Predictions of a world population of 9 billion by the year 2050, changing lifestyles, land degradation, climate change and the persistence of food and nutrition insecurity call for new concepts to agricultural food systems (Jaenicke and Virchow, 2013). Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has the highest prevalence of hunger (approx. 25% of the population), and many of the SSA countries have made little progress to meet the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) (FAO, 2013).

In Ethiopia, over half of the households do not have access to sufficient food; for Madagascar the figure is 35%. A much larger share of the population is affected by micronutrient deficiencies leading to losses of annual GDP of over US$ 450 million. Madagascar is ranked 5th and Ethiopia 8th of 136 countries regarding child stunting (World Bank, 2014a, 2014b). Madagascar and parts of Ethiopia are also both within so-called biodiversity hotspots1 which are especially rich in endemic species but particularly threatened by human activities (Cincotta et al., 2000; Myers and Mittermeier, 2000). Nearly 40% of all children in these two hotspots are malnourished (Mittermeier et al., 2011), despite poor households exploiting the rich natural habitats to meet needs for food, fuel and shelter. The interactions between poverty, nutrition, biodiversity and extreme habitat loss are highly complex (Golden et al., 2011; Mittermeier et al., 2011) and require actions that integrate food and nutrition security with attempts to preserve biodiversity (Gaffney, 2014).

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