Report on ABCG/BATS Food Security Task
Jimmiel Mandima and Nasson Tembo, African Wildlife Foundation,
Bemmy Granados and Terry Hills, Conservation International and Michael Painter and Robert Mwinyihali, Wildlife Conservation Society

This report reviews the experiences and lessons learned on biodiversity conservation and food security from field-work and the collective expertise of the African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International and the Wildlife Conservation Society, three organizational members of the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG). ABCG comprises seven international conservation NGOs (African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, the Jane Goodall Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund) with the goal of working collaboratively and efficiently, and effectively to further a sustainable future for the African continent. The objective of the food security and conservation working group is to develop an integrated set of foundation-year activities that will begin to allow enhanced understanding of the conditions necessary to improve food security, and improved on-farm adoption of biodiversity-sensitive intensification practices.

To this end, the report discusses the findings of reciprocal visits that teams from African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) made to field programs where efforts to improve farming practices play an important role in the conservation strategies of the two organizations. AWF and WCS are attempting to stabilize farming systems by increasing yields, labor productivity and income, through improved sustainable farming practices, and reducing pressures on families to expand their farms into forest areas and/or supplementing their incomes through practices like poaching and charcoal production. The two teams attempted to learn from their respective experiences, and bring a critical eye to what one another was doing, in an effort to make their respective efforts more effective.

To complement the field exercise, Conservation International (CI) conducted a review of the value of spatial planning and community engagement approaches in the context of ‘lessons learned’ from existing agricultural and rural development experiences in Africa. This analysis places particular attention on the capacity of such approaches to facilitate better management of tradeoffs and synergies between food security and conservation, and places the findings of the field visits in a broader context of experience gained in addressing similar issues in Africa as a whole.

The lessons learned and experiences shared suggest key issues that need to be considered to attain optimal trade-offs between food security and conservation in Africa, in the medium- to long-term. Lessons learned include: the need to be spatially explicit in agricultural and rural development planning, for which participatory land use planning is essential; the importance of being able to scale up activities to leverage tangible food security and conservation impacts at landscape scale; the strength that comes from building broadly-based partnerships that bring complementary expertise and resources; and the need to factor in the risks associated with shocks when external drivers may negatively affect years of investment, e.g. top-down political decisions to alienate land through large scale land acquisitions, commodity price fluctuations on the market, and extreme weather events (drought, floods, etc) that may force impoverished local people to resort to short-term survival strategies.

Together, the analysis of the field studies and the review of planning approaches contribute to the discussion of the relationship between ecosystem integrity and food security and generate findings and recommendations to guide next steps for ABCG and its members in the years to come.