Seedlings at the Bendougou Nursery in Mali, where agroforestry strategies have been implemented on most of the cropland.
Seedlings at the Bendougou Nursery in Mali, where agroforestry strategies have been implemented on most of the cropland. Photo by Trees for the Future / Flickr.

There is growing recognition of the value of agroforestry – integrating trees with crops – for restoring ecosystem services and improving livelihoods. Agroforestry is of particular interest in the context of the “landscape approach”, which recognizes that the forests, farms, pastures and human settlements all share resources within a landscape, and all play roles in both ecosystems, and human well-being. That means that trees on farms and in home gardens, for example, are as valuable as those in forests.

The World Congress on Agroforestry, co-hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Indian Society of Agroforestry, aims to raise the local, regional and global profile of agroforestry practices and significantly increase engagement and investment in them.

That fits well with the goals of a new collaboration around the theme “Forests, Landscapes and Food Security” between the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI), hosted by SEI, and the Forest, Climate & Livelihood Research Network (Focali), hosted by the Centre for Environment and Sustainability in Gothenburg. Though each network has its own specialty, both have recognized the need for integrated approaches.

“Food production and forests are typically managed separately, but in real life, there are often no clear boundaries between forests and cropland,” says Maria Ölund, project coordinator of Focali. “There are also synergies and trade-offs that need to be addressed; for example, efforts to reduce deforestation will not succeed if they do not address underlying driving forces, e.g. the demand for land to produce food, feed, fibre and fuel. In our new collaboration project, we will explore and promote integrated approaches, aiming to contribute to cross-sectoral discussions and learning around the world.”

In preparation for the Congress, SIANI and Focali have jointly published two briefs, lead-authored by SEI’s Marion Davis: Trees in Home Gardens: Making the Most of an Age-Old Practice to Improve Food Security and Nutrition, and Sharing the Land: Restoring Degraded Ecosystems and Improving Livelihoods Through Agroforestry.

A wet-zone Sri Lanka home garden.
A wet-zone home garden in Sri Lanka. Photo by Eskil Mattsson.

“There is a growing interest in agroforestry in terms of carbon sequestration, but the role of trees in farms and gardens in improving food security and nutrition is often neglected,” says Madeleine Fogde, senior project manager of SIANI. “These briefs emphasize the wide range of benefits of multi-functional landscapes – and the importance of recognizing the value of trees to human well-being as much as to the environment. We hope to provide a fresh and useful perspective to discussions about land use, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

SIANI and Focali will also be actively involved in the Congress; SIANI’s Ekaterina Bessonova will be live-tweeting from the event (via @SIANIagri); Focali researchers Eskil Mattsson and Matilda Palm will present their work in Sri Lanka and Vietnam at sessions on tropical home gardens and drylands and agroforestry, respectively, and Focali researcher Jenny Friman will present a poster on her work in Burkina Faso. In addition, the team will blog from the event and follow up with an issue brief.

“The WCA provides an excellent opportunity to share our work, make new connections, and by learning about the latest research and innovative practices, help build the capacity of our entire networks,” says Matthew Fielding, project manager for SIANI.

“Agroforestry can play an important role in ensuring food security, but we need to better understand both the benefits and the limitations of different strategies,” says Mattsson. “That means taking stock of best practices and experiences in agroforestry research, and identifying new solutions and ways forward. The WCA will provide an excellent forum for such discussions.”

Read more about the briefs and download PDFs: Trees in Home Gardens and Sharing the Land »

Read Eskil Mattsson’s WCA blogpost on Sri Lankan home gardens »

Read more about trees, livelihoods and the landscape approach (blogpost by Maria Ölund)