Through Agroforestry, Farmers are Important Agents of Forest and Landscape Restoration
Harrison, R. and A. Miccolis. 2018. The critical role of Agroforestry in Forest and Landscape Restoration. Current Conservation. 12.1: 8-12.
“Agroforestry can contribute to Forest and Landscape Restoration in several ways: through enhancing sustainable agricultural intensification, alleviating poverty, and for its under-recognised potential for climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation.” Farmers around the world integrate trees into farming systems. In some places, these practices are traditional;, in others, they are newly adopted. Some rely on standing forest while others involve cultivating trees. Given the wide diversity of these systems it is challenging to characterize them, but nevertheless, the many distinct forms of agroforests hold much promise to meeting FLR objectives in populated landscapes across the tropics.
Farmers around the world integrate trees into farming systems. In some places, these practices are traditional;, in others, they are newly adopted. Some rely on standing forest while others involve cultivating trees. Given the wide diversity of these systems it is challenging to characterize them, but nevertheless, the many distinct forms of agroforests hold much promise to meeting FLR objectives in populated landscapes across the tropics.
Agroforests are often used to improve agricultural productivity, restore degraded soils, enhance food security, and diversify livelihoods. In terms of carbon sequestration and biodiversity they fall between native forest restoration and monoculture agriculture. Because they can potentially be applied over vast areas of agricultural land they are a key strategy in the FLR toolkit.
Examples from the Brazilian Amazon, Sahel, and Peru highlight different ways that agroforestry can be implemented to benefit and gain the support of rural landholders while reforesting large areas of land. In Brazil, rubber trees provide a source of income while intercops provide something to fall back on in times of market insecurity. In the Sahel, tending resprouting and coppicing trees is a low-cost intervention providing a range of benefits including firewood and topsoil retention for local farmers, and a renewed sense of pride in farming. And in Peru newly created agroforestry concessions stand to promote forest regeneration on farmland, providing certain enabling conditions are met.
For agroforestry to meet its potential as an FLR strategy, a number of challenges remain. First, because it tends to fall between the forestry and agriculture sectors, agroforestry has not received much support nor planning in many countries. Access to high quality propagation materials (including seeds/seedlings) is also key but often lacking. Adoption of agroforestry also requires that local landholders are ensured proper tenure rights (especially tree tenure) and that they have ready access to relevant markets.
The PARTNERS Connection
This article is part of a special issue of Current Conservation magazine. Current Conservation is published by an informal alliance of organizations to promote interdisciplinary research in conservation and to foster communication among scientists, students, resource managers, educators and policy makers. The six articles in this issue were written by PARTNERS members and focus on different aspects of forest restoration in the tropics. Each article is illustrated with unique artwork, infographics and photographic images from contributors across the world.