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‘Agroforestry’ May Be New Weapon in Climate Change Fight

Author: Jeff Mulhollem | Published: February 9, 2018

Agroforestry could play an important role in mitigating climate change because it sequesters more atmospheric carbon in plant parts and soil than conventional farming, report researchers.

An agricultural system that combines trees with crops and livestock on the same plot of land, agroforestry is especially popular in developing countries because it allows small shareholder farmers—who have little land available to them—to maximize their resources. They can plant vegetable and grain crops around trees that produce fruit, nuts, and wood for cooking fires, and the trees provide shade for animals that provide milk and meat.

The researchers analyzed data from 53 published studies around the world that tracked changes in soil organic carbon after land conversion from forest to crop cultivation and pasture-grassland to agroforestry. While forests sequester about 25 percent more carbon than any other land use, agroforestry, on average, stores markedly more carbon than agriculture.

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Changes in Soil Carbon Stocks Across the Forest-Agroforest-Agriculture/Pasture Continuum in Various Agroecological Regions: A Meta-Analysis

Authors: Nilovna Chatterjee, P.K.Ramachandran Nair, Saptarshi Chakraborty, and Vimala D.Nair | Published: November 1, 2018

The contribution of agroforestry systems (AFS) to enhance soil organic carbon (SOC) storage in soil layers due to the presence of deep tree roots are of interest in the context of promoting carbon sinks and greenhouse gas mitigation. To quantify the relative soil C contribution from trees in agroforestry systems (AFS), this study assessed the reported differences in SOC stocks under agroforestry systems in comparison with other land-use systems (Agriculture, Forestry, Pasture, or Uncultivated Land) in various soil-depth classes in four agroecological regions (arid and semiarid, ASA; lowland humid tropics, LHT; Mediterranean, MED; and temperate, TEM) around the world. Using mixed-effect models and a meta-analytical approach, we synthesized data from 78 peer-reviewed studies that generated 858 data points (sites) on SOC stock under various AFS practiced globally. Comparing Agroforest vs. Agriculture or Agroforest vs. Pasture, SOC stocks under AFS were higher by +27% in the ASA region, +26% in LHT, and +5.8% in TEM, but –5.3% in the TEM in the 0–100 cm soil depth.

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6 Reasons Why the Practice of Silvopasture Will Help Save Modern Farming

Author: Steve Gabriel | Published: August 4, 2018

Adapted from “Silvopasture: A Guide to Managing Grazing Animals, Forage Crops, and Trees in a Temperate Farm Ecosystem “(Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018) by Steve Gabriel. All rights reserved.

In addition to the range of benefits silvopasture offers to individual farms, this practice also brings a number of promising benefits to the larger society and global community. These can provide good incentives for government, industry and society to better support and encourage silvopasture as a practice.

1. Wildlife habitat and forest restoration

Farming itself is largely responsible for the fragmented chunks of forest and hedgerows we see littering the rural landscape today. Silvopasture can erase the stark line that is so often drawn between field and forest. Lands lack structural diversity, which is critical for birds and migrating animals. Ideally, we need grasslands, shrublands and deep forests to support the widest range of species. The inclusion of silvopasture into the farm landscape can greatly enhance the structural diversity of vegetation, which in turn supports a greater diversity of wildlife.

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This German Teen Is Leading a Global Plan to Plant a Trillion Trees

Felix Finkbeiner, 19, has already planted 15 billion saplings.

Author: John Vidal | Published: March 27, 2018

Felix Finkbeiner is a young man in a hurry to get the world to plant trees. The 19-year-old from a small Bavarian village near Munich, now studying at a university in London, has founded a global youth movement, Plant For The Planet, which has spearheaded the planting of over 15 billion saplings, signed up 75,000 children as climate ambassadors.

Alongside setting up Change Chocolate, a successful fair-trade chocolate company to raise money, the tall, spectacled teenager has joined with three of the world’s biggest conservation charities to launch the most ambitious reforestation project in history.

The Trillion Tree campaign aims to get the world to plant 1 trillion trees in the next 30 years. To put that into context, scientists calculate there are currently 3 trillion trees growing worldwide.

Each mature tree absorbs about 22 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, Finkbeiner says, “so one trillion could capture 25 percent of all human-made CO2 emissions and help to keep global temperature rise below the crucial 2-degree C limit. It does not replace the need to avoid carbon emissions, as agreed in Paris, but is a necessary addition.”

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Brazilian Food Forests Take Root in Australia, Helping Growers Save Water and Control Pests

Authors: Renee Cluff and Tom Major | Published: July 12, 2018

Move over biodynamic and organic farming — there is a new farming technique on the block, in which fruit and vegetable crops are grown in conjunction with trees.

Known as syntropic farming, it is a regenerative agricultural cropping method developed in Brazil that aims to mimic the way forest plants work symbiotically to grow in abundance.

Jane Hawes and her husband Neil are among about 20 syntropic growers in Australia.

They used to run a flower farm on their property at Tolga on Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands, but gave it away when their crops were wiped out by successive tropical cyclones Larry and Yasi.

“We had lost quite a few million dollars and I was just gutted and I just went ‘I gotta do something better than this’,” Ms Hawes said.

The horticulturalist stumbled on syntropic farming when she began researching to figure out what to do next.

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Restoring Degraded Landscapes in Niger with Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration

Author: Cathy Watson | Published: June 29, 2018

Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) of trees made headlines several years ago when 5 million hectares of Niger were found to have re-greened via the practice. FMNR is the encouragement of regeneration (and then management) of trees and shrubs that sprout from stumps, roots, and seeds found in degraded soils, such as those currently under agricultural production. Once established in farm fields, these new woody plants improve soil fertility and moisture for crops planted in combination with them, in a system known as agroforestry.

The news from Niger provided hope that a low-tech and low-cost approach could succeed after many years of failed tree planting efforts. Researchers crowded in and found that FMNR increased grain yields by 30%, boosted incomes, and was climate smart.

But a decade later, two scientists from Burkina Faso associated with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) are still drilling down into the data.

Dr. Jules Bayala is Chief Scientist for the Sahel and Dr Patrice Sawadogo is a senior scientist. Cathy Watson, Chief of Programme Development at ICRAF, interviewed them for Mongabay about trees, soil carbon, and productivity to discuss whether FMNR is the fastest way to restore degraded landscapes, and if it has utility beyond drylands.

Cathy Watson: Why are you studying FMNR?

Patrice Savadogo: Since childhood I’d seen farmers regenerate trees. Then, when I grew up, experts claimed that FMNR is climate smart. Yet in the literature, we didn’t have sound evidence. I wanted to build scientific knowledge.

A farmer removes side stems from a Guiera senegalensis, the first step in encouraging the strong central stem to take advantage of the root system. Photo courtesy of ICRAF/P. Savadogo

 

Jules Bayala: FMNR had been practiced in Niger for quite some years. Yet nobody had assessed it systematically. We knew it was good, but by how much? Our idea was to be neutral.

Cathy Watson: You wanted more than positive stories. What else?

Patrice Savadogo: Well, we already knew that the most important thing that trees can do in the Sahel to sustain soil productivity is to improve soil carbon because that improves soil structure. The soil stays moist longer and that increases the ability of cereals to take up nutrients. So, we wanted to look at FMNR and carbon sequestration in trees and carbon accumulation in the soil.

Cathy Watson: And how have you been doing this?

Jules Bayala: Earlier studies used classes of adopters – people who adopted FMNR 15, 10, five years ago and those who had not adopted. So, we divided 160 farmers into those classes and sampled soil from the trunks of trees to the open area where we expected no tree effect.

Patrice Savadogo: We calculated above ground carbon by inventorying the species and numbers of trees and measuring the diameter of the stem and crown. To see what is going on below ground, we sampled soil to one meter deep.

At the World Agroforestry Centre, Dr Jules Bayala is Principal Scientist in the Sahel. Dr Patrice Savadogo is its Dryland Agroforestry System Scientist. Both from Burkina Faso and grew up watching their fathers work with trees. Image courtesy of ICRAF

 

Cathy Watson: What did you find?

Jules Bayala: If we look at the pattern of carbon, we see a decreasing amount going from tree trunk to the open area. It shows clearly that trees contribute to soil carbon. We can say definitively that FMNR replenishes carbon in soil.

Patrice Savadogo: Also important was that the more the soil is sandy, the bigger the effect of carbon addition. That is very critical because most soil in the Sahel is sandy. Generally, for carbon, FMNR is very good. We’ve measured other elements but, for the soil in the Sahel, carbon is key. You can bring in nitrogen. It is much more difficult to bring in carbon.

Cathy Watson: What do you mean by above and below ground carbon, and how do they relate to trees?

Jules Bayala: Carbon comes through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis takes carbon from the atmosphere and accumulates it as biomass. This biomass is recycled in the soil through leaf litter and root decay. In the soil’s top layer, carbon comes from leaves and animal droppings. Deeper down, it comes from fine root hairs that break down. By far the greatest amount of carbon in the soil comes from these roots for the simple reason that leaves get blown away and you have bush fires. What enters the soil from leaves is very little compared to what stays in the soil layer. Roots behave like leaves. The period you have the maximum leaves, you have a corresponding maximum of fine root hairs. When leaves decay, roots decay too.

Cathy Watson: And the relationship between FMNR, carbon and crop production?

Patrice Savadogo: Very strong. In fact, we believe that without FMNR, soil will have a very low yield or not produce any crop. Because the main problem with soil in the Sahel is the low carbon. We found that on farms where you have FMNR, soil carbon is better, and it relates to the presence of trees. Where you find a very limited number of trees, you find low production of cereals – maybe 200 kg/ha. As tree density increases, yield reaches 300 kg/ha. The most we found was 500 kg, usually where FMNR had been for quite some time. That doubling of yield is due to trees.

A field of millet in Mopti, Mali, already showing benefits from newly preserved individuals of Combretum glutinosum that a farmer is assisting to resprout from stumps. This is a fast-growing drought-resistant shrub common in the Sahel where rainfall is 200-700 mm per year. Photo courtesy of ICRAF/P. Savadogo

Cathy Watson: What about other benefits from FMNR?

Patrice Savadogo: Farms with no trees or a very limited number are more fragile when there is a shock. When you have a drought spell, the crops suffer more than in places with more trees. Crops that grow next to trees perform better than those further away because of the soil carbon but also the microclimate around the tree. You see the millet plant being taller with a bigger head of grain.

Cathy Watson: How does FMNR work? Is there a particular sequence?

Jules Bayala: FMNR is when farmers encourage naturally-occurring trees. In the 1970s in the Sahel, trees were top killed by a period of aridity and then cut for firewood. But the roots kept living in an underground forest. Farmers prune the stems from the living stumps to encourage the strongest ones to shoot up into trees. There is also germination of seeds from the bank of seed in the soil. But about 95% of the trees come from stumps.

Patrice Savadogo: The younger the farm is in its practice of FMNR, the less the tree diversity. Regeneration of those stumps and the germination of existing seed gives you trees. Those trees attract birds or mammals that bring in more seed, and you start to see new species and more diversity. In Niger, you start with Guiera senegalensis. The farmer will say, “This species was there when I started.” Then species like Acacia seberiana and Bosia sengalensis appear, and Balanitis aegyptiaca is brought in by camels in their droppings.

Cathy Watson: How many trees can a farmer achieve?

Jules Bayala: In the beginning they have few. They select and nurture them. Livestock are roaming around. You have to protect them until they reach a certain stage. It’s long. But the density can reach more than 200 stems per acre. Then farmers reach a point where they must reduce them. They get a lot of firewood that generates substantial income in countries like Niger where the fallows, bush and forest are gone.

Bayala showing a newly regenerated Faidherbia albida in a cotton field in Southern Burkina Faso. Besides fixing nitrogen, this species sheds its leaves during the cropping season thus competing less with annual crops for light. During the dry season, it puts out leaves, providing protein rich forage to livestock during this critical period of quality feed shortage. Image courtesy of ICRAF

 

Cathy Watson: Is it best to have many species or fine to have just Guiera, for instance?

Patrice Savadogo: Different species is best. We looked at the nitrogen-fixing trees and non-nitrogen fixers that farmers preserve. A farm with five to eight species, of which one to two are nitrogen fixers, will have more benefits for its soil than if you only have Guiera and Piliostigma, which don’t fix nitrogen.

Cathy Watson: Is FMNR better than planting trees?

Jules Bayala: It’s much easier. “Better” depends on what you want. If you are targeting soil restoration and wood energy, FMNR is far better. If you are targeting fruit trees and the seed for fruit trees is not in the soil, you will not get them. In the first years of FMNR, the farmer can only work from the stocks and seeds he has.

Cathy Watson: Are there limits to FMNR?

Patrice Savadogo: Yes, we cannot regreen only with FMNR. We must combine it with tree planting because if the farmer does not have rootstock, what do you regenerate? We also need to improve soil moisture because even with FMNR, if you don’t have good soil moisture, trees will not develop well. Zai pits, stone lines, and half-moon techniques hold water.

Jules Bayala: I agree. In this very harsh climate where you have eight months of no rain, you need those water conservation structures. They catch a seed as rain washes it along, and the space around them is a niche with higher humidity which helps the seed survive.

Cathy Watson: Is the case closed? FMNR is good?

Patrice Savadogo: No, we need to know more to recommend the optimum density and diversity of trees to optimize crop production.

Jules Bayala: It is not closed. We need permanent plots where you go back frequently and do the same measurements and get solid data showing the trend with time.

Cathy Watson: What about the farmers?

Patrice Savadogo: In Niger, farmers now preserve trees and are very discerning. They can say, “We don’t want Acacia. The thorns puncture our bike tires.” But they preserve Balanitis despite its thorns because it is big, the leaves are sauce and fodder, and the seeds give oil. Farmers know a lot. They regenerate trees by feeding seed to livestock – some germinates better if it goes through the gut. But we need still more uptake of FMNR in Niger and across the Sahel.

This feature is part of an ongoing series about the global implementation of agroforestry, view all articles in the series here.

Reposted with permission from Mongabay.

Agroforestry: A Lifeline for This Kenyan Indigenous Community

The Cherangani people, an indigenous community in Kenya’s Rift Valley, have always called the Cherangani Hills Forest their ancestral home.

Also known locally as the Sengwer, they were traditionally reliant on the forest for hunting and gathering, herbal medicines, honey, and sorghum and millet farming. Then the colonial government evicted them from the forest, only permitting them access to medicinal plants; gathering and hunting in the forest is still prohibited.

Manasseh Cheruiyot intercrops beans with coffee among taller Grevillea robusta trees. Photo credit: Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

Their gardening of the forest required that they regularly rotate homestead areas, about every two years, to protect them from degeneration.

“The forest was our source of honey, hunting animals and wild fruits for food. Seeds from some fruits found far away from the homesteads would be dispersed closer to the homestead to allow the children and the elderly access,” says Abraham Mworor Maina, a 94-year-old former assistant chief and father of 16.

Mworor says his community, dependent on sorghum and millet, used shovels curved with stones for minimal soil disturbance, and intercropped the grains with trees in an agroforestry system. “We also farmed between trees, as [they] provided shade. We also relied on the decayed trees’ leaves for soil health.”

“Agroforestry has been with us ever since before man discovered agriculture,” says Jonathan Muriuki, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) country representative for Kenya. “As a hunter-gatherer, man would harvest fruits from the forest he was living [in] and at some time started domesticating some crops and animals, and clearing space to grow these crops. That’s where it all started.”

Muriuki says agroforestry tries to improve agriculture and productivity by having many components on the farm. “Several crops [like] cereals and legumes are intercropped with trees interspersed on the farm: the trees were either used for livestock fodder production, timber, fruit, [or] soil improvement, but the more species you have on the farm, the more ecologically balanced a farm becomes.”

Flowering coffee plant. Photo credit: Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

According to Muriuki, agroforestry helps reduce pests and disease, enhances nutrient cycling—since trees are deep-rooted and can draw nutrients from below the soil and bring them to the top—while decomposed leaves enrich the crop when they rot, improving soil health.

Trees also improve microclimates through the capture of moisture and store carbon dioxide. Under the Paris Agreement that aims to reduce global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase further to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), Kenya has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The country aims to achieve this goal while increasing tree cover from the current 7 percent to at least 10 percent by 2030 through agroforestry.

Today, the Cherangani are assimilated among communities adjacent to the Cherangani Forest, having adopted farming and the raising of livestock. They also practice their traditional agroforestry, but they must implement it outside the forest, as the government no longer recognizes their hunter-gatherer way of life.

Despite a majority having settled on the farms allocated by the government, about 5,000 people on the eastern block live within the forest boundaries as squatters, with no title deeds, while the rest are distributed in the three administrative counties of Trans-Nzoia, West Pokot and Elgeyo-Marakwet, around the Cherangani Hills.

Cherangani Forest looms behind a monoculture of cypress trees. Photo credit: Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

A biodiversity hotspot and water source

Cherangani Hills Forest is a collection of 13 forest reserve blocks in western Kenya, located on the western ridge of the East African Rift. An essential biodiversity hotspot, the hills are home to birds such as the regionally threatened bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) African crowned eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus), red-chested owlet (Glaucidium tephronotum) and thick-billed honeyguide (Indicator conirostris). The area is also home to elephants, buffaloes, leopards, otters, genets, mongooses, bushbucks, sitatunga antelopes, colobus monkeys, and a butterfly found nowhere else on Earth: Julia’s protea copper butterfly (Capys juliae).

Also a critical Kenyan water recharge area, the forest feeds rivers and dams supplying water for domestic use, hydroelectric dams, irrigation, agriculture, and industrial processes downstream. The forest also supplies water to Lake Victoria—the world’s second-largest freshwater lake and a primary reservoir of the Nile River shared by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania—and to the Lake Turkana basin, the world’s largest permanent desert lake, shared by Ethiopia and Kenya.

Over the years the ecosystem has been threatened by increased pressure from degazettement for settlements, encroachment and illegal logging for timber, posts, charcoal, livestock fodder, plus tree felling purportedly by honey gatherers.

Peter Kyenze, assistant ecosystem conservator for West Pokot at the Kenya Forest Services, says that by 2012, the Lelan Forest Reserve within the eastern block had been reduced by 7,600 hectares (18,800 acres) from the original 32,000 hectares (79,100 acres) of gazetted forest.

“Illegal logging for fuelwood, charcoal, timber, building materials, encroachments pushing the forest borders, farming [and] illegal settlements … have been a major threat,” he says.

The gathering of firewood is a major source of deforestation in the area. Photo credit: Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

Trees such as African redwood (Hagenia abyssinica), real yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius), cedars and Dombeya rotundifolia are mainly cut for wood, Kyenze says. In the lower regions, wild olive (Olea africana), acacias and Balanites aegyptiaca are exploited for charcoal.

But about 200 Cherangani communities living adjacent to the forests have been planting woodlots as a source of wood, firewood and charcoal, aimed at reducing pressure on the forest resources and to improve their livelihoods.

“We have been planting avocado trees and intercropping either beans [or] potatoes with coffee trees, interspersed with Grevillea robusta trees to improve [livelihoods] and nutrition,” says Solomon Cherongos, executive director of the Cherangani Multi-Purpose Development Program (CHEMUDEP), a grassroots indigenous peoples’ organization.

For Manasseh Cheruiyot, a 38-year-old father of four from Tingiket village in West Pokot, agroforestry opened up an opportunity to invest in his children’s future through growing eucalyptus and coffee.

Peter Ndung’u with a harvest of agroforestry-grown avocados. Photo credit: Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

“My firstborn will be joining high school in the next five years. I intend to maintain the 500 eucalyptus [trees for] the next five years for my daughter’s high school fees,” Cheruiyot says. “In the meantime, the pruned branches will be sold as firewood and fencing materials.”

Of his 1.6 hectares (4 acres), he has set aside 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) on which he grows coffee intercropped with beans and G. robusta, also known as southern silky oak. “CHEMUDEP supplied me with about 250 trees during the dry season. I improvised a polythene bag drip irrigation system and mulching, which ensured only 10 died.”

Cheruiyot’s coffee flowered for the first time this March. Though he hasn’t realized the financial benefit from the crop yet, bean yields have improved and now earn him $500, up from last year’s $350.

“The area is steep, and having trees on the farm has helped reduce water runoff and soil erosion during rains. I have noted the soil is retaining water longer, and additional organic matter from the poultry dung has helped improve soil fertility,” Cheruiyot says. “I also prune and let the Grevillea tree leaves decompose, adding soil fertility.”

Harvested coffee branches are used for fencing material or firewood. Photo credit: Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

He says he expects to harvest about 720 kilograms (1,590 pounds) of coffee beans from October through December this year, with each tree producing at least 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds). “I will sell locally through the cooperative society where a kilogram sells [for] between $2.50 [and] $4. With additional maize earning us at least $1,000, and $500 from beans, these resources will ensure my young family is provided for,” Cheruiyot says.

Outside funding for the forest

In 2011, a five-year, $4.5 million Global Environment Facility (GEF) project began here with an additional $500,000 in additional funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was dubbed Strengthening the Protected Area Network within the Eastern Montane Forest Hotspot of Kenya, and was implemented by Nature Kenya in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and CHEMUDEP.

The original project was geared only toward forest conservation and lacked a livelihood improvement component until 2014, says Paul Matiku, Nature Kenya’s executive director. “But since the Sengwer had unique demands compared to communities on other sites, the project was tailor-made to incorporate them, with over 200 households directly benefiting from either avocados, woodlot seedlings, or coffee,” he says. An additional 2,000 households received training on forest conservation and agroforestry techniques.

CHEMUDEP’s Cherongos says coffee and woodlot plantings had 60 percent and over 90 percent survival rates respectively during the project, but less than 30 percent of the avocados survived. But he says all is not lost, as the group has been learning from Peter Ndung’u, an avocado farmer, and Lukano Enterprises, a Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service-certified nursery, which has been training 10 households on avocado management.

“These will benefit from the second batch of about 1,000 seedlings that will be distributed among 100 farmers, as the previous did not survive due to drought and lack of proper management,” Cherongos says.

Ndung’u, a 29-year-old father of four from Munyaka village, planted 20 avocado trees of an early-maturing, high-yielding variety supplied by Lukano Enterprises, in addition to the family’s older trees. He harvests once or twice a year depending on the rainfall, and says the May-to-June harvest yields about 30 bags. Along with about 10 bags that he harvests in December, the avocados bring him $400 to $600 annually.

“The production cost is low, it’s not affected by pests and diseases, but the fruit is highly attractive to wild animals. Older trees make good building posts, charcoal and firewood,” Ndung’u says. “I can’t remember my family sourcing firewood from the forest. We have always pruned branches from the older species to prevent them from spreading, which we use for firewood.”

Bordering the forest, Ndung’u says the avocados act as a buffer for other crops, as they provide food for wild animals.

Cherangani farmer Kongolel Masai Kangonyei with his intercropped coffee trees. Photo credit: Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

“Since the forest has been extensively damaged, the animals come in search of food at the farms. I believe it’s a noble idea to plant fruit trees for conservation, to minimize human-wildlife conflict, as the forest has shrubs remaining without any berries for the animals to eat. If they have natural fruits, they will not have to come to the farms in search of it,” Ndung’u says.

Apart from protecting the forests by growing forest products right on their farms, ICRAF’s Muriuki feels that as forests shrink, agroforestry practices will protect forests by safeguarding tree species’ genes from further loss.

“We are losing some tree species to deforestation, and the genes that are needed to keep them producing. When these trees are allowed to [grow] on the farm, we can create gene corridors where pollinators of various species can move across landscapes and get diverse pollens, which keep genes flowing,” he says.

Muriuki says he believes agroforestry also protects the forest due to community management. “Acknowledging that a landscape is a continuum of life, and some human beings’ needs come from the forest, you allow a few human activities inside the forest, and as communities get access to the forest, they allow what should be grown in the forest to grow within their farmlands,” he says. This results in better landscapes, better air, and an improved water system, Muriuki adds.

Cherangani traditional healer Richard Kiplagat hold roots harvested in the forest. Chepkresmeywo, at right, is used to treat typhoid, and kasisit is said to treat sexually transmitted diseases. Photo credit: Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

Still, village elder Mworor is sad that traditions the Cherangani still hold are not acknowledged more widely to protect the forest. “The forest was believed to be a living thing, Cheranganis never cut a tree! It’s unfortunate our conservation traditions are no longer considered important,” he says.

For his part, Cheruiyot is keen to expand his agroforestry efforts by planting coffee under trees intercropped with beans on an additional 0.2 hectares to maximize profits. “I used to plant maize and beans alone,” he says. “I never knew the land could hold this many crops and earn my family the better return.”

This feature is part of an ongoing series about the global implementation of agroforestry, see all the articles in the series here.

Reposted with permission from Mongabay.

Cooperative Agroforestry Empowers Indigenous Women in Honduras

Author: Monica Pelliccia | Published: April 16, 2018

GUALCINCE, Honduras — The Lenca call it a sacrificial stone, where their indigenous  ancestors went to make offerings to deities. A triangle of rock with different circles inscribed on its surface, it has remained intact despite the passage of time.

The woods that surround the village of Gualcince, almost at the border with El Salvador, bear marks of their past, too. It was here on Congolón Mountain that Indio Lempira, the famed Lenca leader of Honduran indigenous resistance, died. Lenca culture flourished here in the pre-Columbian epoch, and people still find ancient artifacts.

Despite the great depth of history, there are new traditions starting here as well. Amanda Abrego, a 36-year-old mother of four who lives near the sacred stone, is a board member of the Cosagual Lenca cooperative of women coffee growers. Like 21 other female cafetaleras, she is now cropping organic coffee under the shadow of timber- and fruit-yielding trees, following the traditional agroforestry system that the Lenca indigenous group — to which the famous environmental activist Berta Cáceres belonged before she was assassinated two years ago — developed before the arrival of Spanish conquerors, and they are selling it in a new way. In 2014, the women launched an all-female growers’ cooperative as a part of the Cosagual coffee growers’ organization.

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Agroforestry Systems May Play Vital Role in Mitigating Climate Change

Agroforestry could play an important role in mitigating climate change because it sequesters more atmospheric carbon in plant parts and soil than conventional farming, according to Penn State researchers.

Author: Penn State | Published: February 1, 2018

An agricultural system that combines trees with crops and livestock on the same plot of land, agroforestry is especially popular in developing countries because it allows small shareholder farmers — who have little land available to them — to maximize their resources. They can plant vegetable and grain crops around trees that produce fruit, nuts and wood for cooking fires, and the trees provide shade for animals that provide milk and meat.

The researchers analyzed data from 53 published studies around the world that tracked changes in soil organic carbon after land conversion from forest to crop cultivation and pasture-grassland to agroforestry. While forests sequester about 25 percent more carbon than any other land use, agroforestry, on average, stores markedly more carbon than agriculture.

The transition from agriculture to agroforestry significantly increased soil organic carbon an average of 34 percent, according to Michael Jacobson, professor of forest resources, whose research group in the College of Agricultural Studies conducted the study. The conversion from pasture/grassland to agroforestry produced soil organic carbon increases of about 10 percent, on average.

“We showed that agroforestry systems play an effective role in global carbon sequestration, involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide,” he said. “The process is critical to mitigating or deferring global warming.”

However, carbon was not stored equally in different soil levels, noted lead researcher Andrea De Stefano, a graduate student at Penn State when the study was done, now at Louisiana State University. He pointed out that the study, which was published in December in Agroforestry Systems, provides an empirical foundation to support expanding agroforestry systems as a strategy to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and mitigate climate change.

“The conversion from forest to agroforestry led to losses in soil organic carbon stocks in the top layers, while no significant differences were detected when deeper layers were included,” De Stefano said.

KEEP READING ON SCIENCEDAILY

Cocoa Farming: The Key to Reversing Deforestation in West Africa

Authors: Dana Geffner and Alex Groome | Published: January 15, 2018 

The industrial chocolate industry is driving deforestation in West Africa on a devastating scale, according to recent articles published in The Guardian and Reuters. The Ivory Coast is the biggest victim—once 25% of the country was covered in rainforest, now less than 4% remains. Despite the widespread destruction it is responsible for, could agroforestry hold the key to restoring tropical rainforests and farmer livelihoods in the region?

A majority of the world’s cocoa (70%) is produced by two million small-scale farmers on less than five acres of land. Farmers are struggling to produce healthy harvests due to pests and diseases, aging cocoa trees and declining soil health. Farmers often lack access to information, technical assistance and financial resources to overcome these challenges, but more importantly, they are vulnerable to volatile international market prices and are often paid less than 80 cents (USD) per day.

Grown as a part of a diverse community-led agroforestry systems, cocoa may hold the key for small-scale farmers to tackle poverty, become climate resilient, cope with volatile market prices and restore and protect rainforests.

Agroforestry, Fair Trade and Small-Scale Farmers

Agroforestry is a dynamic, ecologically-based, natural resource management approach that promotes the integration of diverse food, fodder, timber and shade trees in agricultural landscapes. Once installed, well-maintained systems require little inputs like fertilizers and are naturally resistant to pests and diseases, cutting costs and labor for farmers.

Fair Trade small-scale farmer organizations and cooperatives provide one pathway for communities in the Global South to organize to effectively implement agroforestry and become more economically resilient by selling directly to customers and negotiating fair prices. In Konye, Cameroon, KONAFCOOP cocoa farmers are setting a hopeful exampleof this model. They’re producing a good quantity of excellent quality cocoa, regenerating land and mimicking natural forest systems to create a healthy and resilient agroecosystems.

Social enterprises, like Serendipalm, are pushing the envelope of diversified organic & fair trade production in Ghana. Serendipalm works with hundreds of small-scale farmers to produce organic and fair trade palm oil and cocoa on diversified small plots. Core to farmer livelihoods and ecological resilience is the drive to replant diversified and dynamic agroforestry systems on degraded land. Dynamic agroforestry systems can provide employment and multiple income streams, while fostering biodiversity and sequestering carbon.

Scaling Agroforestry Initiatives

A little-known tool for scaling out ecological and regenerative farming practices, like agroforestry, rapidly and effectively is peer-to-peer, farmer-to-farmer training. Emerging from Central America in the 1970s, the farmer-to-farmer movement has fueled the training of thousands of peasant farmers by facilitating the exchange of practical experiences and best practices.

Crowdfunding for Community-led Solutions

Grow Ahead, an initiative of Fair World Project, is crowdfunding for a farmer-to-farmer training for small-scale farmer cooperatives in the region on dynamic agroforestry. Set to take place in 2018, the training will bring together 10 organic and fair trade farmer organization representatives from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Burkina Faso. The goal? Train farmer “pollinators” to implement and scale out agroforestry practices in their home communities and organizations.

Grow Ahead is also crowdfunding to plant trees in agroforestry systems to support climate resilience, community food security and carbon sequestration. Three of the 100 top climate solutions identified by Project Drawdown are agroforestry-based and if implemented globally could sequester 57.67 gigatons of CO2.

“The program is geared towards boosting the economic resilience of farmers by diversifying their sources of income. Through agroforestry we can tackle climate change and grow vibrant food forests around the globe while maintaining and preserving biodiversity,” says Ryan Zinn, Director of Grow Ahead.

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