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EditPhoto Title:Vital Signs
EditPhoto Description:Guiding agricultural development that is sustainable for people and nature
EditImage Url:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_82203063.jpg
EditImage Description:Farming in Tanzania
EditPhoto Credit:© Benjamin Drummond
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​The world’s population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, requiring an estimated 70–100% increase in food production.


But agricultural activities are affecting ecosystems, and the benefits they provide for people, more than ever before. There is an urgent need for better data and risk management tools that can guide decisions about agricultural development — and ensure that this development protects both people and nature.

Launched in Africa with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Conservation International, Vital Signs provides near real-time data and diagnostic tools to leaders around the world to help inform agricultural decisions and monitor their outcomes. This program is led by CI in partnership with the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa.


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Edit Item Title:Collect better data
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Edit Item Text:Using local field teams, Vital Signs gathers on-the-ground measurements of several different indicators of sustainability. In each country where the program works, these measurements help to create an accurate picture of the relationship among agriculture, nature and human well-being. The indicators we measure include sustainable agricultural production, water availability and quality, soil health, biodiversity, carbon stocks, climate resilience, household income, nutrition and market access.
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Edit Item Title:Inform development decisions
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Edit Item Text:Vital Signs helps to minimize any unintended consequences of agriculture for nature. It provides the key data and the analytical tools that decision-makers need to evaluate trade‐offs, manage risk and inform decisions. By doing so, it influences policymakers to work toward resilient ecosystems and sustainable livelihoods for smallholder farmers.
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Edit Item Title:Build national capacity
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Edit Item Text:A key goal of Vital Signs is to increase local and national capacity for environmental monitoring among scientists, civil society, government leaders and the private sector — throughout Africa and the entire world. We are working to create a global public good: a freely accessible and transparent information resource.
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EditImage Alt Text:E-plot sampling with Bob Scholes.
EditTitle:By the numbers
EditSubtitle:Input from more than 60 African stakeholders
EditText:Vital Signs has gathered input on data and decision-support needs through a series of workshops in Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda. Representatives from more than 60 African ministries, agencies, universities and nonprofits participated in these meetings.
EditPhoto Credit:© Benjamin Drummond
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    Building relationships with local partners

    ​Vital Signs operates by making grants to African organizations to implement the monitoring system in each country where the project works. From hiring local field teams to running projects on the ground, grantee organizations in Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda are key partners in the success of Vital Signs.

    Partners establish Vital Signs field offices in each country, and field teams travel to high-priority regions to collect data on agriculture, biodiversity and human well-being. Data collection includes conducting household surveys, measuring soil nutrients and crop yields, and performing both rapid and in-depth assessments of land cover and water quality.


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    EditQuote Text (Do not add quotation marks):If our measurements are flawed, decisions may be distorted … those attempting to guide the economy and our societies are like pilots trying to steer a course without a reliable compass.
    EditQuote Attribution:Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress
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      More of Our Work Links

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      First Image

      EditTitle:Climate
      EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_30785027.jpg
      EditLink:/what/Pages/Climate.aspx
      EditImage Alt Text:Night falls over Rio de Janeiro. © Nikada

      Second Image

      EditTitle:Science and Innovation
      EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_80568511.tif
      EditLink:/how/pages/science-and-innovation.aspx
      EditImage Alt Text:Scientists set a camera trap. © Benjamin Drummond

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      EditTitle:The Ocean
      EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_16084886.jpg
      EditLink:/what/Pages/oceans.aspx
      EditImage Alt Text:Coral reef in Viti Levu, Fiji, Oceania. © William Crosse