Millions of people could escape poverty, hunger and environmental degradation if countries put more efforts into promoting agro-forestry, an integrated approach combining trees with crop or livestock production, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has said.
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 per cent tree cover, making agroforestry critical to the livelihoods of millions.
In a new guide published weekend and aimed at decision-makers, key policy advisors, NGOs and governmental institutions, FAO showed how agroforestry can be integrated into national strategies and how policies can be adjusted to specific conditions. The policy guide provided examples of best practices and success stories, as well as lessons learned from challenges and failures.
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 and to sequester carbon in trees on farms, as a result of the financial incentives offered by carbon trade and the REDD+ initiative. Similarly, the expansion of natural regeneration of over five million hectares of dry degraded land in Niger will contribute to mitigating climate change and increase rural income.
The guide was developed by FAO in cooperation with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE) and the Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).