Policy Evaluation and Monitoring of Agricultural Expansion in Forests in Myanmar: An Integrated Approach of Remote Sensing Techniques and Social Surveys

San, S.M., Kumar, N., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Schmitt, C.B. 


Agricultural expansion is the main driver of deforestation in Myanmar. We analyzed the effectiveness of a national policy intervention on agricultural encroachment in state forests in Taungoo District in Myanmar from 2010 to 2020. The policy aims to stop agricultural encroachment and reforest encroached areas through farmers’ participation in an agroforestry community forestry. We applied an integrated approach that involved a land cover change analysis together with a household survey about encroachment behavior. The remote sensing analysis for the years 2010, 2015 and 2020 showed the land cover change pattern and an increase in agricultural encroachment from 9.5% to 18.5%, while forests declined from 62.8% to 51.9%. The survey showed that most farmers (91%) believed that the policy intervention did not lead to a change in their encroachment behavior or farm size. The main reasons that incentivized encroachment were stated to be livelihood needs, immigration due to marriage and increased accessibility due to road construction. The main reason for reducing encroachment was plantation establishment, leading to a loss of land for encroaching farmers. In conclusion, the integrated approach showed that the policy intervention did not decrease encroachment, whereas other factors influenced encroachment behavior. We recommend solving interministerial conflicts of interest related to encroachment in Myanmar and using an integrated approach for future studies.


Stakeholder engagement in agro-climate service planning

Luu, T.T.G., Luedeling, E., Whitney, C., Biber-Freudenberger, L.


The impacts of weather, climate variability and climate change on agricultural production underline the increasing importance of actionable agro-climatic services. Transitioning from supply-driven provision of climate and agricultural information to demand-driven agro-climate services (ACS) at scale cannot be accomplished in a top-down manner but requires the engagement of diverse stakeholders in all phases of ACS development and implementation. This requires methods and tools to handle the diversity and dynamics of interactions between relevant stakeholders, including during the pre-financing stage of the ACS. We propose a transparent method to identify and engage stakeholders in the ACS planning phase and demonstrate this method as part of the socio-economic development planning process in Dien Bien, Vietnam. We find that considering stakeholder attributes such as availability, experience, gender, expertise, benefits and costs for each stakeholder, interest, influence, relevance, and attitude, combined with insights about the socio-economic development planning processes, is crucial for the engagement of stakeholders. We also find that facilitating collaborative interaction between ACS stakeholders is pivotal in supporting the planning of demand-driven ACS. Our methodology for engaging stakeholders is transferrable to designing and planning other interventions in complex systems.


Incentives for biodiversity conservation under asymmetric land ownership

Nyanghura , Q.M., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Börner, J.


The effectiveness of biodiversity conservation initiatives depends on their ability to maintain and restore the integrity and connectivity of ecological systems. Payments for environmental services (PES) can encourage farmers to set aside land for conservation, but landscape connectivity requires coordination among land users. Fairness in the distribution of payoffs has been shown to affect conservation efforts in response to PES, but the sources of inequality in payment allocation mechanisms can be manifold. Here we focus on the performance of conservation incentives under alternative payment modalities and levels of inequality in land ownership. We applied lab-in-the-field experiment with 384 Tanzanian farmers from two ecological corridors. Groups of participants were endowed with either equal or unequal amounts of hypothetical farmland and subsequently exposed to two treatments, namely a fixed individual payment and a fixed payment with an agglomeration bonus. Both payment modalities had positive effects on conservation, but we find no strong evidence for impact of asymmetries in landownership on conservation decisions. Overall, our results suggest that conditional payments can be effective even when land with high conservation value is unequally distributed in ecological corridors. 


Leveraging windows of opportunity for expertise to matter in global environmental governance: insights from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

Velander, S. and De Donà


Introduction: Whether and under what conditions scientific knowledge provided by experts actually leads to political action is a question that academic research in various fields have focused on at length, without reaching a definitive answer. The position of expertise is especially delicate within the global environmental governance sphere containing multiple values, worldviews and epistemological standpoints.

Methods: Firstly, we developed a theoretical model to examine how contextual factors, like institutional design and boundary work dynamics, contribute to expertise influencing global environmental governance. Secondly, we applied this model to the case of the Science Policy Interface to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD SPI), using data from semi-structured interviews with SPI stakeholders and participant observation of meetings.

Results: We identified specific dimensions of the SPI mandate that enabled expertise to matter: inclusive membership of practitioners, close interaction between experts and political actors, coordination with other advisory bodies, regular reviews, and a small group size. However, after underpinning the prevailing differences in power between SPI experts and member states in their interactions, we found that international environmental decision-making and its national-level implementation remain ultimately and inevitably subordinated to political actors, making it less likely for expertise to have a significant impact.

Discussion: International expertise for sustainable development can only take advantage of the rare “windows of opportunity” that intergovernmental processes concede for experts to influence policy.


How to bridge the last mile in agro-climate service adoption? The importance of farmers’ needs, attitudes and interpersonal relations in understanding impact pathways

Luu, T.T.G., Luedeling, E., Biber-Freudenberger, Whitney, Cory


Climate services can support multiple Sustainable Development Goals. However, in agricultural contexts, the “last-mile” delivery of agro-climate services (ACS) struggles with numerous barriers that prevent smallholder farmers from receiving crucial information. We sought to assess the processes by which farmers adopt ACS in order to support the scaling of ACS. We developed a procedure to serve as a rapid test to provide an overview of impact pathway relations in ACS adoption. We generated ACS adoption pathways through focus group discussions, quantified the overall adoption rate and tested relationships between factors and their causal influence on adoption. To showcase our method, we used the case study of CARE in Vietnam (CVN), a non-governmental organization attempting to improve the provision of ACS to smallholder farmers since 2015. In CVN’s projects, ACS were co-generated and subsequently delivered to farmers through structured meetings or on an ad-hoc basis in village meetings. We found that farmers who participated in structured groups were very likely to demand, access, read, discuss, understand, positively perceive and adopt ACS and recommend them to peers. About half of the farmers in non-structured groups continued to have difficulties understanding ACS. Nevertheless, these farmers still had a positive attitude toward ACS. While different impact pathways were attributed to the two groups, they still shared similar adoption rates (98%). The results suggest that adoption of ACS at a critical mass might be sufficient to trigger systemic changes within social groups and interactions between its members. Employing a pathway approach can be beneficial for designing and evaluating development interventions.


Nearly half of the world is suitable for diversified farming for sustainable intensification

Kamau, H., Roman, S., Biber-Freudenberger, L.


Sustainable intensification, defined as increasing production per unit without harming the environment, has potential to transform agricultural systems. While questions persist about which practices and conditions lead to sustainable intensification, diversification has gained prominence as a proposed solution. Here we apply niche modelling using maximum entropy modelling approach to predict the global spatial distribution of profitable diversified farming systems under different socio-economic conditions. We found about 47% of the world is suitable for profitable diversified systems with a larger area in the global North. When we combined our findings with knowledge about biophysical potential for cropland expansion and intensification, we found that different areas could benefit from diversification to achieve sustainable intensification through cropland expansion (e.g., Europe), intensification (e.g., sub-tropics and tropics), or both (e.g., West Africa). With these results, we provide insights in which way diversification can support sustainable intensification and contribute to the debate on land sharing vs sparing.


Klima- und Landnutzungswandel in  Subsahara-Afrika

Biber-Freudenberger, L., Bogner, Christina


Der Klimawandel ist eine der größten Herausforderungen unserer Zeit. Da die Bevölkerung in Subsahara-Afrika stark von der Landwirtschaft abhängt, sind dessen Auswirkungen dort besonders spürbar. Klima-und Landnutzungswandel sind eng verzahnt. Zum einen lässt der Klimawandel häufig die landwirtschaftliche Produktion sinken, zum anderen setzt Landnutzungswandel immense Auswirkungen auf das Klima. Um den Herausforderungen zu begegnen, müssen die komplexen Interaktionen zwischen Landwirtschaft, Klima und Biodiversität untersucht und in politischen Entscheidungen berücksichtigt werden.


Analysis of Economic Efficiency of Wildlife Law Enforcement in Serengeti Ecosystem Tanzania

Nyanghura, Q. and Abdallah, J.


Law enforcement remains to be the main strategy used to combat poaching and account for high budget share in protected area management. Studies on efficiency of wildlife law enforcement in the protected areas are limited. This study analyzed economic efficiency of wildlife law enforcement in terms of resource used and output generated using three different protected areas (PAs) of Serengeti ecosystem namely Serengeti National Park (SENAPA), Ikorongo/Grumeti Game Reserves (IGGR) and Ikona Wildlife Management Area (IWMA). Three years (2010-2012) monthly data on wildlife law enforcement inputs and outputs were collected from respective PAs authorities and supplemented with key informant interviews and secondary data. Questionnaire surveys were conducted to wildlife law enforcement staff. Shadow prices for non-marketed inputs were estimated, and market prices for marketed inputs. Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) was used to estimate economic efficiency using Variable Return to Scale (VRS) and Constant Return to Scale (CCR) assumptions. Results revealed that wildlife law enforcement in all PAs was economically inefficient, with less inefficiency observed in IWMA. The less inefficiency in IWMA is likely attributed to existing sense of ownership and responsibility created through community-based conservation which resulted in to decrease in law enforcement costs. A slacks evaluation revealed a potential to reduce fuel consumption, number of patrol vehicles, ration and prosecution efforts at different magnitudes between studied protected areas. There is equal potential to recruit more rangers while maintaining the resting time. These finding forms the bases for monitoring and evaluation with respect to resource usage to enhance efficiency. It is further recommended to enhance community participation in conservation in SENAPA and IGGR to lower law enforcement costs. Collaboration between protected area, police and judiciary is fundamental to enhance enforcement efficiency. Despite old dataset, these findings are relevant since neither conservation policy nor institution framework has changed substantially in the last decade.


Uncertainties in the effectiveness of biological control of stem borers under different climate change scenarios in Eastern Africa

Jendritzki, I., Tonnang, H.E.Z., Calatayud, PA, Borgemeister, C., Johansson, T., Biber-Freudenberger, L.


Climate change (CC) is expected to significantly affect biodiversity and ecosystem services. Adverse impacts from CC in the Global South are likely to be exacerbated by limited capacities to take adequate adaptation measures and existing developmental challenges. Insect pests today are already causing considerable yield losses in agricultural crop production in East Africa. Studies have shown that insects are strongly responding to CC by proliferation, shift in distribution, and by altering their phenology, which is why an impact on agriculture can be expected. Biological control (BC) has been proposed as an alternative measure to sustainably contain insect pests, but few studies predict its efficacy under future CC. Using the species maximum entropy modeling (Maxent) approach, we predict the current and future distribution of three important lepidopteran stem borer pests of maize in Eastern Africa, i.e., Busseola fusca (Fuller, 1901), Chilo partellus (Swinhoe, 1885), and Sesamia calamistis (Hampson, 1910), and two parasitoids that are currently used for BC, i.e., Cotesia flavipes (Cameron, 1891) and Cotesia sesamiae (Cameron, 1906). Based on these potential distributions and data collected during household surveys with local farmers in Kenya and Tanzania, also future maize yield losses are predicted for a business-as-usual scenario and a sustainable development scenario. We found that BC of the stem borer pests by C. flavipes and C. sesamiae will be less effective under more severe CC resulting in a reduced ability to curb maize yield losses caused by the stem borers. These results highlight the need to adapt BC measures to future CC to maintain its potential for environmentally friendly pest management strategies. The findings of this research are thus of particular relevance to policymakers, extension officers, and farmers in the region and will aid the adaptation of smallholder agricultural practices to the impacts of CC.


Agroforestry-based community forestry as a large-scale strategy to reforest agricultural encroachment areas in Myanmar: ambition vs. local reality

San, S.M., Kumar, N., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Schmitt, C.B.


Key message

The Forest Department strongly influences agroforestry design, tree species selection, and the participation and motivation of farmers to plant trees. Farmers perceive trees as harmful to crops and have avoided planting them near crops. We recommend considering farmers’ preferences, establishing farmers’ field schools, and increasing their awareness about the benefits of trees to improve adoption rates of agroforestry systems.


The high rate of deforestation in Myanmar is mainly due to agricultural expansion. One task of the Forest Department is to increase tree cover in the agricultural encroachment areas by establishing large-scale agroforestry-based community forests (ACFs).


The objectives of this study were to analyze the adoption and performance of the ACFs in the agricultural encroachment areas in the Bago-Yoma Region, Myanmar; and to provide recommendations to enhance the adoption of ACFs by farmers.


We inventoried 42 sample plots and surveyed 291 farmers. Survey responses were analyzed by binary logistic regression, one-way ANOVA, and non-parametric correlation tests to evaluate factors influencing the adoption of ACFs. Stand characteristics were calculated from the inventory data to evaluate the performance of ACFs.


Our results show that farmer participation in ACFs was lower than stated in the registry of the Forest Department. Farmers practiced four different agroforestry designs in ACFs with different outcomes. The Forest Department strongly determined tree species and planting designs, farmers’ perception and participation in ACFs. Farmland size, unclear, and insufficient information on ACFs, and a negative perception of raising trees in crop fields were the major factors limiting the adoption rates of ACFs.


We recommend capacity building for farmers and Forest Department staff and raising awareness about the benefits of planting designs and trees on farmland. A stronger consideration of farmers’ preferences for design and species selection could increase their motivation to adopt ACFs and improve the long-term sustainability of ACFs.


Operationalizing Digitainability: Encouraging Mindfulness to Harness the Power of Digitalization for Sustainable Development  

Gupta, S., Zeballos, J.C., del Río Castro, G., Tomičić, A., Andrés Morales, S., Mahfouz, M.,  Osemwegi, I., Sessi, V.P.C., Schmitz, M., Mahmoud, N., Inyaregh, M.


Digitalization is globally transforming the world with profound implications. It has enormous potential to foster progress toward sustainability. However, in its current form, digitalization also continues to enable and encourage practices with numerous unsustainable impacts affecting our environment, ingraining inequality, and degrading quality of life. There is an urgent need to identify such multifaceted impacts holistically. Impact assessment of digital interventions (DIs) leading to digitalization is essential specifically for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Action is required to understand the pursuit of short-term gains toward achieving long-term value-driven sustainable development. We need to understand the impact of DIs on various actors and in diverse contexts. A holistic understanding of the impact will help us align the visions of sustainable development and identify potential measures to mitigate negative short and long-term impacts. The recently developed digitainability assessment framework (DAF) unveils the impact of DIs with an in-depth context-aware assessment and offers an evidence-based impact profile of SDGs at the indicator level. This paper demonstrates how DAF can be instrumental in guiding participatory action for the implementation of digitainability practices. This paper summarizes the insights developed during the Digitainable Spring School 2022 (DSS) on “Sustainability with Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence,” one of whose goals was to operationalize the DAF as a tool in the participatory action process with collaboration and active involvement of diverse professionals in the field of digitalization and sustainability. The DAF guides a holistic context-aware process formulation for a given DI. An evidence-based evaluation within the DAF protocol benchmarks a specific DI’s impact against the SDG indicators framework. The participating experts worked together to identify a DI and gather and analyze evidence by operationalizing the DAF. The four DIs identified in the process are as follows: smart home technology (SHT) for energy efficiency, the blockchain for food security, artificial intelligence (AI) for land use and cover change (LUCC), and Big Data for international law. Each of the four expert groups addresses different DIs for digitainability assessment using different techniques to gather and analyze data related to the criteria and indicators. The knowledge presented here could increase understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to digitainability and provide a structure for developing and implementing robust digitainability practices with data-driven insights.

Decision analytical methods for assessing the efficacy of agroecology interventions

Whitney, C., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Luedeling, E.


Given the extensive impact of humans on ecosystems and the uncertainty faced by decision-makers when choos‑ ing among alternatives, formal support is required for decision-making in complex agroecological systems. While approaches for producing reliable impact projections accounting for system complexity and uncertainty do exist, decision-makers rarely use them to assess the costs, benefts, and risks of agroecology development. Here, we review the literature and provide an overview of decision theory as a methodology for supporting decision-making in agroecology. We also outline the conceptual relationships between decision analysis methods and agroecology, and examine how decision analysis methods can be applied to support decision-making for agroecological transitions. These methods support decisions based on intended outcomes, explicitly accounting for risks and uncertainty, and help decision-makers determine the appropriateness of agroecological interventions for achieving desired outcomes. International frameworks and national government commitments and funding mechanisms, as well as the private sector, would beneft from making use of decision analysis methods to determine the suitability of agroecology inter‑ ventions and to support and scale them when appropriate.

Building National Health Security Through a Rapid Self-Assessment and Annual Operational Plan Uganda, May to Septemper 2021

Nabatanzi, M., Bakiika, H., Nabukenya, I., Lamorde, M., Bukirwa, J., Achan, A.I., Babigumira, P.A., Nakiire, L., Lubanga, T., Mbabazi, E. Taremwa, R.B., Mayinja, H., Nakinsige, A., Makanga, D.K., Muruta, A., Okware, S., Komakech, I., Makumbi, I., Wetaka, M., Kayiwa, J., Ocom, F., Ario, A.R., Nabatanzi, S., Ojwang, J., Boore, A., Yemanaberhan, R. Lee, C.T., Obuku, E., Stowell, D.


Uganda established a National Action Plan for Health Security in 2019, following a Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of International Health Regulations (2005) capacities in 2017. The action plan enhanced national health security awareness, but implementation efforts were affected by limited funding, excess of activities, and challenges related to monitoring and evaluation. To improve implementation, Uganda conducted a multisectoral health security self-assessment in 2021 using the second edition of the JEE tool and developed a 1-year operational plan. From 2017 to 2021, Uganda's composite ReadyScore improved by 20%, with improvement in 13 of the 19 technical areas. Indicator scores showing limited capacity declined from 30% to 20%, and indicators with no capacity declined from 10% to 2%. More indicators had developed (47% vs 40%), demonstrated (29% vs 20%), and sustained (2% vs 0%) capacities in 2021 compared with 2017. Using the self-assessment JEE scores, 72 specific activities from the International Health Regulations (2005) benchmarks tool were selected for inclusion in a 1-year operational plan (2021-2022). In contrast to the 264 broad activities in the 5-year national action plan, the operational plan prioritized a small number of activities to enable sectors to focus limited resources on implementation. While certain capacities improved before and during implementation of the action plan, countries may benefit from using short-term operational planning to develop realistic and actionable health security plans to improve health security capacities.  

Land cover change and utilization of village land forest reserves in Ludewa, Tanzania
Andrew, S.M., Nyanghura, Q.M., Mombo, F.M.


Knowledge of land cover change and associated driving factors is important for developing improved management strategies and future monitoring of tropical forests. We present here for the first time the case of two forest reserves (Litwang'ata and Intake) in Ludewa district, Southern Highlands Tanzania. These reserves were recently (2019) declared Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs), with their management and ownership devolved to their communities. We used remote sensing and GIS methods to assess spatial-temporal land cover change of the two VLFRs for the period 1996–2016. We also used household interviews (HHIs), focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informants’ interviews (KIIs) to examine the perceived socio-economic drivers of land cover change and the household forest-based incomes derived from the VLFRs. Our findings overall showed that closed woodland decreased by 780.3 ha whereas open woodland, grass/shrub land and agricultural land increased by 700.9 ha, 71.7 ha and 50.9 ha, respectively. Wildfires are perceived as the major drivers of land cover change. To a large extent, local communities utilize VLFRs for their livelihoods, with major resources extracted being firewood, construction poles, fresh water and thatch grass. Of the total forest-based income, logging for timber accounted for about 33% for Intake VLFR users and 36% for villagers who utilize resources from Litwang'ata VLFR. Future monitoring of land cover and livelihood changes is recommended for sustainable forest management.



Effectiveness factors and impacts on policy making of science-policy interfaces in the environmental sustainability context
Wagner, N., Velander, S., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Dietz, T.


Organizations connecting science and policy, referred to as science-policy interfaces, aim to support policymakers with decision-relevant knowledge, scientific findings, and co-production processes. Given the rising significance of the role of evidence in decision-making in a world dealing with complex problems, a proliferation of literature has developed theories on the effectiveness of such interfaces. While there are studies providing evidence of these interfaces influencing policy, there is limited understanding of the comprehensive range of impacts on policies among multiple science-policy interfaces. Through a systematic review we analyzed how 69 research articles investigated structured science-policy interfaces related to environmental sustainability, organizing their types, effectiveness factors, outputs and related impacts on policymaking. We found a majority of the studies focused on global expert groups generating assessments leading to policy formulation and agenda setting, driven by social learning among policymakers. Most references regarding factors enabling impacts on policymaking of science-policy interfaces were found with regards to stakeholder participation, diverse background of experts, interdisciplinarity, and the communication of complexity. Further research is needed to explore the ‘fuzzy boundary’ between science and policy among different types and models of science-policy interfaces, the interdependencies between effectiveness factors, and the exogenous forces influencing the relationship between Science-Policy-Interfaces outputs and impacts on policymaking. By synthesizing the impacts on policymaking and associated factors of science-policy interfaces found in the literature, our review harmonizes the observations made by scholars on the effectiveness of SPIs in impacting sustainable development policies.

Integrating scientific and local knowledge to address environmental conflicts: the role of academia
Avilés Irahola, D., Mora-Motta, A., Barbossa Pereira, A., Bharati, L., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Petersheim, C., Quispe-Zuniga, M.R., Schmitt, C.B., Youkhana, E.

The world is witnessing an increase in environmental conficts (ECs) caused by the overexploitation and pollution of natural resources. We argue that addressing the unsustainable and vicious cycle of most contemporary human-nature interactions fuelling these conficts requires a shift towards inter- and transdisciplinary research. Through critical refection upon six case studies, we conclude that transdisciplinary approaches often require academic researchers to not only integrate local and scientifc forms of knowledge but also to open the research process to changes of epistemological assumptions
and initial research designs in conjunction with local populations. We suggest that addressing ECs from a transdisciplinary viewpoint requires academia to review its role from ontological and epistemological perspectives through theoretical and procedural standards, to the reward and funding systems.

Decision analysis of agro-climate service scaling – A case study in Dien Bien District, Vietnam
Luu, T.T.G., Whitney, C., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Luedeling, E.


Farmers’ agricultural practices in Vietnam are highly sensitive to weather, climate variability and climate change. The lack of timely and actionable climate-informed agricultural advice leads to significant input and yield losses, which can render investments in farming unprofitable. Development organizations in Vietnam have provided agro-climate services (ACS) to smallholder farmers on a limited scale. They advocate for the government to consider upscaling the provision of ACS, but a large-scale roll-out could strain the government’s financial and human resources. Evaluating the merits of climate services is challenging, because weather and climate risks, as well as the benefits that information services may provide, cannot be derived from robust existing datasets or predicted with certainty. CARE in Vietnam, a non-government organization, has provided ACS in two communes in Dien Bien District since 2015 and they expect to upscale their intervention. In this study, we used a decision analysis approach to develop conceptual models and probabilistic simulations to conduct an ex-ante cost-benefit analysis of four candidate interventions aiming to scale ACS in Dien Bien District, Vietnam. Our analysis was conducted in collaboration with CARE in Vietnam’s project staff, Dien Bien government staff and other experts. Our simulation results indicated a very high chance (98.35–99.81%) of the ACS interventions providing net benefits. With 90% confidence, investments in ACS would return benefits between 1.45 and 16.02 USD per 1 USD invested. Our framework offers a foundation for the design, implementation and evaluation of ACS. The cost-benefit analysis provides support to the government’s potential decision-making process and suggests replacing deterministic with probabilistic approaches when analyzing uncertain and complex decisions in development planning.

Financial profitability of diversified farming systems: A global meta-analysis
Sánchez, A.C., Kamau, H.N., Grazioli, F., Jones, S.K.


Diversified farming systems are promoted as a pathway to more sustainable agricultural production. Yet widescale adoption may be slow because of uncertainty about the viability of farmer livelihoods on diversified farms and entrenched perceptions that monocultures are key to making farming profitable. Here, a global meta-analysis of 3192 effect sizes from 119 peer-reviewed articles provides evidence that diversified farming systems are at least as profitable as simplified farming systems. Our study showed that, on average, total costs, gross income and profits (net income, or gross margin) were higher in diversified systems relative to simplified ones, while the benefit-cost ratio was equivalent. These results held in developed and developing countries and across geographic regions. From a subset of 43 articles reporting labour inputs, we found that labour costs increased in diversified
farming systems, but so did gross incomes leading to farm profits equivalent to those in simplified systems and dispelling myths that higher labour requirements undermine the viability of diversification. Our global meta-analysis provides compelling evidence that diversified farming systems are not only viable but actually economically preferable to simplified systems in the wide range of contexts represented in this study. Policies, markets, investments, and value chains need to align with this evidence and promote diversified farming systems for the benefit of farmers and rural economies.

Is private sustainability governance a myth? Evaluating major sustainability certifications in primary production: A mixed-methods meta-study

Dietz, T.: Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Deal, L.; Börner, J

Abstract: Sustainability certification (SC) is one of the most popular private sector approaches to govern social and environmental outcomes of trade in products from agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Based on a sample of 175 peer-reviewed articles, we use a novel mixed methods meta-analytical approach to study the success of major sustainability certifications in promoting sustainable (primary) production practices. We consider both qualitative and quantitative studies. Our main data source are the discussion and conclusion sections of research papers. We analyze conclusive statements about the success of SCs and categorize them into favorable, mixed, and skeptical evaluations. The picture is dominated by skeptical conclusions. Subsequently, we analyze how specific study characteristics affect this evaluation. The distribution of favorable, mixed, and skeptical evaluations is largely similar across the areas of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Over time, the share of skeptical evaluations has increased. Contextual factors such as primary sub-sector, or country show no significant effects. The evaluations are also largely consistent across different types of SCs. Studies focusing on endpoint sustainability outcomes evaluate the performance of SCs significantly more skeptical than studies that focus on intermediate sustainability outcomes. Furthermore, our study shows that the share of skeptical evaluations significantly increases when a study examines the success of SCs for outcome variables with high implementation costs. Overall, our review points towards a limited success of SCs.

Will Brazil's push for low-carbon biofuels contribute to achieving the SDGs? A systematic expert-based assessment

Martinelli, F.S.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Stein, G.; Börner, J.

Abstract: Bioenergy can be part of strategies towards achieving climate and energy-related UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially for land abundant countries. Biofuel advocates argue that such strategies advance at least one-third of the SDGs, whereas opponents claim that they lead to negative trade-offs. Numerous studies have explored the benefits and risks of early bioenergy policies. Here we study the new Brazilian biofuel policy Renovabio, which was designed to increase the share of biofuels in the national energy mix of the world’s second largest biofuel producer to 18%. We use an impact score scheme to assess the potential effects of the policy on the SDGs based on expert opinions and triangulate our findings with a literature review. Our results indicate that these experts entertain high expectations for the policy’s mechanisms to increase bioenergy production and promote the substitution of fossil fuels. The policy is expected to support climate-related, economic and technological SDG targets, while potential impacts in other SDG dimensions, such as environmental, social, and health targets are contradictory. Our results reflect the positions in the debate around biofuels and indicate a need for effective sustainability safeguards to ensure that national policies like Renovabio actually live up to their declared objectives.

Sustainability implications of transformation pathways for the bioeconomy

Stark, S., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Dietz, T., Escobar, N., Förster, J.J., Henderson, J., Laibach, N., Börner, J.

Abstract: Countries around the world are devising and implementing bioeconomy strategies to initiate transformation towards sustainable futures. Modern concepts of bioeconomy extend beyond bio-based energy provision and include: (1) the substitution of fossil resource-based inputs to various productive sectors, such as the chemical industry and the construction sector, (2) more efficient, including new and cascading uses of biomass, and (3) a low bulk, but high-value biologisation of processes in agro-food, pharmaceutical, and recycling industries. Outcomes of past attempts at engineering transformation, however, proved to be context-dependent and contingent on appropriate governance measures. In this paper we theoretically motivate and apply a system-level theory of change framework that identifies central mechanisms and four distinct pathways, through which bio-based transformation can generate positive or negative outcomes in multiple domains of the Sustainable Development Goals. Based on emblematic examples from three bio-based sectors, we apply the framework illustrating how case-specific mixes of transformation pathways emerge and translate into outcomes. We find that the observed mixes of transformation pathways evoke distinct mechanisms that link bioeconomic change to sustainability gains and losses. Based on this insight we derive four key lessons that can help to inform the design of strategies to enable and regulate sustainable bioeconomies.


A dichotomy of domestic and academic pathways: challenges of motherhood in an international doctoral program on land science

Velander, S.; Martinelli, F.S.; Idam Sari, D.; Ali, F.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.

Abstract: Dichotomies emerge among early-career land scientists when balancing their career goals with family obligations, exhibiting differences in gender and regions. Through on-line surveys, we examined the interconnection between family obligations and doctoral performance through a gender lens on an international sample of doctoral students. The analysis of the findings indicated that more women than men in the doctoral program were responsible for family obligations, with mothers experiencing a prolonged duration of completing their doctorates and a lower publication rate. Majority of the respondents, primarily women from the Global North, decided not to be parents due to anticipated challenges with maintaining a work-life balance exacerbated by traditional gender roles, limited financial support for childcare, and high demands of academia. The constraints of early-career land scientists, particularly mothers from the Global South living apart from relatives, need to be addressed for institutes to strengthen international gender equality in land science.

A long way to go: gender and diversity in land use science

Kamau, H.N., Tran, U., Biber-Freudenberger, L.

Abstract: Female scientists and researchers with diverse cultural backgrounds, especially of the Global South, are underrepresented in scientific systems. This is also the case for land use science and even for research teams researching in Global South countries. To assess trends in gender parity, ethnic diversity and intersectionality in this field, we conducted a meta-analysis based on systematic literature review that included 316,390 peer-reviewed journal articles. We found that 27% of all authors between 2000–2021 represented women. Ethnicity representation was biased towards White researchers (62%) followed by Asian (30%), Hispanic (6%) and Black (2%) researchers. Intersection of inequalities further underrepresented Black and Hispanic women when author positions were considered, giving Black women 0.6% chance of becoming first authors in land use science in comparison to 19.3% chance of White women. Supportive actions to empower women are needed to reduce intersectional inequalities and to achieve the sustainable development goals.

Uncertainties In The Effectiveness of Biological Control of Stem Borers Under Different Climate Change Scenarios In Eastern Africa 

Jendritzki, I.G.;Tonnang, H.E.Z.; Calatayud, P.-A.; Borgemeister, C.; Johansson, T.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.

Abstract: Climate change (CC) is expected to significantly affect biodiversity and ecosystem services. Adverse impacts from CC in the Global South are likely to be exacerbated by limited capacities to take adequate adaptation measures and existing developmental challenges. Insect pests today are already causing considerable yield losses in agricultural crop production in East Africa. Studies have shown that insects are strongly responding to CC by proliferation, shift in distribution or by altering their phenology, which is why an impact on agriculture can also be expected. Biological control (BC) has been proposed as an alternative measure to sustainably contain insect pests but few studies predict its efficacy under future CC. Using the species distribution modelling approach Maxent, we predict the current and future distribution of three important lepidopteran stem borer pests of maize in eastern Africa, i.e., Busseola fusca (Fuller, 1901), Chilo partellus (Swinhoe, 1885) and Sesamia calamistis (Hampson, 1910), and two of their parasitoids that are currently used for BC, i.e., Cotesia flavipes (Cameron, 1891) and Cotesia sesamiae (Cameron, 1906) . Based on these potential distributions and data collected during household surveys with local farmers in Kenya and Tanzania, future maize yield losses are predicted for a business-as-usual scenario and a sustainable development scenario. Accordingly, we found that BC of the three stem borer pests by C. flavipes and C. sesamiae will be less effective under more severe CC resulting in a reduced ability to curb maize yield losses caused by the stem borers. These results highlight the need to adapt BC measures to future CC to maintain its potential for environmentally-friendly pest management strategies. The findings of this research are thus of particular relevance to policy makers, extension officers and farmers in the region and will aid the adaptation of smallholder agricultural practices to current and future impacts of CC. [Preprint]

A holistic sustainability assessment of organic (certified and non-certified) and non-organic smallholder farms in Kenya

Kamau, J.W.; Schader, C.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Stellmacher, T.; Amudavi, D.M.; Landert, J.; Blockeel, J.; Whitney, C.; Borgemeister, C.

Abstract: The introduction of organic farm management practices in sub-Saharan Africa could act as a lever for supporting regional sustainable development. In this study, we sought to assess the sustainability performance of organic (certified and non-certified) and non-organic farms in the dry Kajiado County and the wet Murang’a County in Kenya, based on four sustainability dimensions: Good Governance, Environmental Integrity, Economic Resilience and Social Well-Being. We collected household survey data from 400 smallholder farms, which were formally characterized into five types (mixed organic and conventional, certified organic, organic, conventional, and subsistence farms). We used multivariate analysis of variance, linear fixed-effects and general linear models to examine differences in sustainability performance. Model results indicate that all farms lack reliable farm management information and that only limited knowledge, skills and social security exist for farmers and farm workers. Comparison of the five farm types indicates no significant differences in their sustainability performance. Nonetheless, certified organic farms had better sustainability performance than non-certified farms due to higher economic resilience, environmental integrity, better support and training for workers. However, except for avoiding the use of agrochemicals in certified farms, there is relatively little difference in the farm management practices across farm types. Our results also indicate that farms in Murang’a were more sustainable than those in Kajiado due to better regional land-tenure security and conflict resolution mechanisms, soil and water conservation measures, and farm commercial viability. Nonetheless, unlike Kajiado, farms in Murang’a showed a tendency toward poor animal husbandry practices which affects overall animal welfare, limited credit uptake and market involvement. The results of this study can support decision making to identify appropriate interventions for improving sustainability in smallholder farms.

Crisis-induced disruptions in place-based social-ecological research ‐ an opportunity for redirection

Hermans, K.; Berger, E.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Bossenbroek, L.; Eberler, L.;Groth, J.; Hack, J.; Hanspach, J.; Hintz, K.S.; Kimengsi, J.N.; Kwong, Y.M.C.; Oakes, R.; Pagogna, R.; Plieninger, T.; Sterly, H.; van der Geest, K.; van Vliet, J.; Wiederkehr, C.

Abstract: Place-based research faces multiple threats, including both natural and global health hazards and political conflicts, which may disrupt fieldwork. The current COVID-19 pandemic shows how these threats can drastically affect social-ecological research activities given its engagement with different local stakeholders, disciplines, and knowledge systems. The crisis reveals the need for adaptive research designs while also providing an opportunity for a structural shift towards a more sustainable and inclusive research landscape.

Climate change impacts on twenty major crop pests in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Southeastern Europe

Mponela, P.; Shrestha, S.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.

Abrtract: This research report for a regional study on the impacts of climate change on the spread of pests contributes to FAO’s normative work, as a milestone for 2020–2021 under the Regular Programme. The year 2020 was designated by the United Nations as the as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH), with the aim of reducing crop loss from pests, which is estimated at 40 percent. In the current report, agricultural pests as any organism harmful to plants, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, etc are defined by the authors. We include those that cause direct damage as well as disease-causing organisms. Climate change is projected to worsen crop losses by another 10–25 percent, which in some regions would emanate from associated pests. Central Asia, the Caucasus and Southeastern Europe are under the research area.

Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Ergeneman, C.; Förster, J.J.; Dietz, T.; Börner, J. 

Abstract: Economic sectors relying on the use of biological organisms, processes, and principles to create products and services are expected to experience accelerated growth due to innovation in the bioeconomy. Associated benefits and risks for sustainable development are increasingly subject to societal debate. We compiled expectation patterns from a global survey with bioeconomy experts and a systematic literature review identifying areas of consensus and controversy across dimensions of the sustainable development goals (SDG). Positive connotations dominated in both expert opinions and the scientific literature, but the level of consensus varied across sectors of the bioeconomy and in relation to applied methodological approaches (scientific literature) and type of employer (experts). In both sources, we found more differentiated views on potential impacts of bioeconomic development pathways on sustainability in more established bioeconomy‐related discourses, which indicates that expectation patterns in more recent fields of bio‐based innovation are subject to early “hype cycle” dynamics. Our findings suggest the need to systematically mainstream sustainability risk appraisals across relevant application contexts in technology impact assessments for the bioeconomy.

Förster, J.J.; Downsborough, L.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Mensuro, G.K.; Börner, J.

Abstract: In the wake of increasingly complex sustainability challenges, societal transformations of currently unsustainable socio-economic production and consumption patterns are imperative. At the same time, international scholarly debates emphasise a decline in the policy capacity of societal actors to deal with the complexity of putting policy into practice. South Africa’s national development strategy of utilising its unique biodiversity for developing natural products and biopharmaceuticals was anticipated by the government to help overcome the country’s triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Accompanied by a set of national regulations, introduced to safeguard biodiversity thresholds and regulate socio-economic activities along biomass value chains, this policy of a biodiversity economy is framed by the South African government, as a societal transformation. Informed by a plural theoretical lens drawing upon insights from international scholarly literature on transitions and transformations and insights from policy capacity, implementation research and governance literature, we interrogate qualitative empirical evidence from the feld for how and whether such transformation has materialised for diferent bioprospecting actors in South Africa. Asking which factors enabled or limited this transformation, we distil criteria for what we call transformative policy capacity. We argue that transformations are political and deeply context-dependent relying on the resources and capabilities of involved societal actors to put political plans into practice, including the policy target group. We conclude that a biodiversity economy-driven transformation has yet to become a reality for many South Africans, but eforts are being made to foster the policy capacity of central actors and to adapt the regulatory system to be more conducive
for the anticipated change

How can environmental regulators support businesses to improve the outcomes of their operations for biodiversity, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises in the food and beverage sector in Europe? Report prepared by an EKLIPSE Expert Working Group.

Biber-Freundenberger, L.; Ferrara, V.; Gibassier, D.; Glover, J.; Grabs, J.; Grace, M.; Hӧrmann, S.; Targetti,S. 

Abstract: Biodiversity loss is one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces, given that many species and their habitats, as well as ecosystems that provide essential resources for human nutrition and wellbeing, are threatened by human activities. The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is the prerequisite for sustained future agricultural production and food supply since the resilience of food production systems relies on healthy ecosystems and natural resources (FAO, 2019). On the other hand, current agricultural systems are having a great impact on biodiversity, as described in the TEEB for Food & Agriculture Scientific and Economic Foundations Report (2018). Most notably, intensified consumption patterns in industrialized countries and emerging economies, growing demand for food and beverage products and an increasingly globalized food market have led to the vast exploitation of agricultural land, highly intensive production systems, and dramatic biodiversity loss through land-use change, overexploitation, pollution and the introduction of invasive alien species

Guimapi, R.A.; Mohamed, S.A.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Mwangi, W.; Ekesi, S.; Borgemeister, C.; Tonnang, H.E.Z. 

Abstract:The process of moving from experimental data to modeling and characterizing the dynamics and interactions in natural processes is a challenging task. This paper proposes an interactive platform for fitting data derived from experiments to mathematical expressions and carrying out spatial visualization. The platform is designed using a component-based software architectural approach, implemented in R and the Java programming languages. It uses experimental data as input for model fitting, then applies the obtained model at the landscape level via a spatial temperature grid data to yield regional and continental maps. Different modules and functionalities of the tool are presented with a case study, in which the tool is used to establish a temperature-dependent virulence model and map the potential zone of efficacy of a fungal-based biopesticide. The decision support system (DSS) was developed in generic form, and it can be used by anyone interested in fitting mathematical equations to experimental data collected following the described protocol and, depending on the type of investigation, it offers the possibility of projecting the model at the landscape level.

Guimapi, R.; Mohamed, S.; Ekesi, S.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Borgemeister, C.; Tonnang, H.E.Z. 

Abstract: Agricultural research often relies on methods and approaches to represent and explain complex agro-ecosystems processes. In the context of biological control, auto dissemination strategies have been widely embraced for the management of various pests. One such strategy is using traps that attract arthropods into the hub of fungal based entomopathogens. The trapped pests are infected with the entomopathogen, which can then disseminate it among its conspecifics after being released. Despite the potential of the technique, its adoption especially by smallholder farmers has been limited, most likely due to the lack of an efficient trap positioning strategy. In this study, we propose an approach to improve the field application of fungal-based bio-pesticides (entomopathogenic fungi or EPF) by optimizing the spatial distribution of traps. The optimal field distribution of traps can be determined based on the following steps: (i) a field experiment to assess the dispersal ability of the pest infected by an entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) and (ii) the model-based estimation of the optimum traps density and distribution per unit of space (ha, km2). Based on experimental data we applied nonlinear regression and spatial optimization processes to calculate the radius covered by one trap and to estimate the optimum number and spatial positioning of the traps. We applied the method to a case study using the fungal isolate ICIPE 62 to control the invasive fruit fly Bactrocera dorsalis. The research revealed that nine pheromone traps per ha are required with a spacing distance of 37.45 m between the traps. The proposed approach can also be applied to other pest species, to help farmers reduce the number of traps used on a farm and to assist researchers and policymakers to optimize auto dissemination strategies in the context of integrated pest management (IPM).

Nascimento, N.; West, T.A.P.; Biber-Freudenberger, L.; de Sousa-Neto, E.R.; Ometto, J.; Börner, J.

Abstract: Deforestation driven by agricultural expansion is a major threat to the biodiversity of the Amazon Basin. Modelling how deforestation responds to environmental policy implementation has thus become a policy relevant scientific undertaking. However, empirical parameterization of land-use/cover change (LUCC) models is challenging due to the high complexity and uncertainty of land-use decisions. Bayesian Network (BN) modelling provides an effective framework to integrate various data sources including expert knowledge. In this study, we integrate remote sensing products with data from farm-household surveys and a decision game to model LUCC at the BR-163, in Brazil. Our ‘business as usual’ scenario indicates cumulative forest cover loss in the study region of 8,000 km2 between 2014 and 2030, whereas ‘intensified law-enforcement’ would reduce cumulative deforestation to 1,600 km2 over the same time interval. Our findings underline the importance of conservation law enforcement in modulating the impact of agricultural market incentives on land cover change.

Abstract: Biodiversity loss is one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces, given that many 6 species and their habitats, as well as ecosystems that provide essential resources for 7 human nutrition and wellbeing, are threatened by human activities. The conservation and 8 sustainable use of biodiversity is the prerequisite for sustained future agricultural 9 production and food supply, since the resilience of food production systems relies on 10 healthy ecosystems and natural resources (FAO, 2019). On the other hand, current 11 agricultural systems are having a great impact on biodiversity, as described in the TEEB 12 for Food & Agriculture Scientific and Economic Foundations Report (2018). Most notably, 13 intensified consumption patterns in industrialized countries and emerging economies, a 14 growing demand for food and beverage products and an increasingly globalized food 15 market have led to the vast exploitation of agricultural land, highly intensive production 16 systems, and dramatic biodiversity loss through land-use change, overexploitation, 17 pollution and the introduction of invasive alien species.

Kamau, J.W; Biber-Freudenberger, L.; Lamers, J.; Stellmacher, T.; Borgemeister, C.

Abstract: The growth of organic agriculture (OA) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) raises the question of how far OA can improve the livelihoods of the many smallholder farmers that have to cope with numerous complex biophysical and socioeconomic challenges. Evidence on the impacts of OA in SSA, particularly on soil fertility and biodiversity, still is scarce and inconclusive. The aim of this study was therefore to evaluate and compare soil fertility, decomposition and biodiversity between 20 organic and conventional farms in two counties (Kajiado and Murang’a) in Kenya. Soil sampled at 0–20 cm depth was analysed for physical and chemical properties. The decomposition of crop residues over 3 months was studied using litterbags while pitfall trapping and the derived diversity indices provided insights into arthropod abundance and diversity. Differences in soil properties, mass loss through decomposition, and arthropod abundance were analysed with linear mixed models. Findings show no statistically significant differences in soil fertility, decomposition and abundance of arthropods between organic and non-organic farms. However, species richness and diversity of arthropods on organic farms was significantly higher than on non-organic farms. Overall, farms in Kajiado had higher soil fertility and arthropod diversity than those in Murang’a, while farms in Murang’a had a higher arthropod abundance. It is argued that similar agricultural practices used in organic and non-organic farming systems, irrespective of county and biophysical conditions, strongly influenced soil fertility and biodiversity. Our results demonstrate that OA has the potential to increase arthropod biodiversity, but its ability to sustain the health of soils depends on numerous factors that are likely to undermine OA efforts in this region.

Duguma, M.S.; Feyssa, D.H.; Biber-Freudenberger, L. 

Abstract: Farming systems, with their concerns of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and productivity and production issues towards progress in human needs, wellbeing, and sustainable development, are challenging in most biosphere reserves. In this study, we assess the levels and trends of the agro-biodiversity and ecosystem services of different farming systems in the Yayo Biosphere Reserve in Ethiopia. Interviews with a total of 120 farmers, 16 key informants, and 12 focal group discussions (FDGs) were conducted, and species composition was assessed based on data collected on ten plots per major farming system. Result indicate that four farming systems, namely homegardens (HG), plantation coffee (PC), semi-forest coffee (SFC), and annual crop production (CP) systems, can be identified. Shannon and Evenness indices were highest in the HG system (H′ = 3.14, E = 0.8), and lowest in the CP system (H′ = 0.71, E = 0.18). Additionally, more diversified and relatively less cultivated farming systems provide more ecosystem services, and land users tend to practice less diversified farming systems in order to increase food supply at the expense of other ecosystem services. Therefore, this study recommends that diversified farming systems need to be considered to conserve or enhance specific ecosystem services in ways that reduce their negative tradeoffs.

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