FAO calls for governmental support for Agroforestry
Tuesday 05 February 2013
A UN organisation has said that millions of people could escape poverty, hunger and environmental degradation if countries put more effort into promoting agroforestry, an integrated approach combining trees with crop or livestock production.
The agroforestry sector is a significant source both of local commodities such as fuelwood, timber, fruit and fodder for livestock as well as global ones such as coconut, coffee, tea, rubber and gum. Almost half the world's agricultural land has at least 10 percent tree cover, making agroforestry critical to the livelihoods of millions.
In a new guide published on Tuesday (5th February) and aimed at policy advisors, NGOs and governmental institutions, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation suggested ways in which agroforestry can be integrated into national strategies and how policies can be adjusted to better suit the model of sustainable farming.
The policy guide in was produced by FAO in cooperation with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and the Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). It provides examples of best practices and success stories, as well as lessons learned from challenges and failures.
FAO spokesperson Eduardo Mansur said, "In many countries the potential of agroforestry to enrich farmers, communities and industry has not been fully exploited. Despite the numerous benefits of agroforestry, the sector is largely hampered by adverse policies, legal constraints and lack of coordination between the sectors to which it contributes, namely, agriculture, forestry, rural development, environment and trade."
New opportunities provided by agroforestry are emerging, for example, within the miombo woodlands of central, eastern and southern Africa, which cover three million square kilometers over 11 countries and contribute significantly to the livelihoods of some 100 million low-income people. Among these new opportunities is the potential to curb greenhouse gas emissions by slowing forest conversion to farmland. Financial incentives such as the REDD+ initiative also offer a means of preserving trees on farmland.
FAO said such projects are already encountering success and more are taking off, such as the expansion of a regeneration project covering over five million hectares of dry degraded land in Niger, which will contribute to mitigating climate change and increase rural income.
In Costa Rica, a national forestry financing fund, created in 1996 to subsidise forestry work, was extended in 2001 and 2005 to agroforestry systems combining crops, trees and cattle. Over the last eight years, more than 10,000 contracts have been signed for agroforestry, which resulted in planting of more than 3.5 million trees on farms in the country.
However, although the approach is gaining ground in research and policy circles in areas of the United States and France, elsewhere, uptake of agroforestry has been slow. FAO said upon launching its new guide that efforts ought to be made to increase general awareness of agroforestry.
Providing environmental services
FAO said farmers introducing trees onto farms should be rewarded for the ecosystem services they provide to society through financial or other incentives, suggesting grants, tax exemptions or cost sharing programmes could help improve the roll out of agroforestry projects. Especially in developing regions, delivery in kind, such as infrastructure development could also be used to great effect.
Long-term credit is also crucial, as, although plating trees carries additional benefits including greater resilience to flooding, better fertility, the possibility of new sources of income, and often better pest control, these benefits only reach farmers several years after planting trees.