improving people’s livelihoods.

In northern Borneo, AgriFoSe2030 is involved in building a landscape scale “Rainforest Restoration Lab” placed around the INIKEA Sow-a-Seed rainforest restoration project. This project is a cooperation between the Sabah Foundation and the Swedish furniture company IKEA and is unique in that it is one of the largest and most successful projects of its kind. Since the start of the project in 1998, more than two million seedlings, consisting of ca. 80 different indigenous tree species, have been planted and roughly 13,000 ha of forest have been restored for multi-use purposes. The developed infrastructure and the ongoing restoration activities make it ideal to study ecological and social interactions of this large-scale restoration intervention. In the surrounding area there are local communities practicing shifting cultivation and agroforestry but the dominant land use consists of oil palm and industrial tree plantations – a situation typical for Borneo and much of SE Asia. There are still some undisturbed, protected forest reserves nearby that host sizable wildlife populations that can serve as “pristine” reference. Within the restored areas there are well-designed experimental setups of a unique collection of native species - both fruit trees and highly valuable timber trees - that can serve as model systems for biodiversity, functional ecology and forest management.

Read more about the the Sow-a-Seed Project


Sabah Foundation, WWF-Malaysia, Sabah Forest Department, University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Northern Arizona University (NAU), The University of Western Australia, etc.


Main funding agents

  • IKEA
  • The Kamprad Family Foundation
  • Formas

Securing Land Rights in sub-Saharan Africa: A critical examination of new approaches to tenure reform in practice

Provision of tenure security in sub-Saharan Africa has been a key development challenge. It is seen both as a key to protecting the livelihoods and cultural rights of communities threatened by expropriation, and also as key to improved agricultural production and economic development. This issue has gained in urgency with the intensified global competition for land during the past decade.

One approach which has gained widespread support recently is the Community Lands Approach. This involves decentralizing responsibility for land administration to the community level. It proceeds by first delimiting and registering a community’s boundaries, and then by recognizing and supporting the community to manage the mix of communal and individual tenure within those boundaries.

The Tanzanian Village Land Act of 1999 and the Mozambican Land Law of 1997 set in motion processes of national reform which prefigured the community lands approach. Legal and policy studies have celebrated the design of these laws and the two countries are widely seen as potential models. Implementation, however, has been slow and it is only recently that it has been possible to start judging the results of the reforms on the ground. It is vital now for lessons to be learned from the implementation of these reforms. Are they able to deliver tenure security to communities as a whole, and to groups and individuals within communities? And are the implementation arrangements (in terms of political will, financial resources, administrative capacity) adequate to the task?

This research project will carry out detailed studies in 8 communities which have undergone community land delimitation and will explore the effects of this on tenure security. It will also conduct detailed analysis of the implementation arrangements as the policy ‘travels’ from the legislature through various intermediaries in state, NGO and customary implementing agencies to the study communities. By tracking the communities and the implementation processes over the three years of the project we will be able to draw lessons of policy relevance to Tanzania and Mozambique and more widely in sub-Saharan Africa.


  • Department of Geography, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  • Departments of Geography, Anthropology and Sociology at Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique


Main funding agent

  • Formas

The heat on land: Promoting multifunctional land-use systems – creating synergies between UNFCCC and the Sustainable Development Goals

We will study three processes or challenges related to land use effects on climate change, sustainable development and natural resource management;

  1. nations’ climate contribution through INDCs
  2. the sustainability goals (SDG) and
  3. the lack of productive land.

These three challenges require a transformative change in the land-use systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions/increase carbon sink, make land use sustainable and increase its productivity. Climate policy can support such shifts by promoting multifunctional land-use systems. Here we assess 161 INDCs for indicators of multifunctional land-use systems and match them with targets of relevant SDGs for synergies and trade-offs between goals. Brazil and India’s climate- and land-related programmes provide us with lessons learned for policy implementation, which will be examined using the UNFCCC framework. Results will feed in to the process of national climate and land-use plans and the future climate policy design.


  • Chalmers University of Technology
  • Linköping University
  • Norwegian University of Life Science, Norway
  • University of Sao Paulo, Brasil
  • Indian Institute of Science, India.


Main funding agent

  • Swedish energy agency

Trees, Carbon and Water in Miombo woodlands: trade-off or synergy for local livelihoods

The aim of this project is to increase knowledge on how tree cover in the Miombo landscape affects the dynamics of groundwater, soil quality, and carbon storage.

Drylands are home to over 40% of the population of Africa and Asia. From 1960 to 2000, global use of fresh water – including drylands - expanded at a mean rate of 25% per decade. Therefore, water availability in drylands is projected to decline further from the current average of 1,300 cubic meters per person per year (in 2000), which is already below the threshold of 2,000 cubic meters required for minimum human well-being and sustainable development. This increased water stress will lead to reduced productivity of croplands and availability of fresh water, resulting in further adverse impacts on human well-being in drylands.

Tree cover plays a crucial role in hydrological cycles of the world, especially in drylands. Tree-based restoration in drylands is often discouraged by the concern that trees reduce water availability because trees increase water losses from transpiration and interception.

Miombo woodlands are found in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas and are characterized by relatively nutrient poor soils. Therefore, these forests are rapidly deforested and degraded with an average declining rate of about 1.06 % per year since the 1990s.


  • University of Dar es Salaam


Main funding agents

  • Sida

The theme has four components in focus:

  1. Land, trees and water
  2. Drivers and trends
  3. Up-scaling and markets
  4. Food security from the landscape perspective

The work will be conducted through science-based syntheses and analyzes, and aims at making better use of the opportunities for knowledge exchange between Sweden and the countries of the South and between low-income countries. In addition, two intensive courses for young researchers will be given. This theme will be conducted in close collaboration with the other three themes in the programme.

Exchange scholars

An important part of AgriFoSe2030s activities is to transfer knowledge with exchange scholars. Here, you can read interviews with scholar from Theme 2 that has taken part in an exchange:

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