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Presented by Josh Van Vianen at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Mérida, Yucatán (Mexico) on July 11, 2017. This presentation was part of the Agrarian Change Project Symposium: The impacts of agrarian change on local communities: Sharing experience from the field.
Background: Changing demands for agricultural products driven by ongoing population growth and shifting socioeconomic demographics is leading to transitions in dietary patterns throughout the developing world. Global demand for agricultural products is expected to increase by 1% per year over the period of 2007-2050—equivalent to a 60% increase in production over the same period. Concurrently, a global nutrition transition is manifesting itself in the increased demand for certain agricultural commodities, in particular vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates and animal source foods. Smallholder family farms still dominate global agricultural systems, comprising 98% of all farms and covering 52% of agricultural land. Yet, these farms are increasingly becoming commercialized and transitioning away from diverse subsistence systems towards specialized market orientated operations leading to dramatic shifts in the scale and nature of agricultural landscapes.
Methods: How these agricultural transitions affect the environment, ecosystem service provisioning, and the livelihoods, well-being and health of local populations is a key focus of this project. To answer these questions, we have applied a novel methodological approach as part of the Agrarian Change Project which aims to explore the nature of forest loss and landscape-scale agricultural transitions in tropical forested areas across seven countries. We examine how commodity-driven changes in agricultural landscapes manifest themselves as dietary transitions at the local scale which represents an often overlooked social dimension of tropical conservation.
Results: Here we present evidence to support the notion that deforestation and agrarian intensification of landscapes can drive nutritional transitions at a local scale and that agricultural commercialization may improve food security, but its effects upon dietary diversity are yet to be fully understood.
Discussion: Understanding the roles that forests play—beyond the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem services—in the diversity of rural diets may provide conservationists with yet another tool to address issues surrounding land use change, rapid rural development and the associated environmental impacts.