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Master of Environmental Science and Management: Master's Group Project

Evaluating Synergies and Tradeoffs Among Agricultural Productivity, Ecosystem Services and Human Wellbeing in Rwanda

Group of five students posing together

Group Members: Meghan Cook, Rachel Kenny, Austin Richards

Faculty Advisors: Mark Buntaine

Client: Conservation International


Final Report


As global populations rapidly increase, so does the demand for food. This means unprecedented agricultural demand. It is estimated that by 2050 global agricultural production must increase by 50% in order to meet demand. This is particularly true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where much of this growth is expected to take place.
Smallholder farmers across the globe will be an integral part of meeting this demand, and the nation of Rwanda is an important example. Rwanda is developing quickly, and the majority of citizens are engaged in smallholder farming as a source of livelihood.

Agricultural activity is damaging to ecosystems and to the benefits they provide to people. As these activities continue to increase, so do their negative consequences such as soil degradation and poor water quality.

There is a need to identify ways to develop agriculture that increase food security while also protecting ecosystems from damage. This need requires better data to inform decision makers as they shape this development.

This project aimed to identify synergies and tradeoffs between agricultural practices, ecosystem health, and human wellbeing in Rwanda. Their approach was to examine Vital Sign’s integrated data across a variety of indicators. This analysis was then used to inform agricultural development decisions. 

Project deliverables included hotspot priority map to identify areas of significant environmental degradation and declining yield to focus organization and government resources. The project also sought to contextualize the Vital Signs data with a series of case study materials, including blog posts and website pages.

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