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Tropical forest patches under pressure: Dynamics, functions and sustainable management in agricultural landscapes of the West African forest and savannah zones

Project description

Examining sustainable land and forest management practices in West Africa's agricultural belt

Agriculture-induced deforestation leaves in its path small tropical forest patches, most commonly found across West Africa. Studies reveal that these patches are home to diverse communities of native plants and species, provide critical ecological functions and are important for the livelihoods of local populations. With landscape degradation persisting, sustaining these forest patches becomes critical. The EU-funded SUSTAINFORESTS project will analyse the interactive roles of forest patches in the agricultural landscapes of the rainforest and savannah zones in Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon. The project will also open new research paths to encourage work towards more sustainable land and forest management practices.


Tropical forest patches in agricultural landscapes are largely the survivors of a hard-to-reverse deforestation process. Yet, these patches, which are spread over West Africa, still provide crucial ecological functions, serve as habitats for biodiversity, contribute globally to carbon sinks, and are important for the livelihoods of local populations. Given their persistent degradation, identifying pathways to safeguard or even increase their contribution to ecological function and thus to sustainable development is crucial. While existing theories of agricultural expansion, intensification, and forest transition explain agriculture-induced deforestation well, they do not explain the persistence of forest patches in a context of agricultural expansion. Little or no research has analysed forest patches in the highly fragmented agricultural landscapes of the rainforest and savannah zones of West Africa. This project will analyse the interactive roles of forest patches in the agricultural landscapes of these zones in Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and Cameroon. In addition, it will investigate conditions under which various biophysical, socio-cultural, economic, and institutional factors, including decision-making and land users’ behaviour and interests, interact with and affect forest patches and their sustainable use, management, and governance. Focussing on forest patches in West Africa thus closes theoretical and empirical gaps. The project will apply an iterative landscape- and people-centred approach that integrates data from remote sensing, social surveys, and participatory modelling. It will employ content analysis, multivariate statistics, and spatial analysis methods. Results will clarify the theories underpinning forest patches and open new research avenues in the sustainability sciences. Insights gained from the project will inform and trigger region-wide efforts to preserve forest patches and help initiate transformative actions on sustainable land and forest management.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 998 512,00
Hochschulstrasse 6
3012 Bern

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Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera Espace Mittelland Bern / Berne
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)