Vital Signs Africa

Vital Signs Tanzania
© 2011 Benjamin Drummond/Sara Joy Steele
Integrated Monitoring System for Ecosystem Services in African Agricultural Landscapes

A Game-Changing Diagnostic System From Data to Decision-Making in Africa

The Vital Signs Africa monitoring system will provide near-real time data and diagnostic tools to guide agricultural development decisions and monitor their outcomes. It will ensure that improving food production supports resilient livelihoods and enhanced quality of life for smallholder farmers while also supporting healthy natural systems. It will also fill a critical unmet need for integrative, holistic measurements of agriculture, ecosystem services and human well-being. To accomplish this it will quantify sustainability and evaluate and manage risks and trade-offs by pooling multi-scale data into an open-access online dashboard for policy makers, the private sector and the scientific community.


The system is initially launching in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana, with plans for rapid expansion to other parts of Africa and the globe.


  • Minimize unintended consequences of agriculture on nature by providing key data and analytical tools for evaluating trade-offs and informing decisions.
  • Establish reference levels and a tracking system for land cover, carbon stocks, hydrology, biodiversity and ecosystem services in areas targeted for agricultural intensification.
  • Build local and national capacity for environmental monitoring among scientists, civil society, government leaders and the private sector throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Create resilient ecosystems and sustainable livelihoods for smallholder farmers.
  • Create a "global public good," a freely accessible and transparent information resource.


Launched with a ground-breaking grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the system is being co-led by Conservation International, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa and the Earth Institute (EI), Columbia University. These institutions will collaborate with governments, other nongovernmental organizations, the academic community, the private sector and key international partners to develop and implement a gold-standard environmental monitoring system and build capacity to sustain the system in Africa.


Sandy Andelman, Conservation International, Executive Director
Cheryl Palm, Earth Institute, Columbia University, Deputy Director
Bob Scholes, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Deputy Director
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