More and more people are realizing that agroforestry can enrich biodiversity. Trees add to the diversity and complexity of plant communities and provide shelter and corridors for wildlife. Birds, insects and small mammals nest, feed and shelter from predators in trees, which in turn attract insects and birds that pollinate crops and destroy pests. Planting local trees adapted to local conditions maintains the native flora fauna.
Trees on farms don’t just boost the biodiversity around them. Farmers who have improved their incomes are much less likely to exploit nearby forests, so growing trees on farms actually reduces pressure on biodiversity in other areas. Currently there are activities aimed at developing strategies to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor in the dry lands of the Sahel through the management and enrichment of local plant diversity; to reverse deforestation and desertification, fight climate change, and promote sustainable agricultural practices that protect biodiversity.
Agriculture, deforestation and other changes to the land account for nearly one third of global emissions. To successfully tackle global change, it’s imperative to curb the emissions generated by burning fossil fuels. According to the fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warming in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), where most livelihoods are dependent on agriculture, is expected to be greater than the global average and rainfall will decrease in certain regions. This is currently being experienced in most of SSA, including the Horn of Africa and thus calls for a more ecosystem based approach farming practices of which Evergreen Agriculture is one thereof.
EverGreen Agriculture systems can be part of the solution to tackling climate change — and are increasing in popularity in many countries. Increasing the number of trees in farmland helps to reduce the emissions of carbon to the atmosphere that eventually cause climate change. Fertilizer trees provide three different carbon sinks: above ground woody biomass (time averaged for systems that are regularly pruned or in rotation), below ground root systems (the most permanent of the sinks), and contribution to soil carbon. A study done in Malawi and Zambia saw that, trees in conservation agriculture (CAWT) accumulate carbon both above and below ground in the range of 2-4 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year. Other findings however, have reported soil C of 33.2 Mg-87.3Mg C ha-1per year in a total carbon stock (above-ground + root biomass + soil C to 0-100 cm depth)
In Niger, Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration has regenerated 200,000 trees on 5 million hectares of land, and 100 million tonnes of carbon have been sequestered. It is therefore a further indication that adopting EverGreen Agriculture is not only key to enhancing food production and other benefits but also mitigating climate change.
The uptake of EverGreen Agriculture has seen an increase in food security in homes, a reduction to the demand for labor and diversified household income. EverGreen Agriculture provides the incentive to achieve sustainable development in Africa. The integration of trees in food-crop systems will be essential to future development. Evergreen agriculture recognizes an evergreen revolution that increases productivity in perpetuity without causing ecological damage. Agroforestry is one of mankind’s best hopes to create a climate smart agriculture, increase food security, alleviate rural poverty, and achieve truly sustainable development.
Modern agroforestry is delivering measurable improvements in the output, cash income and lives of smallholder farmers and reinforcing their ecosystems against climate change. Mainstreaming the practice into national development plans will reap billions of dollars’ worth of economic output and this would have a positive impact in a country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Around the world, billions of people remain dependent on traditional wood-based biomass- firewood and charcoal- for the majority of their energy needs especially for cooking. Despite urbanization bringing people physically closer to centralized electric power, limited economic growth often means that there is still increasing demand for fuelwood and charcoal as main source of energy.
EverGreen Agriculture systems can contribute to farmer’s energy needs by providing biomass energy ranging from short rotation coppiced trees (such as Gliricidia sepium, Calliandra calothyrsus, Leucaena trichandra and their prunings) to long rotation fuelwood species (e.g. Grevillea robusta, Markhamia lutea, Casuarina degandon, Cordia abyssinica, Faidherbia albida). Farmers are able to biomass from coppicing, pollarding and pruning of trees that have been interplanted in cropping and grazing land. The ability of many of these species to rapidly regrow when cut back ensures a sustainable supply of fuelwood for years to come.
Beyond the use of timber for charcoal or firewood, dendro powered electricity generation using fast growing trees such as Gliricidia and Prosopis juliflora is also showing great potential. In Sri Lanka, Gliricidia sepium has been used for electricity generation supplying a cleaner energy to the local community who also supply the power plant with its fuel. Similarly, such progress are also been made using Prosopis juliflora by a Tower Power plant in Baringo, Kenya – a remote area where Prosopis has been a menace and energy needs is in high demand.
Examples such as these demonstrate the ability for EverGreen Agricultural systems also to contribute to local sustainable energy supply needs.
Food security is defined as a situation when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
However, producing more food for a growing population in the coming decades, while at the same time combating poverty and hunger, is a huge challenge facing African agriculture. The risks that come with climate change make this task more daunting. However, hundreds of thousands of rainfed smallholder farmers in Zambia, Malawi, Niger, and Burkina Faso have been shifting to farming systems that are restoring exhausted soils and are increasing food crop yields, household food security and incomes. Organic inputs from legumes play an important role in raising crop productivity without relying fully on expensive mineral fertilizers. There is greater direct production of food when crops are planted under the canopy or in association with fertilizer trees such as Faidherbia albida.
This farming approach has predominantly been identified with smallholder farmers in Zambia, Malawi, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali among others who have been able to increase their yields by applying the principle of evergreen agriculture as indicated here below:
- Malawi: Maize yields increased up in the range of 26% to 400% when grown under the canopy of Faidherbia albida (Akinnifesi et al, 2009; Saka et al, 1994).
- Zambia: In 2008 maize yield in the vicinity of Faidherbia albida trees averaged 4.1t/ha compared to 1.3t/ha beyond the canopy of F. albida (Garrity et al, 2010)
- Mali: Native species of trees and shrubs such as Vitellaria paradoxa, Tamarindus indica and Adansonia digitata contribute to farmer’s livelihoods by supplying food throughout the year thus protecting them from hunger during hunger period in rainy season (Faye et al, 2010)
- Niger: FMNR has transformed agriculture with parkland tree species such as Faidherbia albida, Pliostigma reticulatum and Combretum spp. resulted in an average estimate of at least 500,000 additional tonnes of food produced per year (Reij et al, 2009)
- Burkina Faso: Cereal production under canopy of fertilizer trees increased by an average of at least 400kg/ha which was an increase of 40% to more than 100% and further translate to annual increase of 80,000t of grain enough to feed 50,000 people (Garrity et al, 2010; Reij et al, 2009)
Livestock production is an important economic asset for many farmers in diverse ecological zones of the world. Animals such as goats and cattle are kept for their meat and milk which are essential sources of proteins and in a number of occasions been a source of livelihood for the rural populace. About 60% of the population of the dry areas in Sub-Saharan Africa depends on livestock for some parts of their livelihood. Unfortunately in times of drought, severe shortages of forage and water can lead to massive livestock deaths and subsequently, livelihood loss.
EverGreen Agriculture systems can play a significant role in providing nutritious forage, particularly in lean times, from fast growing shrubs that can be grown in the field. Species such as Calliandra calothyrsus, Gliricidia sepium, Sesbania sesban, F. albida, Acacia seyal, Leucaena trichandra and majority of acacia species are capable of providing fresh forage throughout the year and also provide livestock valuable shade and shelter, beneficial for livestock milk and health outcomes.
These shrubs can provide nitrogen fixation and nutrients to the cropping land, which is well supplemented by manure from livestock seeking shelter from these trees also. Essentially, 100 trees of Calliandra calothyrsus are enough to feed one goat annually. One cow can be fed from 500 trees. These trees can provide the equivalent of 6-10 kg of fresh forage daily for cow and 0.5-1.0 kg of fresh forage for a goat per day. Three kilograms of fresh fodder shrub material gives roughly the same milk yield as 1 kg dairy meal with 2kg of dry shrub feed per day is recommended to provide an additional litre of milk.
Deforestation in agriculture accounts for 60% of global land degradation as well as about 30% of all man-made carbon emissions. With increasing human population, trees around the world are cleared everyday to make way for agriculture in fertile lands to meet the increasing food demand. Agroforestry provides a crucial bridge between agriculture and maintenance of forests and trees in our landscapes.
Practices such as Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration have restored and transformed large portions of deforested land.
The re-greening of the Sahel really began when innovative local farmers rediscovered simple and low cost ways of improving the land, and was supported by government and non-governmental organizations. There is great potential to scale up the Sahel experience through empowering rural communities to develop their own programs and action plans the management of trees on farms. Outside agencies and donors have a role to play in supporting these efforts through research, policies and markets. The enforcement of the farm forestry rules which advocates the integration of trees in farmlands for up to 10% tree cover has seen agroforestry as the new frontier to address these issues in Kenya for example.
Since 1970, the population of sub – Saharan Africa has more than doubled. Land holdings have as a result shrunk in size, and many farmers, unable to leave their land fallow, now grow the same food crops, year after year, on the same plot of land. While the use of mineral fertilizers has risen tenfold in East Asia since 1970, it has remained stagnant, at very low levels, in sub-Saharan Africa. For most small farmers, the use of fertilizers that could replenish their soils is not economically feasible, due to increasing prices and climatic risks. The result is land degradation, low yields, persistent poverty and widespread malnutrition.
However, with EverGreen Agriculture, it needn’t be like this. Hundreds of thousands of smallholders across Africa nations such as Niger, Zambia and Malawi have increased their crop and soil resistance by using fertilizer trees on their land and radically improved the productivity of their land. EverGreen Agriculture provides new options to better care for the land and increase smallholder food production.
Deforestation and intensification of agricultural production is increasing to meet a growing food demand. Under these conditions, soils are degrading, with continuous cropping extracting nutrients, removal of green cover and over tillage exposing soils to high heat, depleted organic matter, poor soil structures. As a result extensive areas of land are becoming badly degraded, with infertile soils, high rates of erosion and desertification.
Dryland areas such as the Sahel are some of the poorest regions of the world and for decades have faced such challenges. Poor farming practices, coupled with overgrazing has exacerbated soil erosion, which has reduced food production on farms to the extent that the population cannot grow sufficient food.
EverGreen Agriculture systems that integrate trees into food crop systems can play a major role in restoring degraded lands. Even in the Sahel’s arid landscape, the reintroduction of trees through FMNR, has led to productive agricultural land and improved food security for over 3 million people.
Trees that are able to fix nitrogen through their leaves and roots play an important role in restoring soil fertility, and supplementing crops. Trees of many types however (fertiliser trees and others) provide multiple benefits for soil health including:
– Mulch and organic matter from leaves and roots improves soil water holding capacity and structure
– Shading minimise soil temperatures and evaporation of moisture
-Roots improve soil structure and prevent erosion as well as cycling nutrients from deeper in the profile
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