Business and Agroforestry: the Role of Public-Private Partnerships

Business Agroforestry

Business  agroforestry

A great deal of the World Congress on Agroforestry, held in New Delhi, focused on business: How to link smallholders to markets? How to make agroforestry profitable? How to engage major corporations? How to guarantee social and environmental sustainability while making money?

Some of the liveliest discussions involved high-profile executives and entrepreneurs, including a panel with Howard Shapiro, chief agricultural officer of Mars Inc.; Bernard Giraud, president of Danone’s Livelihoods Venture, Tristan Lecomte, founder and CEO of the Pur Project; and the noted Indian entrepreneur and sustainable-business advocate Ranjit Barthakur. In breakout sessions, we explored the viability of trees as crops, looked into biofuels as a reliable energy source and discussed quantification of environmental services.

A consistent message was that farmers can’t do it alone, especially if they’re also growing food for their families. Building successful agroforestry systems, requires scientific expertise, business savvy and access to markets, robust policies and infrastructure, and NGO support to advocate for farmers and help with training and facilitation. It’s a team effort, and it takes a lot of resources.

Read full blog

(published on the website of SIANI, Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative)


Related Story:

Business – smallholder relationships: true commitment or false promises?




Actualizing a landscape approach: issues and challenges

Tanzania Landscape

Landscape in Tanzania. Photo by Paul Stapleton/ICRAF

Landscape in Tanzania. Photo by Paul Stapleton/ICRAF

In order to realize implementation of a landscape approach, a dynamic combination and interaction of factors is involved. At a Landscape session during the World Congress on Agroforestry, discussions focused on key areas involving actual implementing case studies, need forsynergies between mitigation and adaptation in policy, innovative community-driven institutional platforms, and governance.

 A comparative study looking at 191 Integrated Landscape Initiatives in Latin America and Africa showed that while in both regions the motivation for adopting landscape approach are sustainable environmental protection, enhancing food security and agricultural productivity; in Latin America, where the practice has been conducted for a longer time than Africa, incentives go further to include reducing negative agriculture impacts.

 In both places, the initiative involves stakeholder groups, government, producers, marginalized groups and non-governmental organizations inside and outside the landscape. Groups studied cited tangible outcomes including improved skills and governance structures as success factors and lack of funding, proper infrastructure, proper policies, government and private sector involvement as challenges to a landscape approach.

In Sri Lanka, effort is underway to reclaim degraded land where forest has been cleared for tea and coffee farming since the 1800s. Challenges to deal with currently as the project is implemented include quick win commercial ventures and lack of native planting material.

When looking at policy frameworks that implement a landscape approach, emphasis was made on the need to synergize mitigation and adaptation as opposed to looking at the two streams separately.  The example of environmental service in Suba, Ethiopia was used to illustrate the domino effect between the two approaches. For instance, failure to adapt to drought and flooding in the region creates a knock on effect on mitigation as communities are forced to move into productive forest areas where they clear the forest for increased farm productivity. On the other hand, failure to mitigate leads to high carbon emissions that in turn lead to either drought or flooding, making it harder to adapt. To synergize, multifunctional landscape level actions are needed.

In Eastern Uganda, innovation platforms that comprise ‘multi-stakeholder arrangements, innovation networks, coalitions or public-private partnerships’ have been adopted as institutional frameworks to foster community cohesion and collective action; yielding positive effects of increased livestock, tree cover and raised income levels.

In Mexico, a pilot study is testing the use of agroforestry as a conservation measure in protected areas, which would require reforms in political administration and land tenure for the most part.

To provide governance structures that are manageable, one presentation showed innovative territorial governance known as The Model Forest Landscape Approach as it is being carried out in 5 countries across six regions.  Benefits of this particular innovation at a landscape level have provided resilient social infrastructure, effective experimentation, demonstration and practical knowledge sharing tools. It has also promoted regional dialogue as well as public – private partnerships and growth of local business.

Ensuing discussions at the session made it clear that the feasibility of landscape approaches largely hinge on favorable policy frameworks driven by political will and active involvement of all stakeholders; including specific targeting of the private sector, a move that has potential to inject new innovation and funding.

By Elizabeth Kahurani

Communications Manager, Environmental Services & ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins

Related links:

Landscape approach allows business to share risks and benefit

Environmental services as binding pillars to synergize climate change mitigation and adaptation in rural landscapes


In Social Media Wonderland

social media induction course

social media induction course

Social Media training at the World Congress on Agroforestry

Someone once told me, we can do all the science we want, we can do all the agricultural research for development we want, unless if our findings get “out there”, the research is a useless spending of public funding.

And “getting it out there” is not just publishing in scientific journals, but “getting it out there” through open access, giving each and everyone access not only to our research findings, but also to the insights of our research process, inviting discussions already during the research process itself.

In that philosophy, social media plays an increasingly important role, as we have proven in our CGIAR research in the past years.

And this goes also for conferences like the World Congress on Agroforestry: For us, the communications team, conferences are not a goal, they are a means. A means to advocate for our causes, a means to include of remote participants into the onsite discussions and presentations, and also a means to build capacity amongst participants, our partner organisations, and youth in the use of online media and social media, for science communications.

Core to the social media outreach at #WCA2014 was a group of 135 social reporters from all over the world. Around 110 social reporters supported us remotely, and 25 of them were onsite.

Fifteen social reporters followed a two-day social media induction course just prior to the Congress. Many of them came from the “traditional media”: the print media, radio or TV, and had little exposure to online media, leave alone, social media.

One of them is Beena Kharel who just started her new job as a Communication and Research Uptake ‘Specialist’ for The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in Nepal

Coming from a traditional media and journalism background, Beena wrote the following blogpost about her first “adventures in social media wonderland”, the challenge faced in using a plethora of social media tools, and the challenges to “communicate about science without being a scientist”.

My First Social Media Ramblings

New to online science communication? “Please don’t lose your heart!” This is what seasoned social reporters told me in the corridors of the World Congress on Agroforestry (WCA) in Delhi.

The can-do camaraderie generated amongst online communicators saved the heart of CGIAR online newbies, like myself, who were ready to learn and contribute to live reporting (or social reporting) from the Congress.

It was heartening to see how a small group of dazed professional communicators, assembled as online newbies, transformed themselves into spontaneous online communicators in a couple of days.

Peter Casier, the WCA2014 social media coordinator, guided us through the process: “I know several of you struggle real hard to find a sense, a flow, and a schwung in your blog post. But your blood, sweat, and tears is worth it!”, he exclaimed the first day. And as Peter loves people who love social media, he guarded over us like a hen guards its chicks.

Transforming into an online communicator

Peer learning and interaction with communities of practice boosted the secret drive of the social reporters at the WCA2014. The group of trainees, based in Asia and Africa, wanted to assimilate into the world of social media for a professional cause. They knew adoption of a fast-emerging medium will also fetch them more dollops to butter their daily breads.

These communicators and online writers, of course, were the quintessential lot with adequate skills they have honed over the years, with a fair share of stumbles and successes. Above all, they had the love for reaching out to tell more stories in the interest of humanity.

Some of them, overdosed by traditional communications, were trying to rehabilitate into professional bloggers and hashtaggers.

Casier, an online communication expert, offered buckets of wisdom in a two-day social media boot camp set-up as a precursor to the Congress. It was in the boot camp I had met half a dozen enthusiasts from the CGIAR family dedicated to communicating science.

Social media is one thing. Social reporting is a different thing altogether.

Live tweeting and blogging from an international Congress expanded into four plenaries and six breakout sessions with a range of topics—from application of science to business impacts of agroforestry…

It was nerve-wrecking.

A social media reporter from Europe quipped: “It is like picking up a sachet of an instant Nestle kaffee in a place without taste buds for the original coffee.”

Blogs and Twitter, the main official online media, chosen for social reporting for the Congress could have been somewhat new and awkward for some professional communicators. Some needed a little push to rekindle their interest in instant communication.

A few others (like me) with no science background had to muster courage and energy only to listen to the scientists who tried to explain their findings in serious languages in less than 10 minutes in a packed auditorium. Breathless!

After the painful listening was over, the question was: What to do with the learned ramblings they had uttered during the training, which we had so dutifully jotted down or captured in gadgets? Chase a panelist on tree fodder and animal nutrition after a breakout?

Thank You, done! But a young scientist from the Indian state of Mizoram must have found my question how the villagers in rugged terrains do to get their daily supply of animal fodder too simplistic to answer. He described the landscape of North-East India instead. After the third attempt, he politely said that he would improve his presentation in the future, as I clearly did not get it. My pain: How to ask the right question on a subject you hardly know anything?

Look for audience in help? A nice tip! I tried when a female audience urged the panelists to walk extra miles to advocate their findings for actions and criticized their shy and neutral approach. Content for a blogpost?

Follow a vocal audience! Even a better tip! I grabbed a Filipina scientist-turned-activist who is married to an Indian. She wanted the scientists to become advocates and more, something like God! Content for a blogpost?

Social media for Scientists

To be or not to be an advocate is an individual choice. Not all scientists have the aptitude and incentives to opt for trendy communications. Publishing in scientific journals is one thing; publishing online in blogs or on Twitter or Facebook is another game.

More scientists, especially from the social spectrum, are appearing online to storify their findings. This is helping sell science better, inform funders about the good use of their money and create the impact of researches, say senior managers of agroforestry institutes.

Dr Sandeep Sehgal, assistant professor on agroforestry based in Jammu of India, acknowledges his student who opened his eyes to social research and the importance of online communications to get the message across. He had contributed “Scary Trees” for a blog competition in the run-up to the Congress.

An increasing number of scientists, researchers, science writers and publishers with a knack for instant, crisp and convincing narration have joined social communication channels to bridge the gap between ‘serious’ scientists and ‘fluffy’ communicators. This has given a fresh spin to innumerable campaigns—seen online even on casual clicks—to generate awareness about natural resource management, its effects on daily lives and the future for humanity.

What will happen to our dear traditional forms of communications then? I believe they will continue to bring sanity to online media!


Blogpost by Beena Kharel, Communication and Research Uptake Specialist, The International Water Management Institute (IWMI),  Nepal
Preface by Peter Casier, WCA2014 Social Media Coordinator
Photo by Daniel Kapsoot (World Agroforestry Centre)


Coffee Agroforestry: A Shady Affair?

The Western Ghats. Photo by-Alosh Bennet

The Western Ghats, India. Photo by Alosh Bennet

The Western Ghats, India. Photo by Alosh Bennet

Coffee plantations are expanding fast at the cost of disrupting ecological systems. Coffee Agroforestry System (AFS) seem to have positive impact on environmental services; or do they?

Kodagu, located in the Western Ghats in India, produces 2% of the world’s coffee. The Western Ghats is one of the top ten biological hotspots in the world; over 137 species of mammals and 508 species of birds can be found here, including a sizeable population of majestic elephants.

Over the last 30 years, coffee has expanded tremendously in the region to the detriment of the forest and its dwellers. The intensification of coffee cultivation is also leading to the removal of shade trees which is directly linked not only to better growth of coffee but also to numerous ecological benefits. Water is another critical resource affected. The main rivers which provides water all over Southern India, originate from these coffee areas of the Western Ghats.

The tree composition of this coffee landscape has been affected by changes in farmers’ management practices, such as irrigation to stimulate coffee mass flowering, or introduction of exotic tree species (mainly silky oak) for timber production and pepper.

Speaking at the World Congress on Agroforestry WCA2014, Philippe Vaast, an eco-physiologist from ICRAF & CIRAD, said trees are important not only for providing shade but also for providing a microclimate for other organisms, but farmers are not adept at managing shade.

“The right amount of shade is important for coffee; too much or too little is harmful. This manipulation of shade is not done well or understood by farmers. A lot of work needs to be done in this area. ”

A project undertaken by ICRAF and partners studied for 3 years how the change in tree cover from predominantly native tree species to exotic species affected the water dynamics in coffee AFS of the Kavery watershed of Kodagu district, the most important coffee district of the region.

The research threw up a mixed bag of results: the native trees were better than exotics in terms of providing optimum shade and a better environment for coffee growth, but the exotic trees were superior in recharging aquifers.

According to Syam Viswanath, a scientist at Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education (ICFRE), two important factors have to be taken into account for coffee agroforestry system: yield and quality.

“The kind of tree a farmer finally plants on his farm is a result of many factors: growing speed, maintainability, robustness, economic value or simply its attractiveness to an elephant!”


By Nitasha Nair

Ms Nair is a Senior Communication Officer with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) – India

For more Congress blogs, please visit http://www.wca2014.org/blog/

For even more agroforestry-related blogs, please visit http://blog.worldagroforestry.org/

Congress on Twitter: #WCA2014!






Where good science and the art of innovation meet

Farmers in Talensi, Ghana, regenerate their trees. Photo by Tony Rinaudo

Farmers in Talensi, Ghana, regenerate their trees. Photo by Tony Rinaudo

Farmers in Talensi, Ghana, regenerate their trees. Photo by Tony Rinaudo

The agroforestry system known as Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is spreading rapidly and widely, but can this be explained by good science?

Science guides us on optimal species to promote, plant spacing, pruning methods, soil fertility impacts, moisture levels, annual crop yields and much more.

Science also explains important concepts relevant to FMNR, such as apical dominance (i.e. why the central stem of a plant grows more strongly than other side stems) and why such rapid growth from tree stumps is possible. But the reason why FMNR is being adopted on a very large scale is not primarily because we got the science right.

I believe FMNR is being adopted by tens of thousands of farmers in dozens of countries in Africa and Asia because it is a low cost, rapid and flexible tool which is in the hands of farmers.

FMNR enables farmers to respond quickly to their ever changing economic, environmental and social reality. They adapt this flexible tool, happily sacrificing ‘optimum output’ for the much more desirable outcome of yield/income stability.

Resource-poor, risk-averse farmers have to survive and want to thrive in a highly risky social-environmental-economic reality. Failure can literally mean disaster, even death so they opt for stability of yield/income over time rather than maximum yield in some years.

In 2013, Dr. Richard Stirzaker from the CSIRO in Australia wrote the following:

“I have followed the development of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) since its very beginning in Niger during the early 1980’s. Thirty years later, independent scientists have hailed FMNR as contributing to the greatest positive transformation of the Sahel. I agree.

FMNR is a counter-intuitive idea. Traditional agroforestry has always tried to specify the ultimate tree-crop combination and arrangement that maximises complementarily. FMNR is based on a naturally regenerating suite of tree species, each growing where they are because they have demonstrated an ability to best exploit a specific niche and overcome prevailing constraints. The farmer then thins and selects from this ‘template’ that nature has produced. Farmers derive their livelihoods from cropping around the trees, cutting browse for animals, producing construction poles and firewood. The contribution each of these options make towards food security depends on current trees density, rainfall, availability of labour and the prevailing prices for the different products, providing food and income stability in a very variable environment.

I do not think that any research program, no matter how well funded, would have come up with the idea, because it expertly combines the subtleties of location specific tree selection with farmer specific opportunities and constraints.”

This is not an attack on good science, nor does it nullify the need for science to guide the targets that FMNR should move towards. It is a call to give greater emphasis on the real needs of farmers, to include them in the scientific method and even, sometimes, to follow their lead.

More information on FMNR can be found here: Farmer_Managed_Natural_Regeneration

A brief video explanation on FMNR can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9DpptI4QGY

By Tony Rinaudo


R & D Advisor, Natural Resources

Food Security and Climate Change

World Vision Australia



We need Steve Jobs’ in agroforestry

Apples. Photo by Wolfgang Lonien

Apples. Photo by Wolfgang Lonien

Apples. Photo by Wolfgang Lonien

As Steve Jobs used to say, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Agroforestry has what people want and need, in both the developing and developed world. Trees that improve crop yields, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide nutritious fruits, fodder for animals and fuel. The challenge lies in getting agroforestry adopted on a huge scale.

Eternal optimist Dennis Garrity, UNCCD Drylands Ambassador and former Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre addressed participants at the final day of the Congress saying “people will come to you if you have the right products.”

“Yes, we’ve had our failures,” said Garrity. “But these have helped us to produce dynamite products in agroforestry.”

In France, farmers are producing wheat with walnut trees. Agroforestry is increasingly being seen in Europe as a means for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Agroforestry systems are being developed for the American corn belt.

In Niger, over 4 million hectares of croplands are now dominated by fertilizer-fodder-fuelwood trees through what is known as Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR).

It seems there is a menu of agroforestry products – fertilizer, fodder, food and fuel trees – that farmers can select from, but how can this knowledge be better transferred from scientists to the grassroots level. Garrity says we have failed to get the hard-core aggies on board. “How many agronomists are in the room today?” he asked, to which a few scattered hands were raised.

“We need to reach out to the aggies, they need to know about what we are doing and they need to be coaxed.” Garrity is working hard to achieve this through Evergreen Agriculture which he describes as a brand that connects agroforestry with hard-core ‘aggies’ to scale-up trees on farms.

“African farmers are showing how trees can be successfully integrated into cropping systems. When will we catch up and fully deploy their insights?”

But as I alluded to earlier, Garrity is an optimist. He believes we are beginning to see a trend which will be at the heart of a truly sustainable planet: the ‘perennialization’ of agriculture.

“If we do our jobs well, we will see that perennialization is the key to meeting the new Sustainable Development Goals.”

Agroforestry science and development can make a crucial contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals which will soon replace the Millenium Development Goals. But this contribution can only be made through a massive effort in up-scaling agroforestry across the world.

According to Garrity, we need global maps of agroforestry, a global agroforestry assessment and a global plan for up-scaling agroforestry. Additional staff will be needed to link science with development and we must not forget the holy grail: genetic information on tree species.

An “upcoming global revolution in agroforestry up-scaling” is before us, says Garrity. We have to demonstrate that agroforestry really does have the products that millions of farmers across the world want and need.

“Be ambitious,” said Garrity told Congress participants. “We need more Steve Jobs’s in agroforestry.”

Photo by Wolfgang Lonien


Your lovely furniture is made of paperwork

Men carve a pattern from a paper template. Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by Murdani Usman/CIFOR via Flickr

Men carve a pattern from a paper template. Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by Murdani Usman/CIFOR via Flickr

Men carve a pattern from a paper template. Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by Murdani Usman/CIFOR via Flickr

People in Europe buy furniture made from Indonesian timber. They want to know that the wood is harvested legally. New EU import rules will start soon. For farmers in Indonesia, it looks like more and more paperwork with no guarantee of new markets and better income.

The European Union has agreements called Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) between itself and countries that grow tropical timber. New FLEGT rules from January 2014 will have an effect on regulations in Indonesia that govern how the 5 million or so smallholding timber growers on Java in Indonesia operate.

These smallholders produce most of the timber for the USD 1 billion worth of annual furniture exports. Their operations are already regulated to greater or lesser degrees along the entire length of the value chain, from choice of land and seedlings through harvest, sale, transport and manufacture to export. There are a number of organizations that support, or purport to support, smallholders navigate the maze of regulations and charges, adding further layers.

The set of rules through which FLEGT is implemented in Indonesia is called Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu (SVLK/Timber Legality Verification System). SVLK requires third-party auditing and licensing of timber legality for all timber products and the relationships between timber producers, craftsmen and the manufacturing industry.

As well, the Ministry of Forestry regulates ‘distribution notes’, which provide species-based verification, typically for timber from food-producing trees like rambutan and mango. There are also ‘self-usage distribution notes’ for timber from State land, which are based on the territory or respective administrative area. And then there is the one that smallholders are most familiar with: the Surat Keterangan Asal Usul Kayu or SKAU; this is both species- and territory-based verification for timber not produced on State land.

“The implicit challenge is to tailor licensing and regulation differently for different modes of production within a system that is already facing financial difficulties, especially at the smallholder level,” said James Erbaugh of the University of Michigan, who presented findings from his team’s research at the World Congress on Agroforestry in New Delhi, India, on 12 February 2014.

As it is, the SKAU requires a smallholder to report to the closest village head or forestry official who has been certified for SKAU approval. This official then conducts a physical examination of the timber to be transported. Then, the smallholder must complete a Location Verification form, which requires proof of land ownership. The verification receives a serial number upon publication and six copies of it must be delivered to specific officials and offices.

The research team observed that there was a mixed level of enforcement for this verification. Timber that was destined to go across the district boundaries often included the document, while timber that stayed within the district was less often accompanied by the document. They were unable to determine the extent to which the document was completed and enforced.

“It would probably be more effective to tackle the legitimacy of SKAU certification rather than relying exclusively on trying to verify that farmers and the wider industry were complying with it,” said Erbaugh. “The need for the whole SVLK system is not because of an absence of the verification of legality but because of the lack of legitimacy. Addressing this might circumvent certain problems that SVLK is bound to face.”

How the lack of legitimacy might be addressed the researchers didn’t say. Presumably through the provision of evidence to the EU by the Indonesian Government. Perhaps most importantly, the researchers did not look at whether new SVLK licenses have actually increased market access to new EU markets for local growers or not. If the system isn’t working now, will it work in the future? Probably only with serious reform at all levels.

By Robert Finlayson

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Agroforestry players in search of a unifying association

Agroforestry working group

Agroforestry working group

Agroforestry working group

A team of nine individuals from different agroforestry-related organizations worldwide will spearhead the formation of an organization that will facilitate cooperation and knowledge-sharing in this area.

The organization, the brainchild of the World Agroforestry Centre and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, is expected to establish and manage an international secretariat which will coordinate activities in support of its members.

Interested founding members have been given up to three months from the close of the World Congress on Agroforestry to express their interest, through an email provided as a.temu@cgiar.com.

Other draft objectives of the organization include convening forums at different scales (global and regional) that promote agroforestry research and practice, actively engaging in international policy forums and debates that relate to agroforestry land use and providing platforms for its members to collaborate for mutual benefits.

The organization will also strive to promote publication and sharing of agroforestry research results and successful adoption and implementation.

“This organization aims to bring together national and regional agroforestry associations, research organisations, farmer groups, NGOs, corporations, universities and any individual with the common interest of transforming livelihoods and landscapes through agroforestry for a sustainable future,” said August Temu, one of the volunteers to the working group committee.

The Drafting Committee of nine distinguished individuals will develop and refine the Union’s charter. This Committee immediately sat down for its first meeting and agreed to work to an ambitious timetable. The charter they will work on will be opened for comments on 2 April. This period will conclude on 12 May, after which the Drafting Committee will formulate a final version for adoption by the founding members on 2nd June. This date is auspicious: it marks the opening day of the European Agroforestry Congress, to be held in Cottbus, Germany.

The members of the Drafting Committee are August Temu, Roger Leaky, Patrick Worms, Shibu Jose, Gregory Ormsby Mori, Mohan Kumar, Rosa Mosquera-Losada, Gillian Kabwe and Sumit Chaturvedi.

“In order to form such an international organization, you must have a charter in place, which is a legal document. We already have a draft charter ready with us,” said Temu.

It is expected that the organization will be in place later this year.

They welcome your contributions and comments, so drop them a line!

By Isaiah Esipisu & Patrick Worms


Rural women in developing countries are not necessarily victims

Bimbika Basnett speaking at WCA2014. Photo by Rob Finlayson/ICRAF

Bimbika Basnett speaking at WCA2014. Photo by Rob Finlayson/ICRAF

Bimbika Basnett speaking at WCA2014. Photo by Rob Finlayson/ICRAF

Development agencies and researchers have long assumed that rural women are victims. Not only of climate change but also nearly everything else. New research says these assumptions are without basis.

According to Bimbika Basnett, a researcher with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the premise that women are victims of climate change rests on tenuous assumptions and weak empirical evidence. What’s more, there is a tendency amongst people researching gender and agroforestry to tabulate data that has been separated into male and female data and draw far-reaching conclusions from it.

“In a way, it’s welcome that women are being discussed in the climate-change area,” she said. “But when you look at the assumptions that the discussions are based on, they are wrong. They can lead to negative outcomes.”

The general argument is that poor and disadvantaged people are more vulnerable to climate change. Women are lumped into the category without question. However, men might be poor and vulnerable, too, and distinctions between the genders might be hard to correlate with vulnerability to climate change.

Yet in climate-change debates, the idea of women as victims is used to introduce wider issues of inequality. And because women are supposedly victims they can be mobilized to affect change. Basnett questioned where ideas like this came from and what sort of influence they had.

Recent research showed that there were two oft-repeated claims circulating in the sector: 1) Women are 70% of the poor; and 2) they are 14 times more likely than men to die in natural disasters.

There is no basis for either of these claims, says Basnett. ‘Data in developing countries is hard to get and of poor quality so how can someone reliably calculate the global percentage of poverty by gender? Second, there is no clear definition, anywhere, of what exactly is meant by “poverty”. Being poor in one country is different from being poor in another.

“Gender and poverty are usually separate issues in most countries and not exclusively the province of the rural poor. For example, in urban areas gender issues can be magnified, such as here in India, where female sex-selective abortion is more common in cities among wealthier people than in the countryside among the poor.”

Basnett also traced the source of the claim that women were 14 times more likely to die in a natural disaster. It was first aired as an anecdote in a workshop on natural hazards in 1994 and repeated without question thereafter for another decade.

Both these assumptions persisted even though they were wrong and no one had seen the original data.

“I think the uncritical acceptance of these statements, and the unquestioned “women are victims of climate change” argument, has been driven by the motivation to ensure that women and unequal power relations are included in policy discussions about climate change,” she said.

“People use this position to seek sympathy and strategic coalitions with those who privilege investing in women as a form of smart economics.”

This kind of thinking has negative effects, such as limiting the understanding of gender to stereotypes of women and men. It also weakens the credibility of gender research and encourages the implementation of policies that reproduce gender inequalities.

Basnett’s advice, not surprisingly, is that facts and figures should be investigated and not assumed. Second, there should be sound gender analyses conducted and, third, the approach used should be rights-based rather than instrumental.

Perhaps then women will be afforded the respect they deserve.

By Robert Finlayson

Related story

Gender is a many-splendoured thing

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Show me the proof, then I’ll adopt: The rubber conundrum in Indonesia

Rubber agroforestry with coconut. Photo by Andi Prahmono/ICRAF


Rubber agroforestry with coconut. Photo by Andi Prahmono/ICRAF

Rubber agroforestry with coconut. Photo by Andi Prahmono/ICRAF

Smallholder farmers in Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia are often reluctant to plant improved, high-yielding clonal rubber trees in their agroforestry systems. Dudi Iskandar from Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology, Indonesia, set out to figure out why.

According to Iskandar, in Sumatra and Kalimantan, 7 million farmers depend for their livelihoods on rubber, which is mostly grown in a traditional mixed farming system with unselected ‘jungle rubber’. With this system, the expected annual latex yield will only reach 590 kg/ha, far below rubber monocultures which can produce up to 1310 kg/ha over the same period.

This situation can be improved by applying a system called Rubber Agroforestry System (RAS), developed and introduced by the World Agroforestry Centre . Unlike the jungle rubber system, in which seedlings are unselected, RAS uses clonal rubber. With RAS farmers produce more rubber, continue to harvest other different products from the agroforestry system, while at the same time maintaining the landscape’s environment sustainability.

Despite the benefit it offers, however, the adoption of RAS is still limited.

“When it comes to clonal rubber, lots of farmers have difficulty in identifying it,” said Iskandar. “It is true that they really want to improve their systems’ productivity, which they realize can be achieved by using clonal rubber. But often they were fooled by seedling sellers, who stamp ordinary seedling as clonal rubber,” Iskandar told the congress.

“Later, when these trees don’t produce the desired yield, it makes farmers doubt clonal rubber.”

This is one factor that hinders the adoption, along with other factors such as incentives, income level, the establishment of demonstration plot and land-size.

Iskandar’s study, which looked at 223 rubber farmers in Jambi and West Kalimantan provinces, also found that  farmers with incentives and higher incomes were more likely to adopt RAS, because buying clonal seedlings needs capital.

To support adoption, the establishment of demonstration plots is considered important, because farmers need to see the proof of the benefits of RAS.

“These are smallholder farmers who don’t have the liberty of taking many risks, so before they adopt it, they need to be sure that it actually works,” Iskandar explained.

“Therefore, RAS demonstration plots is the precise way to do so because it provides a visible ‘success story’, letting farmers see the evidence for themselves,” he pointed out.

Iskandar added that RAS is considered as a good option to increase yields, specifically when the farming area is narrow.

Furthermore, Iskandar recommended that the government provides more support to smallholder farmers, such as access to information, credit, loans, as well as incentives in the form of provision of genuine clonal seedlings, fertilizers and pesticides.

“There is also the possibility to build the incentives farmers are longing for into payments for environmental services (PES),” he added.

By Enggar Paramita

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Business – smallholder relationships: true commitment or false promises?

beauty - beast

beauty - beast

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country!”, said John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address.

Would large companies have similar ideas when buying produce from smallholders? “Smallholder, don’t ask what I can do for you, but what you can do for me”?. The dynamic has to be more complex than that.

Consumer behavior, certification and green-washing

When “northern” consumers started to get conscious about the impact THEY are having by choosing their basket of goods, businesses started to get cold feet. “We have to please them, what shall we do?” Suddenly, many started embracing Certification, Organic, Fairtrade, etc. NGOs like Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified mushroomed to get a slice of the cake which was to be made from this opportunity. Businesses were happy that they could team up with someone to get a green vest. Some called this Greenwashing, others are claiming truly sustainable benefits for both the environment and humans.

“Has certification failed?” Tony Simons, director general of ICRAF, asked several high-ranking corporate officers at the World Congress on Agroforestry 2014. Answers were mixed. Some said that even with the best of intentions the inhumanly hard market would not even allow a 5 – 10% premium to be granted to smallholders. Others asked the question “Well, what do you get for your money?” and stated that “Certification is buying guilt from rich consumers”; an interesting thought. But are you capable to evaluate the promises? In most cases not. “If a smallholder can live in poverty being certified, it has failed” Dr. Howard Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer MARS Inc., said. I agree.

What I see as key to the problem are constraints in two fields: international standards and consumer attitudes, particularly with regard to education. About the former: Inconsistencies between labels are very big today. There is a need for a set of internationally recognized indicators a company has to comply with before it can call itself “green”, “sustainable”, “environmentally sound”, etc. A situation that the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and HAFL in Switzerland have addressed with an FAO mandated project called “Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems” (SAFA). Regarding consumer attitudes, let me give you an example: a beloved person of mine is fanatic about eco-friendly products. But does she know what is behind this term? It takes a huge amount of time to get behind the curtain. Time we don’t have in the “North”. Once the standard set of indicators is a necessity for businesses to get a product labelled, we can start developing equally-standard courses at schools to teach the upcoming generation what the label in the store actually means.

What about science and Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP)?

We need to ask ourselves: “What are the questions we need to ask better” when we bring the researcher into the game. Researchers funded by public money are required to create knowledge for the public good. But when it comes to Public-Private-Partnerships, are businesses not misbalancing Justitia’s scale, are scientists not losing their position as the upholders of neutrality, the ones you can rely on when in need of objective information? We must ensure that science can hold up its noble position as the objective conscience of society. Furthermore, someone must stand up to the duty of informing smallholders about possible risks and consequences that come along with promised-to-be long-term partnerships with the big guys. Who is responsible for that: researchers, governments, extension workers? Or is it at the end of the day really the corporate responsibility? And if so how can we assure that is being implemented? Brings us to the ultimate question I want to ask: “Private sector: the beauty or the beast?”

After all, win-win situations and long-term partnerships are not only a nice-to-have, but a must for sustainable development of both businesses and farmers livelihoods. I think the IAASTD report brought this message across in a quite unbiased way.

Blogpost by Christian Andres/FiBL (Frick, Switzerland) – christian.andres@fibl.org

Photo courtesy Disney


Our #WCA2014 blog competition shows the power of social media



Nikki Pilania Chaudhary, the winner of our ‘Special Prize from the Social Media Jury’,
receives her prize from Dr.Tony Simons (Director General, World Agroforestry Center)

In the run-up to the World Congress on Agroforestry (#WCA2014), we ran a blog competition. The purpose was to provide agroforestry researchers, practitioners, students and farmers a platform to showcase their projects on our blog. We also used this opportunity to encourage people to discover the power of blogging -and social media as a whole- as powerful online publishing and discussion tools. In the process, we also guided people into “the art of blogging”.

The online public could vote for each blog entry, and leave comments, stimulating online discussions on the topics our contest entrants blogged about.

In one month, we received 47 blogposts from 19 countries (India, Morocco, UK, Kenya, Indonesia, Comoros, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Moldova, Bolivia, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Canada, Nepal, Sweden, Eritrea, Vietnam and Switzerland).

These contest entries received a total of 23,991 online votes, and 2,262 comments, which was way beyond our expectation. This success showed how eager people were to publish and interact online.

The power and joy of social media

It was also encouraging to see how many competition entrants told us, this was actually the first time they wrote a blogpost, and how they enjoyed discovering the ease of publishing and the speed in which the blogposts “traveled” through the online media. Many were surprised about the amount of people who read the entries: over 35,000 people.

Here are some excerpts we received from our competition entrants:

When I circulated information about my blog to the Agricultural Research Service Scientist forum of ICAR & Agricultural extension as well as Animal Nutrition Association, they got introduced for first time to the concept of Blogging. Some wish to write now. It may go viral!
I am happy to see, it is making some impact. (…)  (Our) scientists were largely ignorant about this till today, despite good publicity made through different channels.

I am enjoying blogging!

(This) is a kind of game changer for me!! I’m inspired so much & wish many get inspired too! So, I have uploaded it on all of my networks! hope it would help many to think social media a bit more productively, like blogging!! 

– Dr Mahesh Chander, Principal Scientist & Head, Division of Extension Education, Indian Veterinary Research Institute


The blog post competition is well received by all here at ICAR/NARS and I hope this will be trendsetter…. 

 –Sridhar Gutam PhD, ARS, Patent Laws (NALSAR), IP & Biotech. (WIPO) – Senior scientist (Plant Physiology) Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture


It was quite fun participating in this competition. Though I have lost all hopes of winning since I can check the number of votes other participants have got, (…) it was fun indeed, but I learnt so many new things in the process.

– Dr Sandeep Sehgal – Assistant Professor, Agroforestry, Sher-e-Kashmir University of agricultural Sciences and Technology


And the winners are:

While each and every single blog post described an interesting project. There was quite a variety in writing and presentation styles. The posts all plugged into different areas of public interest.

Needless to say that for us, each and every blog post is a winner. After all, the joy is in competing, and going through the process of writing to blogpost.

However, the online public decided in its 23,991 votes. And here are the #WCA2014 blog contest winners are:

1st place:
Entry #21: 5,104 votes
Let’s endorse Fodder Banks for reducing pressure from forests and women drudgery
by Dr.Shalini Dhyani, Scientist, CSIR-NEERI (A scientist from Nagpur, Maharashtra, India)

2nd place:
Entry #7: 5,089 votes
Forestry and Farming a way through: Aloe Vera the green gold amongst us
by Angesom Ghebremeskel Teklu (A social entrepreneur from Asmara, Eritrea)

3rd place:
Entry #30: 3,852 votes
Can we enhance the productivity of our forests through agroforestry?
by Dr. Chandra Shekhar Sanwal, Indian Forest Service, DCF Uttarakhand cadre (A scientist from Dehradun, India)

4th place:
Entry #16: 2,280 votes
Shift of a Paradigm: A Micro Initiative Towards Agro-Forestry
by Manish Kumar (A student from Navinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India)

5th place:
Entry #14: 1,331 votes
Women, livestock and fodder trees in Central Himalayas
by Dr Mahesh Chander, Principal Scientist & Head, Division of Extension Education, Indian Veterinary Research Institute (A scientist from Izatnagar, India)


The prize of appreciation by the social media jury:

A special honorable mention, and the prize of appreciation by the social media jury was awarded to:

Entry #3: 1,229 votes (with an average score of 5/5):
Agroforestry: Attracting youth to farming and transforming Rural India
by Nikki Pilania Chaudhary – Chaudhary Farms (A farmer from Pilibhit,India)

In their nomination, the social media jury wrote the following justification for Nikki’s  for prize of appreciation:
Nikki is a young female farmer. This was her first blogpost, and she writes passionately about a crucial topic, urging educated youth to pick up farming in rural areas. Nikki also attended the social media training and is part of our social reporters’ team.

Excerpt from Nikki’s blogpost:

“Farming needs intelligence, good know-how, and lot of professionalism to carry out complex agricultural operations. We need to change our attitude and perception towards farming and I request youth to come up with a green thumb and not to underestimate farming. Agriculture has the potential to provide them with not only a very good income but also the chance to transform rural India.”

The prizes:

These six authors will receive a certificate and a signed copy of “The Trees for Life,” a new book to launched at the Congress.
Dr.Shalini Dhyani wins the first prize: a shiny new Apple iPad tablet.

Congratulations everyone!

A special thanks goes to all of you:
our blog contestants. You took the opportunity and dared to experiment.
… our online voters. Your votes are the encouragement for our competition entrants to continue experimenting in social media
… all who left comments on the blog entries. You enticed a real online discussion in a critical but positive way, while showing your appreciation to the bloggers.

We hope each and every one of you continues to experiment with social media as a powerful publication and discussion tool.

Well done all!

Picture courtesy Daniel Kapsoot


The Kings and Queens of the underground

Earthworms. By Yun Huang Yong via Flikr

Earthworms. By Yun Huang Yong via Flikr

Earthworms. By Yun Huang Yong via Flikr

If the holy grail of agroforestry is to optimize crop yields and productivity while maintaining the provision of ecosystem services, it turns out it might be a good idea to humour the kings and queens who live underground—nematodes, earthworms, termites and other creepy crawlies that do their work in the soil.

I attended the WCA2014 session on ‘Biodiversity and Agroforested Habitats’ yesterday morning (12 Feb 2014). The session was chaired by Edmundo Barrios, ICRAF’s scientist on Land health, and was surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, packed full.

The amount of research covered and the level of collaboration between various universities and the World Agroforestry Centre  within the six presentations was staggering.

Much of the science was beyond me, but as a lay person whose home is in one of the biggest coffee-growing areas in Ethiopia, my interest was immediately piqued by the research presented.

For example, Hairiah Kurniatun reported on shade, litter, nematodes, earthworms, termites and companion trees in coffee agroforestry in relation to climate resilience.  The researcher from University of Brawijaya in Indonesia explained some effects of cropping patterns in coffee agroforestry systems on the abundance of parasitic nematodes. Radopholus love the cocktail of coffee and banana trees but do not particularly like gliricidia (a multipurpose leguminous tree). Unfortunately, neither do earthworms.

In particular, their research showed that a mix of Coffee plus gliricidia plus avocado created lower instances of the parasitic abundance, but add mahogany and the nematode numbers almost doubled. Beautifully useful information from research.

The presentation by Mattias Jonsson, titled ‘The effects of shade, altitude and landscape composition on coffee pests in East Africa,” had one of my favourite slides, on how to decide whether shade trees are useful for control of white stemborer, coffee berry borer and lacebugs in coffee.

What was more surprising is the research by Vivian Valencia and colleagues that shows that cash crops like coffee are better for the environment, and more robust to climate variability than food crops. You see, coffee agroforestry systems are intermediate between forest and monoculture coffee in many aspects of above- and below-ground biodiversity and related functions.

For the farmer, however, the balance of positive and negative aspects of diversity needs to be understood in relation to processes such as nutrient and water uptake, slope and topsoil integrity, and harvestable yield.

Coffee agroforestry is considered a promising alternative to conventional agriculture that may conserve biodiversity while supporting local livelihoods. Another study that finds that coffee agroforestry might in fact be better for biodiversity than crop monocultures and pasturelands. Whenever appropriate, strategies and policies should trigger the conversion of coffee monocultures and pastureland into coffee agroforests, thereby sparing forests and reforesting tree-less agricultural land.

I’m sure for countries whose incomes include large amounts from these cash crops, this is very good news indeed, but what does it mean for food crops?

Edmundo Barrios in his talk argued that recommendations of what types of tree densities, arrangements and species maintain essential ecosystem functions provided by soil biota in agricultural landscape is essential. Furthermore, identifying, quantifying and mapping host spots of biological activity and ecosystem services should aim to develop local soil health monitoring systems to evaluate ecosystem service provision performance. This, said Barrios, would allow rural communities, environmental/agricultural institutions, and local governments to prepare for negotiations related to payment for ecosystem services.

I couldn’t help but wonder, in a world where money talks, whether researchers can quantify this information in dollar terms, especially for cash crops like coffee, rubber and cocoa.

Because when Wall Street’s interest is piqued, then perhaps the kings and queens of the soil will survive, and ultimately, ourselves.

By Akefetey Mamo

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


It’s not about best practice, but best fit!

Philip Dobie delivering a truly inspirational and philosophical talk about the way forward for agricultural science to create impact. Photo by Sinead Mowlds

Philip Dobie delivering a truly inspirational and philosophical talk about the way forward for agricultural science to create impact. Photo by Sinead Mowlds

Philip Dobie delivering a truly inspirational and philosophical talk about the way forward for agricultural science to create impact. Photo by Sinead Mowlds (co-author).

Research and Development (R+D) has been around for a long time; every serious big business has an R+D unit. Looking at the context of agricultural research, there was a slight but significant change in the wording lately: R+D became R4D—Research FOR Development. Suddenly, scientists are expected to not only develop the solutions, but also apply them to attain development. To meet this huge challenge we need nothing less than a fundamental change in paradigm: R4D has to become R-IN-D, meaning Research in Development.

From top-down to bottom-up

Extension was essentially born as a top-down approach; Scientists were expected to develop solutions and put them on the shelf. Extension workers would buy the solutions and apply them in the farmers’ context. Change has led scientists to increasingly opt for the bottom-up approach. They apply concepts like Farmers-to-Farmers Extension (FFE) and Volunteer Farmers Training (VFT) among others. All these terms can be categorized as types of Rural Advisory Service (RAS). Quite a promising approach if you ask me. Even more so as there is a Global Forum for Rural Advisory Service (GFRAS), which acts as an umbrella for RAS approaches around the world.

However, many scientists are still opting for the top-down approach; recently for example, the First International Conference on Global Food Security was held in the Netherlands. Before I went there, I asked myself:  isn’t food security essentially a local problem? At the conference itself I asked myself why scientists were spending huge amounts of resources to develop complicated models in order to calculate worldwide yield gaps for different crops, only to conclude with statements like “OK, well, our model works well or doesn’t work at all under these and those circumstances”? Is it because they are afraid of going out to that bumpy real world to do something with their proper hands that truly has impact?

The fact is that food security is a local problem, and only bringing together multiple local solutions can solve the problem of “global” food security. Maybe they will call it “First International Conference on Local Food Security” next time.

From R4D to R-IN-D

So here I was at session 6.3 of the World Congress on Agroforestry 2014 entitled “The science of scaling up and the trajectory beyond subsistence”. Quite an ambitious title, but it hits the spot! After Ann Degrande and Evelyne Kiptot had set the scene with inspiring case-studies, the chair himself took over. Steve Franzel delivered a remarkable talk to raise the quality level of the session even more.

The title of this blog was taken from the chair’s speech; let me repeat: “It’s not about best practice, but best fit”, indicating that best practices are always site-specific.

It is only when you have the general picture (through meta-analyses and the like) that you can break it down to the local level again taking into account the very circumstances you are dealing with (in various dimensions). Today, many case studies are available. The trick is to stir the pot and cook a new recipe from it that brings us forward.

But that was just the beginning. One of the most inspiring, pleasing, mind-soothing yet challenging and highly philosophical speeches I have ever heard at a conference was the one given by Philip Dobie. He drew a mind-blowing picture of Research IN Development, which would enable us to make science a more rapid learning process by shortening feedback loops as inherent part of innovation cycles. In order to get there, we need to take two main steps:

Firstly, mindsets of scientists and donors have to change in the same way as the wording (from R+D to R4D). Donors funding R4D projects expect you to “have impact” in your research. This impact does not come with a publication in a journal with a high impact factor like Science or Nature. After all, paper remains paper. No, the true impact is in many cases still missing. Farming systems research is taking a first step into the right direction, making methodologies more multi-dimensional thus holistic. Systems are complex and therefore unpredictable. If agricultural systems are so, the development we want them to undergo is at least as complex!

Secondly, we need to design research projects to be much more of a learning process in order to shorten these feedback loops! We have to design our projects to be more complex, integrating social and bio-physical science under the same roof in new forms of institutions. For that, Philip Dobie says, we have to take the courage to say “No” to our donors sometimes. That is, if they have not yet understood the direction research needs to go to truly have impact.

After all, impact is what donors want. It is also the desire of farmers, and hopefully the preference of researchers working in R4D.

By Christian Andres

Researcher in Tropical Production Systems

FiBL (Frick, Switzerland)



Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!



HIV-AIDS, forests and agroforestry

A child receives treatment at a clinic in Malawi. Photo courtesy of Doctor without Borders

A child receives treatment at a clinic in Malawi. Photo courtesy of Doctor without Borders

A child receives treatment at a clinic in Malawi. Photo courtesy of Doctor without Borders

In rural Malawi, when people get infected with HIV, they increasingly rely on forest resources for medicines and fruits. How can agroforestry take the pressure off forests?

“Agroforestry can provide HIV-AIDS-affected people with some of their most basic needs such as firewood, traditional medicines and fruits,” says Joleen Timko, a researcher from the University of British Columbia.

In Malawi, which has a predominantly rural population that depends on forests for food and fuel, an estimated 10.8 per cent of the adult population is living with HIV/AIDS.

Forest resources in the country are already depleted. “If these resources are further depleted, those affected by HIV-AIDS could suffer immensely from decreased stamina, increased vulnerability to further infections and other diseases, and greater food insecurity,” says Timko.

Timko has been researching how the disease has impacted on forest resources in Malawi.

“In different phases of the disease, affected people’s dependence on forest resources changes,” she explains. “For example, when people are sick (known as the morbidity phase) they rely heavily on medicinal plants to treat side effects of HIV-AIDS such as shingles and diarrhea.”

“Medicinal plants are so depleted now in the forests of Malawi, that people are collecting these from the forests of nearby Zambia and Mozambique.”

During this morbidity phase, people also increase their use of wild fruits and honey to improve their health and detoxify the effects of AIDS-related drug treatments. Fruits may also be in higher demand at this time because people at this stage lack the energy to collect firewood that is required to cook other foods.

HIV/AIDS sufferers also rely more on bushmeat for alternative income when they are sick.

Following AIDS-related deaths, households increase their use of timber to build coffins, for funerals and ceremonies. Forest lands are also being converted to cemeteries.

Timko asked local people in Malawi about how agroforestry could help to alleviate some of the burden HIV/AIDS places on them.

Among the interventions they mentioned were domesticating medicinal and fruit trees, planting fast-growing trees for firewood and creating community herbaria for traditional medicines. They would also like to see training provided on sustainable harvesting of medicinal plants as well as on honey production for food, medicine and income generation.

Agroforestry could go a long way towards protecting the forest resources of Malawi and providing important resources that HIV-AIDS-affected communities desperately need.

By Kate Langford


Understanding the Links Between Trees, Forests and Nutrition



Globally, about 842 million people are undernourished – about 12% of the population – and more than 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency, or “hidden hunger,” according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This is a great improvement from 20 years ago, when 19% of people in the world were going hungry. Yet as poverty declines, demand for food rises. With the global population expected to grow from 7 billion today to nearly 10 billion by 2050, demand for cropland will be ever-higher, intensifying the pressure to clear forests for agricultural expansion.

The irony is that – although further research is needed – several studies have suggested that forests play a key role in nutrition and food security. For example, a study of 21 African countries, using data from health surveys of 93,000 children aged 1-5, found that children living close to forested areas tended to have more nutritious diets and consumed more fruits and vegetables. At the World Congress on Agroforestry, which I am attending this week in New Delhi, a full session was devoted to exploring the links between tree cover and nutrition. (…)

Read the full post by Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI)

Blogpost by Matilda Palm, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Energy and Environment, Chalmers University of Technology, and a member of the Forest, Climate & Livelihood Research Network (Focali). She is participating in the World Congress on Agroforestry as part of a collaboration between Focali and the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) around the theme.


Science Matters

ICRAF Seed bank

ICRAF Seed bank

Once every five years we celebrate the role of tree-based systems in human prosperity with an international congress. The World Congress on Agroforestry 2014 in Delhi, India, kicked off the second day of thematic sessions today with a programme on “Science Advances in Agroforestry”.

Although the Congress is multi-stakeholder by design, after the Policy prelude, the science segment sits in the middle between the business day and the development day as a better bridge for impact.

There are six million scientists in the world but less than 0.1% of them would likely described themselves as an agroforestry scientist. Although since Albert Einstein said “Science is a refinement of everyday thinking” perhaps everyone is a scientist in one form or another.

But all scientists (sensu stricto) and indeed all 7.2 billion humans alive today rely in one way or another on tree products and services – and therefore in a way rely on agroforestry scientists. Yes, give yourself a clap.

Also give a generous clap to the two keynote speakers that triggered our high quality science day:

Tatiana Sa from EMBRAPA in Brasil first led the captivated audience through a contextual history of agroforestry science finishing with why it is highly relevant today in the soon to be post-2015 era.

This was followed by Kate Schreckenberg’s (University of Southampton) expose of 21st Century Challenges and how social and biophysical agroforestry science can help unravel the conundrum of the planetary and societal boundaries. Kate also reminded us that we learn as much from our research failings as we do from our successes, and therefore we need to embrace them and publicish them more avidly.

The word “Science” is derived from a similar Latin word which means “to know” or “knowledge”. Overall three types of science were presented today in plenary and in 12 exciting parallel sessions accompanied by 350 posters;

Type 1 Science is where we have enough knowledge and we just need to extend it.
Type 2 Science is where we still have significant knowledge gaps that need filling. And…
Type 3 Science is where by testing different ways of extending knowledge we develop a co-learning framework on second generation research problems and impact delivery.

Perhaps the biggest delusional trap we all have to watch out for is believing that innovation and quality evidence is confined to Type 2 Science, especially of the purely academic variety.

We also have to avoid the outdated belief that it is local research and then repeated actions that lead to adoption and impact at scale when rather it will be research at scale that leads to local solutions and impact.

Type 1 Science does not have all the answers either in the belief that efforts to achieve greater impact will come from previous and currently successful innovations and interventions by just scaling them up. More likely the underlying reason for unrealised development impact is due to failed assumptions.

More specifically, it is a failure to list, test and/or adapt the assumptions upon which the design and implementation of development programmes were based. Through simple, linear and mechanistic planning the interactions between political, social, economic, biophysical and ecological systems have been ignored. These systems are not only complex but also dynamic, diverse and unpredictable. It is enigmatic therefore that we attempt to use simple and single knowledge solutions to solve complicated and complex problems.

Lastly, the issue of “communications of science” came up repeatedly in the sessions. Here we must all remember that knowledge does not diminish just because it is shared, and we need to be careful that the science of agroforestry does not become a foreign sort of secrecy.

Blogpost by Tony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry Centre
Picture: Scientist in the World Agroforestry Centre seed bank


Using radar and computer games to explore trees and farmers’ choices

Coffee agroforestry system in Sierra de las Minas, Guatemala. Trees shade can be measured with MAESTRA, a light-interception model. Photo via Jonathan Cornelius/ICRAF

Coffee agroforestry system in Sierra de las Minas, Guatemala. Trees shade can be measured with MAESTRA, a light-interception model. Photo via Jonathan Cornelius/ICRAF

Coffee agroforestry system in Sierra de las Minas, Guatemala. Trees shade can be measured with MAESTRA, a light-interception model. Photo via Jonathan Cornelius/ICRAF

Kira Borden held the audience spellbound at the World Congress on Agroforestry 2014 as she described how radar can be used to map the roots of trees. Showing a slide of a team with picks and shovels bent double next to a tree, the University of Toronto PhD student said that using “ground penetrating radar (GPR) is easier  than digging to find its roots”, up to now the conventional method.

“We can now conduct non-intrusive below-ground studies. Roots contain more water than dry soil and reflect back the radar beams, which create two dimension vertical profiles.” Knowledge of roots is particularly important in determining below-ground carbon; roots contain 20-40% of total tree biomass.

Borden was speaking on 12 February in the ‘New tools and paradigms’ session of the third ever global gathering on agroforestry. Chaired by ICRAF’s Tor Vagen, himself the developer of a method to map soil carbon and link it with remote sensing (see ICRAF Geoportal), the session profiled six innovations.

Fabien Charbonnier spoke about how to measure shade, a key issue in agroforestry systems as they strive to find optimal spatial arrangements and densities of trees. Reporting on MAESTRA, a three dimensional light interception model, he said that light “could now be assessed as a continuous variable.”  Applying MAESTRA to coffee fields in Central America, he found that the effect of shade trees, Erythrina  poeppigiana, was larger than the crown projection.

Staying in Central America, Bruno Rapidel reported on what happened when CAF2007, a numerical model for shade coffee systems, was combined with a participatory approach which involved farmers in designing agroforestry systems with multiple requirements and the interactions of several tree species.

“We interviewed 600 smallholder farmers producing premium coffee on small plots in an area of high erosion due to sleep slopes,” said Charbonnier. “The erosion is a threat to a new hydroelectric dam. So we wanted to know how many trees farmers needed to maximize production of coffee and payments for ecosystem services – received for reducing erosion. Involving farmers in the CAF2007 model helped us to explore a system that the farmers would accept and put in place.”

In a similar vein, Claude Garcia from ETH Zurich, spoke about using on-line role playing to understand farmers’ choices in the mountains of the Western Ghats in India.  “Wicked problems are those with multiple stakeholders and many uncertainties.  The answer is often processes rather than solutions.”

A wicked problem in the Western Ghats is the trend for farmers to remove of native trees and replace them with full sun coffee, a change which damages the ecosystem services, mainly water, delivered by the tree clad hills. Garcia’s on-line game, played by the farmers, gave them information on the coffee yields and the livelihood and biodiversity levels that resulted from their decisions. “We were able to generate a library of strategies and to create a decision tree.”

Finally, describing a non-technical approach, Clement Chenost of Moringa Fund spoke of agroforestry as an innovation in itself, which is still new to the private sector. Moringa Fund,  the world’s first investment vehicle  dedicated to agroforestry, currently has eight investors which have put in a total of EUR50 million. Chenost said agroforestry is highly profitable in the long run – producing timber, biomass, cash crops, carbon money and more, and that social risk could be lowered by well-designed out grower schemes. However, it was a mark of how complex investors find agroforestry that it took three years for Moringa to raise this sum.

“Industry is specialized, segmented, dominated by monoculture and in need of consciousness changing,” said the investment fund manager. “And agroforestry is complex with several species and markets and hundreds of thousands of smallholders. We need to communicate that this complexity can be managed.”  Moringa Fund is advised by research organizations ICRAF, CIRAD and IRD.

By Cathy Watson

Head of Programme Development

World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!




Agroforestry saves on farm inputs and softens wind speeds

100 year-old Caragana hedge; trees break the speed of fast-moving air. Photo by Doug Viste via Flikr.

100 year-old Caragana hedge; trees break the speed of fast-moving air. Photo by Doug Viste via Flikr.

100 year-old Caragana hedge; trees break the speed of fast-moving air. Photo by Doug Viste via Flikr.

In temperate regions, agricultural practices integrating leguminous trees and food or forage crops can sharply reduce overdependence on chemical fertilizers, and improve yields. Tree boundaries also shield pastures against fast-moving winds.

Discussing his findings at the ongoing World Congress on Agroforestry, Anthony Kimaro, a researcher with the World Agroforestry Centre, shared evidence where sufficient nitrogen was transferred from a Caragana tree (Siberian peashrub) shelterbelt in Canada to forage crops, thus replacing the use of fertilizers.

“It is important to note that the overuse of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to meet the requirements of food and forage crops species contributes to environmental problems such as nitrate leaching to groundwater and enhanced greenhouse effects through N2O emissions,” Kimaro told a session at the Congress.

During the study, Kimaro with co-researchers planted fodder crops near a caragana shelterbelt to determine the amount of nitrogen transferred from the trees to crops.

The scientists later found out that plants close to the shelterbelt row received significantly higher percentage of nitrogen compared to those further away. “The nitrogen received was within the optimum application rates for these crops, meaning there was no longer any need to apply nitrogen based fertilizers,” he said.

According to Shibu Jose of University of Missouri Columbia, this is one of the sustainable solutions agroforestry can offer to existing global challenges.

According to Jose, other challenges that can be solved by agroforestry include food security, energy, water scarcity, greenhouse gases, loss of biodiversity, diseases and invasiveness.

“Agroforestry is the way to ‘bullet proof’ farms in the face of climate change,” he said.

A different study done in Chile by Alvaro Sotomayor, from Sede Biobío, Instituto Forestal, Concepcion, Chile, found that apart from fixing nitrogen into other crops, the trees reduced the velocity of wind, which is a disturbing factor in the Aysen temperate region of the country.

“The results obtained show that the trees managed under silvopastoral systems modified some ambient climatic parameters. The main parameter that was modified by the trees was average wind speed,” he told the session on Temperate Agroforestry at the Congress.

Sotomayor’s study evaluated the effect of Pinus contorta plantation, managed under two designed silvopastoral systems, in altering climatic parameters such as wind speed, wind chill, relative humidity, ambient temperature and precipitation that reached the ground, and its effect on livestock and prairie production.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Saving Chile’s precious grazing landscape, the Espinal

Chile’s Espinal landscape. Photo by Alejandro Lucero

Chile’s Espinal landscape. Photo by Alejandro Lucero

Chile’s Espinal landscape. Photo by Alejandro Lucero

Drylands are home to almost one in three people in the world and support half of the world’s livestock. But when we think of drylands, Chile is not a country that immediately comes to mind.

However in the ‘Mediterranean’ semi-arid region of Central Chile lies the Espinal. This savannah-like landscape covers 3.8 million hectares and is of great importance to small and medium scale farmers who graze their livestock under a canopy of native ‘espino’ or Acacia caven trees.

As Alejandro Lucero explained during his presentation at the Congress, the Espinal is a dryland agroforestry system under threat. “Overuse for grazing and timber extraction has left much of the Espinal highly degraded,” he explained.

Lucero believes conserving and rehabilitating this silvopastoral system could lead to social and environmental sustainability for farmers in Central Chile.

 “The Espinal is one of the most important resources in semi-arid Chile,” said Lucero. It not only provides fodder for livestock but firewood and charcoal, fruits and seeds that produce flour, cosmetics and medicines.

The Acacia caven trees in this agroforestry system protect livestock from extremes of heat and cold. The trees also benefit the soil; contributing to nutrient cycling, adding organic matter and increasing the availability of moisture.

While the system is protected under the Native Forest Law, forest management plans currently fail to optimize its development and maintenance as a sustainable agroforestry system.

Lucero hopes that renewed interest and investment in the Espinal will lead to a global analysis of optimal pasture production, livestock and tree product harvesting that can sustain the system over the long-term.

By Kate Langford

Download Alejandro Lucero’s abstract

Related articles

Root-Bernstein, M and Jaksic F (2013) The Chilean Espinal: Restoration for a Sustainable Silvopastoral System. Restoration Ecology 21 (4): 409-414

Rewilding Chile’s savanna with guanacos could increase biodiversity and livestock

By Kate Langford


A looming chocolate scarcity? The cocoa story

A looming chocolate scarcity? The cocoa story

Badly-infected cocoa pods in Sulawesi. Photo by Enggar Paramita/ICRAF

Badly-infected cocoa pods in Sulawesi. Photo by Enggar Paramita/ICRAF

Chocolate aficionados may have cause to worry, as some farmers in Sulawesi, the largest cocoa bean-producing island in Indonesia, are thinking of abandoning cocoa farming to grow other commodities.

Indonesia is the third-largest producer of cocoa in the world, behind Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Sulawesi, the K-shaped island located in the eastern part of the country, is responsible for 67% of Indonesia’s cocoa production. Around 2.2 million smallholder farmers in Sulawesi grow cocoa on 1.5 million hectares, supplying most of the national production.

In recent years, farmers in Sulawesi have faced many problematic issues, and they are losing the appetite for cocoa cultivation.

A study presented at the World Congress on Agroforestry by Janudianto from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) said the key problems in Sulawesi are high rates of pest and disease attack, limited access to high-quality germplasm, and poor farm management.

“These factors have lowered production, causing farmers to start replacing cocoa with fruit trees, pepper, rubber or oil palm,” said Janudianto.

To address the issues, the researcher conducted field observation and garden inventories in South and Southeast Sulawesi aiming to identify the types of smallholder cocoa agroforestry systems that farmers practice.

“We gathered information from the field, identifying the systems to recognize range of productivity, agro-biodiversity and economic profitability associated with smallholder systems,” Janudianto told the congress. “We need to get as much information as possible before settling on interventions,” he added.

The finding revealed 4 classifications of cocoa agroforestry systems that exist in South and Southeast Sulawesi: monocultures; cocoa integrated with shade trees; cocoa integrated with fruit and timber; and home gardens. Cocoa is the main commodity in all systems, with the exception of home gardens, where fruits and timber trees dominated.

According to Janudianto, identifying the system is only the initial step to addressing the cocoa issue in Sulawesi. Many other parties, such as the government of Indonesia, Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute and the private sectors are also working on this question.

“At the end of the day, we intend to formulate a set of simple yet applicable technologies that is able to improve each type of cocoa agroforestry system,” outlined Janudianto.

In another study presented at the Congress, Christian Andres from Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland conducted a field trial in Sara Ana, Bolivia. The objective was to compare cocoa production between high-input monoculture and low-input agroforestry. In the process, six systems of monocultures or agroforestry with conventional or organic management, and a fallow, were examined.

Preliminary results match the expectation that yields are higher in the monocultures. But the monocultures also had higher disease incidences than the agroforestry systems. In the agroforestry systems, there was a multitude of products beside cocoa that could be harvested, such as cassava, pineapple, maze and rice.

“The question on how well these products can compensate cocoa yield reduction—particularly in the first years when cocoa production lower—is yet to be answered,” said Andres.

By Enggar Paramita

Related story:

Future of Chocolate in Danger! – by Christian Andres

See more on Cocoa improvement

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Gender is a many-splendoured thing

Leading women and men farmers in India received Krishi Karman awards from Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Honourable President of India, during the WCA2014 inauguration ceremony on 10 February 2014. Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

Leading women and men farmers in India received Krishi Karman awards from Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Honourable President of India, during the WCA2014 inauguration ceremony on 10 February 2014. Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

Leading women and men farmers in India received Krishi Karman awards from Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Honourable President of India, during the WCA2014 inauguration ceremony on 10 February 2014. Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

There’s more to gender than meets the eye, according to scientists at the World Congress on Agroforestry in New Delhi, India. It’s easy to miss the forest because you’re looking at the trees.

To test this, close your eyes and imagine you’re looking at a farmer. What do you see?

A white man in a round-collared white shirt and black jacket holding an upright pitchfork? A Caucasian man driving an air-conditioned harvester through a flat-to-the-horizon field of golden wheat? An African man hoeing the earth in a savannah beneath a prickly tree? An Asian man herding ducks through a muddy paddy field?

If any of the above came to mind, you’re right.

But you also left out at least 50% of the other farmers in the world: women.

Well, of course you knew that farmers were female, too. If you did imagine women farming the land, then you were 50% right, too.

But what researchers who work in agricultural research for development are arguing is that gender is more than the state of being male or female.

‘Gender’ is also more than just sexual differentiation of roles. The idea has gone beyond sexuality to implicitly include marginalisation from choice, that is, being left out when decisions are made. And even admitting that assumptions about who is marginalized when and where can be wrong, that relations between the sexes can be complex and vary from locality to locality.

For example, researchers in Mali found that sheep herding, which was typically considered the role of women (implying a simple situation with a low skill set), was much more complex than first appeared. Men and women had different perceptions about what was involved in the job and about who should do what. Women in different stages of life had different roles and authorities.

In Nepal, there was huge outward migration of men in search of higher paid jobs, mainly to the Gulf States. They left to fulfil their cultural obligation to provide for their families. Consequently, much agricultural land was abandoned and agriculture was being ‘feminized’. Women were left to till the land and grow food for subsistence or sale. They made all the decisions, and did all the work, themselves.

In Malawi, researchers found another complex situation around who made decisions to plant trees. In nearly all cases it was the ‘head of the family’. But in the north of the country that meant women and in the south it meant men. But in both north and south, a good percentage of households made decisions jointly. Those that did led to denser tree cover.

The point seems to be that the best decisions are made in consultation with everyone who has an interest in the matter being decided upon, be they men or women or some other interest group or whoever.

On that note, gender specialists might take a look at the Bugis people of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Their ancient religion recognizes five genders: 1) men who identify as men; 2) men who identify as women; 3) women who identify as women; 4) women who identify as men; and 5) the bugis, the priest, who identifies with them all.

By Robert Finlayson

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


‘Nothing new here’ says renowned researcher

PKR Nair at WCA2014. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF

PKR Nair at WCA2014. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF

PKR Nair at WCA2014. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF

PKR Nair, one of the world’s most respected scientists in the field of agroforestry or trees on farms, has charged his scientific peers with not producing the best science.

Speaking at the World Congress on Agroforestry in New Delhi, India, Nair claimed that the material he’d seen presented at the Congress of around 1000 researchers wasn’t innovative, wasn’t reporting failures, wasn’t sufficiently rigorous and was urging a rush towards wide-scale commercialization of agroforestry without sufficient evidence to support it.

“We’ve heard how agroforestry can do this, can do that. That agroforestry has so much potential, many advantages, offers many opportunities… and so on and on… But how much of what is being said is new?” he asked in his keynote address on the morning of Wednesday 12 February.

Nair,  a Distinguished Professor at the University of Florida, considered that much of what was presented at the Congress wasn’t sufficiently rigorous. ‘It’s all very well to have our opinions but they must be based on fact. How many of the 200-plus presentations at this Congress are based on opinion versus facts? How many new hypotheses have been proposed? How many papers with results that can be replicated? And how many negative results have been presented?’

The co-editor of the 2012 landmark text, Agroforestry: the future of global land use, further claimed that an intellectual crisis was assailing the research community. “Where are the breakthroughs and innovations being hailed at this Congress? All we are hearing is what we already know. And even that is basic stuff. Is this a sign that we are facing intellectual bankruptcy? Is there nothing left to learn?”

Not content with criticizing the research credentials of his peers, Nair went on to note that there was an unseemly rush to push large-scale commercialization of agroforestry despite there not being enough evidence to support it nor sufficient study done on the potential negative effects. “We shouldn’t forget that the Green Revolution became the Greed Revolution,” he said.

Ravi Prabhu, the deputy director-general of research at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), one of the co-organizers of the congress, replied that, “I respect Professor Nair’s observations and opinion. It is an important role, that of critical challenger, especially in the sciences.”

“But the fact is that no gathering will produce 100% new material. And the presentation of basic research is important for younger researchers to understand the tenets of the science. Indeed, one of the most critical functions of this event is to bring together researchers of all stages of career from all over the world to discuss the complexities of research into agroforestry systems. It is through events like this that we help build the next generation of scientists.”

Commercialization, argued Prabhu, was nothing new and hardly constituted an unholy alliance that was rushing headlong to disaster. Rather, the discussions at the congress between scientists and business leaders all revolved around how best to ensure that environmental and social goals could be met along with economic ones.

“We’re witnessing the birth of a new way of doing business with local communities thanks to our partnerships with these companies,” he said.

“Together, we are carefully exploring new ways of protecting the environment through financial incentives and helping to bring millions out of poverty. The business people we talk with acknowledge that mistakes have been made in the past. They want to avoid them in their own businesses. They agree that the way to do this is to work collaboratively with local communities rather than imposing large-scale ‘solutions’ from above.”

Prabhu has previously gone on the record saying that the World Agroforestry Centre is an organization “where focused, rigorous research provides the evidence that guides the policies of decision makers from the household through to national and global levels: the kind of decisions that help to direct investments to their most useful purposes.”

In the world of science, disagreements such as this are basic to getting to the truth. They provoke researchers to more fervently find new ways to solve humanity’s pressing problems.

By Robert Finlayson

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Motivational Crowding: Good cop or Bad cop?

Lushoto Mountain Squirrel in Mazumbai Forest, Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. The region is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world. Photo by David d'O via Flikr

Lushoto Mountain Squirrel in Mazumbai Forest, Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. The region is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world. Photo by David d'O via Flikr

Lushoto Mountain Squirrel in Mazumbai Forest, Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. The region is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world. Photo by David d’O via Flikr

To understand the term “motivational crowding” in Tanzania’s agroforestry, one needs to go all the way to Israel and into a day care center…

An experiment by Uri Gneezy and Aldo Rustichini tried to understand: How can parents be motivated to pick up their children from the day care center on time?  A financial penalty was introduced to reduce the occurrence of the late pickups. But it had the exact opposite effect: the incidence of parents coming late increased distinctly instead of decreasing!  When parents found that they could simply compensate their guilt for a few dollars, many had simply jumped at the opportunity. It turned out that non-financial motivations like the shame of public apology, guilt of being late and inconveniencing others were more effective.

Back to Tanzania and Agroforestry: An experiment in the East Usambara Mountains tried to understand, “Can people be motivated to do conservation via financial compensation and would they continue to do so even after they stop receiving benefits?”

The region is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world. It has a tropical climate where almost anything grows. This study analyses whether an incentive-based policy for promoting agroforestry and forest conservation impacts attitudes towards conservation adversely in the long term. Would payments for ecosystem services (PES) provide a direct incentive to landholders to adopt agroforestry ?

According to Brent Swallow, WCA 2014 presenter from University of Alberta, “Different people treat land differently. Some people see land as a part of life. It is part of an inheritance and as their legacy they want to leave behind a healthy landscape. On the other spectrum we have people who only see land as an economic input. The challenge of this research is to understand the tradeoff between intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors which influence behavior. And whether Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) has a negative effect on intrinsic motivation to conserve after policy gets over.”

The research threw up interesting results. It found, for instance, that neither PES nor regulation treatment undermined intrinsic motivation in the long run; in other words, persistent motivational crowding out. In fact, regulation treatments showed some evidence of the opposite: a positive effect beyond the life of the policy. It was also noticed that significantly different responses can be seen from subsets of the same population when exposed to similar choices, even if the population was relatively homogenous in terms of key socio-demographic characteristics. Hence, policy targeting at a subset level might be a more effective strategy.

In all, the research interestingly uses a sociological perspective to provide experimental evidence that overall motivational crowding may not be a large cause for concern regarding the use of PES policies for agroforestry and forest conservation.

By Nitasha Nair

Ms Nair is a Senior Communication Officer with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) – India

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Timber trees can be stimulated to produce wood fuel

Carrying firewood in Rwanda. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

Carrying firewood in Rwanda. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

Carrying firewood in Rwanda. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

Farmers can generate a future with sustainable wood fuel energy simply by stimulating timber trees to produce coppices, the World Congress on Agroforestry has been told.

Christian Dupraz of l’Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Paris, France, told the ongoing Congress in New Delhi India that stimulating coppices on timber trees by pruning them has more advantages than just producing fuelwood.

“Pollarded trees produce high quality energy, keep the environment evergreen and allow farmers to intercrop other within the woodlots because of the reduced shade,” he said in a session discussing production of biofuels using trees as a sustainable source of energy.

Pollarding is a process where upper branches of a tree are removed, promoting a dense head of foliage and branches. Some communities pollard trees so that they can produce more foliage to be used as fodder, while other do it as a way of producing fuelwood. In Kenya, miraa (khat) farmers pollard the khat trees so that they can produce more branches for more leaves.

Following experimentations done in Papua Guinea, Durpraz said the best woodlot species for coppicing among the samples were Eucalyptus grandis for the highlands and E.tereticornis for the lowlands.

During the same session, Philip Dobie of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) said the world needs to take a long step back and start looking at the potential of using wood as a source of energy.

“The developing world highly depends on biomass for cooking, producing charcoal and for warmth. The truth is that demand for wood fuel is expected to increase in all parts of the world,” said Dobie, who is also affiliated with the University College Cork in Ireland.

“There is an urgent need to rehabilitate the reputation of trees for energy, include trees in energy policies, and a need to form a global platform for tree-based energy,” he told the forum.

As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals draw closer, Dr Dobie said that there is need to begin influencing the post-2015 goals so that tree based energy is part of the agenda.

The scientists further noted that there was need to improve cooking facilities so as to save energy, as well need to exploit liquid biofuels.

According to the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), more than two billion people depend on wood energy for cooking and heating, particularly in households in developing countries.

CIFOR estimates that in parts of Africa, wood fuel is often the only domestically available and affordable source of energy. Estimates suggest that biomass energy in sub-Saharan Africa will account for about three-quarters of total residential energy by 2030.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Related story:

Unpacking the evidence on firewood and charcoal in Africa

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An agroforest will never replace a forest

Losing the Sumatran orangutan would be a loss to the world over. Photo by Kip Lee

 Losing the Sumatran orangutan would be a loss to the world over. Photo by Kip Lee

Losing the Sumatran orangutan would be a loss to the world over. Photo by Kip Lee

In discussions at the World Congress on Agroforestry about agroforestry and nature you could begin to believe that the ecosystem services provided by forests and agroforests are the same. They aren’t. Trees outside forests will never be able to replicate the ecosystem service functions provided by forests.

Forests and agroforests are very different.

Before we get started on these differences, there is one exception. Multi-strata agroforestry systems which occur across the humid tropics in countries such as Indonesia and Cameroon do emulate natural forests. However, these agroforestry systems are not profitable to the farmers who manage them, so they are rapidly disappearing. In Indonesia for example, multistrata rubber agroforests are being replaced by plantation rubber, which is three times more profitable.

Leaving aside the fact that there are differing definitions for primary, secondary, old growth, plantation and degraded forests, a forest is a complex ecosystem that forms a habitat and supports a whole range of species, including in some cases humans.

The ecosystem services provided by forests are global public goods. If you cut down forests, you lose that habitat, that ecosystem and the services it provides forever. Losing the Sumatran orangutan or tiger is a loss to the world over.

An agroforest is essentially part of an agricultural landscape. The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) defines agroforestry as ‘the inclusion of trees in farming systems and their management in rural landscapes to enhance productivity, profitability, diversity and ecosystem sustainability’. An agroforest is not an ecosystem or plant community that supports wildlife, it is a farming system.

While agroforestry can bring trees back into the landscape, it will never replicate a forest. So what then is the role of agroforestry in ecosystem services?

At the farm level, trees create a distinct microclimate that supports the growth of crops. They have the potential to improve soil fertility and soil stability, increase plant species richness and structural complexity and they provide habitats for animals.

At the landscape scale, trees have an important role in creating ‘corridors’ between forest patches that allow for animal movement and cross-breeding which keeps the tree populations healthy. They also do store large amounts of carbon and thus can offset greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields. Agroforests enhance agrobiodiversity and with this comes greater pest resistance. They also have an aesthetic value; people like to look at trees.

So, how can we bring more trees into the landscape through agroforestry to provide these important ecosystem services?

A farmer is not going to plant a tree because it will store carbon to mitigate climate change. The tree has to provide the farmer with income or some other tangible benefit, without compromising on their primary crop or livestock production.

The farmer as a producer of the food we eat is only one part of the picture. Perhaps some of the discussions occurring between scientists, leading agri-business players and policy makers during this Congress will translate to increased corporate responsibility initiatives and greater political will to make trees in agricultural landscapes a viable and reliable option for farmers.

And when those farmers do engage in agroforestry, don’t be mistaken, it will be as an agricultural activity driven by profit. They might not be creating a forest, but they will be creating healthier landscapes.

By Anja Gassner and Kate Langford.

Dr. Gassner leads the Research Methods Group at the World Agroforestry Centre

Ms Langford is a science writer

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Building the capacity of farmers using peer-mentoring programs



Farmers can expand their agroforestry business if they have access to practical science-based knowledge. It enables them to design their own homegrown agroforestry models determining when, where, how and what type of trees to plant on their farms, as opposed to making decisions based on models designed by outsiders.

The Australian Agroforestry Foundation has developed a course for farmers using an innovative model. The Master TreeGrower (MTG) program was developed over 20 years by Rowan Reid, the Foundation’s Coordinator.

The course trains farmers through shared experiences and group discussions rather than relying primarily on a teacher – student model. The objective is to ensure the development of forests is driven by the aspirations of the farmer and backed up by the best available scientific knowledge.

Reid says the program does not promote particular species, products or farm management options. It is conducted in a way that reflects the objectives and experience of the local farmer.

The program has been implemented since 1996 in Australia. More than 100 courses have been conducted involving over 2,000 farmers.

The Foundation assessed if the approach used to engage tree-growing farmers in Australia, would also applicable in the developing world. In 2013 the foundation conducted its first course in Kabale, Uganda.

“We see more similarities between farmers in Australia and Africa, than there are differences”, said Reid, ” We are now exploring Niger and Indonesia”.

“Landowners whether big or small are capable of making decisions and can balance between long and short-term objectives especially when they have to balance between different needs and competing priorities.  We need to embed our science as input into the discussions, and guide farmers to solve their own problems rather than us trying to provide them with solutions”.

Blogpost by Daniel Kapsoot, edited by Peter Casier
Picture courtesy The Australian Agroforestry Foundation



Capitalism can save the world, can’t it?

trees and money

trees and money

Some scientists and businesses think they can help us bypass a fiery doom by developing new products that do less harm to the planet and poor people. Let’s hope they’re right this time.

Scientists and businesses have thought they’d got it right before. Like in the Green Revolution of the 1960s: chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides were widely introduced along with new crop varieties, leading to increased yields that saved the world from starvation.

Problem was it also led to widespread pollution—with serious, long-term, negative effects on the health of humans and ecosystems—and the conversion of forests to intensive agricultural production, which has helped warm the planet and force everyone to rethink how we feed ourselves.

So will the new Sustainability Revolution have its own downside? Truth is, no one knows. We have to try it. And test whether the ‘new paradigm’ can deliver on its promises of improving poor people’s livelihoods while protecting the environment.

What’s being done?
Scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre are working alongside large multinational food companies to bring Allanblackia into widespread production as part of smallholders’ agroforests in Africa. In case you haven’t heard of it, Allanblackia is an oil-producing tree native to parts of said continent.

The scientists claim that the oil is superior to that produced from oil palm and that the tree is kind to African environments when grown by local farmers on their small pieces of land.

The European Union wants to buy 100,000 tonne a year for use in food, soap and the like. But export in 2012 from the three producer countries—Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria—was only 210 tonne.

That’s a large gap between demand and supply. And so enters the alliance of scientists and companies, to spread the good word about the tree and find, grow and distribute the best seeds and seedlings. They are training farmers in what to do with it: planting, maintenance, harvesting, processing, transport and marketing. In another few years, the 8 million or so trees that are needed to meet the demand will be planted and farmers’ livelihoods will be improved along with the environment.

Meanwhile, in Colombia
A commodity-trading firm has been working with local communities on the margins of one of the world’s last remaining highly biodiverse natural forests. About ten years ago, the firm was asked by a development agency if they could find a way to make money from carbon trading and so protect the forest and help the locals.

The firm found they couldn’t: carbon markets were young, unstable and had low returns. But they thought they might be able to make money from working with the communities to establish commodity crops on degraded land.

They talked for four years about it. First they talked about oil palm. But they found there were problems with the biophysical conditions. So they turned to cocoa. The demand for chocolate was increasing and supply was falling globally owing to pests and diseases and aging stock.

To get the highest return for their investment, they settled on high-quality cocoa species because buyers were willing to pay a premium, which helped to offset the cost of the necessary certification.

And so they started planting. Now they have 1200 hectares and will expand to another 1000. As well as cash, there have been other benefits, such as helping to protect mangrove forests and biodiversity, and a general improvement in community wellbeing.

The firm sees that the challenge is to transform this successful project into a successful business. To do that they need a critical mass of cocoa-producing trees, professional management and profits that will allow the venture to get access to finance and expand.

According to the firm, the whole project isn’t about ‘corporate social responsibility’ but the development of a new ‘environmental markets’ business. For them, it is the ‘way of the future’. The Colombia project is an initial experimental investment which will eventually result in a financial return.

Meanwhile, at the World Congress on Agroforestry
At the Congress, several senior corporate executives were being quizzed about their companies’ commitment to environmental certification of various products. Did they believe that such certification would help save the planet and make them, and the farmers, richer?

No, not really. Rather, certification of products as ‘environmentally friendly’ wasn’t considered terribly important or effective. What was important, they said, was collaborating with smallholding farmers in developing countries to achieve the outcomes that everyone wanted: more income and a healthy environment. They had realised that if they wanted to survive not only as businesses but as individual humans, they needed to do business in a more holistic way.

So it does seem, if schemes like these work and the model of sustainable cooperation for environmental and economic benefit becomes widespread, that capitalism might indeed be able to adapt to save not only itself but also the planet.

Blogpost by Rob Finlayson
Picture courtesy David Miller


Our #WCA2014 social media mash-up for Day 2


Every day, our social media team works hard to capture the sessions and discussions at the World Congress on agroforestry, through our social media channels.

A dozen blogposts go online through the day (and night), and a small army of reporters capture the discussions through live tweets, pictures and video. Updates are posted on Facebook and summarized every night via our Storify mash-up:

This mash-up of our social media output was made by Esther Kimani (ICRAF)


The Small-scale Farmer “is” the Private Sector

private sector session

private sector session

Once every five years we celebrate the role of tree-based systems in human prosperity with an international congress. The World Congress on Agroforestry 2014 in Delhi, India, opened the thematic sessions today with a programme on “The Business Case of Agroforestry”. Although the Congress is largely billed as a Science Event the rationale was to start with the demand side for knowledge, tools and technologies rather than the typical supply side – “this is what we know, is it helpful?”. In doing so it was essentially challenging researchers to filter out the difference between “what we need to know” and “what it would be nice to know”.

This “demand-pull” for knowledge comes from both the small-scale farmer and the large multinational, as well as the policy maker that straddles knowledge to action. Imagine the Chamber of Commerce from a middle income country arriving in a developing country which wants more Foreign Direct Investment asking the question “should we invest in tourism, the steel industry or agroforestry enterprises?”.

However, in agroforestry, forget for now the Chamber of Commerce since the biggest shareholder, the largest producer and the actual day-to-day business person making it happen is the small-scale farmer. The 500 million smallholders of the developing world are the real and the hidden private sector that need better recognition and nurturing. But how many smallholders have a business plan, have sufficient capital, keep a risk register, have access to credit, or maintain good records? We know that 90% of small businesses fail in their first year from start up. So will smallholder farmers be any different? What safety nets, what diversification strategies, what support platforms do they have?

Agroforestry systems, practices and the tree products emanating from them are well recognised as having high environmental and high social value but less well known for their financial remuneration. This misconception though was blown away for us today with the presentations and thoughts from the top-profile business panel comprising Howard Shapiro (MARS), Bernard Giraud (Livelihoods Venture & DANONE), Tristan Le Comte (PurProject), Shri Krishna Byre Gowda (Chief Minister Agriculture, Karnataka) and Ranjit Barthakur (Tata Consulting Services).

Howard Shapiro stunned the audience with a pictorial tour around the world of what works well and why in agroforestry systems of relevance to MARS Inc.. He put success down to urgency, uncommon collaborations, up-front investment and action.

Bernard Giraud described the highly successful Livelihoods Venture that has a good financial return coupled with a high social and environmental returns. In Bernard’s view efficient knowledge and technology discovery had to be combined with local ownership and cost-effective programmes, and not boutique research projects.

Tristan Le Compte was effusive for his belief in the profitability of various agroforestry enterprises, citing an average rate of return of 49% for a portfolio of agroforestry options. This was possible he indicated through the concepts of creating shared value.

The link between the social and knowledge dimensions was well captured by Ranjit Barthakur with the phrase “emotional technology”. He called for better metrics to assess success ensuring the lens of evaluation had to consider impacts on air, energy, soil, waste and water.

Amongst such a stellar panel from the private sector though it was left to the State policymaker, Shri Krishna Byre Gowda to really stun the audience. In all my life I had never heard a policymaker say “I want to be a facilitator and not a regulator” but that is how Minister Gowda made the participants gasp in amazement. Right down to grass roots level he wanted the private sector to not just be the end market but to be a driver of change with inputs, knowledge and services. Karnataka is definitely open for business.

From such a stimulating session, and the follow-up discussions, it is hard to draw out a definitive list of top ten things that need to happen – so please take the following as a work in progress:

  • The business case for agroforestry will generally only thrive in places where there is a coalition of actors working together, sharing information, risk and profits.
  • The production economics of AF need to be better estimated and articulated for both individual products as well as a basket of options.
  • It is great to work with individual farmers but they need to be catalysts or nuclei to cluster groups, associations, interest groups or cooperatives around.
  • We will ignore the gender question at our peril. Women farmers alone and as couples will provide much of the drive, innovation and sustainability of AF markets. It is not just gender balance we seek but gender synergy.
  • Supply Chain risks to not only processors but also producers need better identification and management
  • Value chain development for AF tree products needs more work as home consumption will not make farmers rich.
  • Farmers can only plant and NGOs can only promote what is available, and quality tree planting material is often a bottleneck.
  • Private sector actors need to stop competing in pre-competitive arenas and better align together as well as with sub-national and national policy-makers
  • Greater dialogue is needed between policymakers and private sector (MNCs, aggregators, traders, producers) to create and exploit an enabling business environment.
  • Need to establish efficient, effective and achievable Agroforestry Sustainability Goals and Standards – recognizing the cross-sectoral nature of the wider land management issues and flexibility required for local contextualization using a balance sheet approach for resource use efficiency, food security, raw material sourcing, land health, water, farmer institutions, equity, food waste, and nutrition.

It is hard to be a prophet in your own land but this session showed there is a profit in your own land – if you choose to use agroforestry!!

By Dr.Tony Simons (Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre)

Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF


Should we leave extension to the farmers?

Photo caption: Farmer training in Bulukumba, South Sulawesi.  Photo by Enggar Paramita/ICRAF

Photo caption: Farmer training in Bulukumba, South Sulawesi.  Photo by Enggar Paramita/ICRAF

Farmer training in Bulukumba, South Sulawesi.
Photo by Enggar Paramita/ICRAF

Farmer to farmer communication might be the most effective way to ensure widespread adoption of agroforestry.

“Often farmers don’t have access to research being disseminated by extension services, so they learn from other successful farmers,” explained Endri Martini of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) during a session at a session on ‘Bridging Science and Development’ at World Congress on Agroforestry.

When Martini and colleagues asked farmers in Sulawesi, Indonesia what was their most effective source of information on agriculture, they rated other farmers ahead of extension agents.

People from the villages they studied in South Sulawesi and Southeast Sulawesi got roughly half their information about agriculture, health and education from inside the village (such as through village leaders, farmer groups, friends and family) and half from outside the village (e.g. media, government agencies, projects and people from other villages).

Men tended to get more information from outside the village than women because men have more opportunities to visit other areas.

Farmers said they adopted the top 3 favoured agroforestry innovations (planting new species in agroforestry systems, vegetative propagation and gaining access to improved planting material) equally from farmers or farmer groups and agroforestry projects. Only 4 percent said they had adopted these through extension agents.

Recognizing the important role of farmer to farmer communication, the World Agroforestry Centre has begun running farmer field schools as part of its work in Sulawesi. They have identified lead farmers who can disseminate innovation and organized cross-visits between successful and struggling farmers.

“Farmer to farmer communication is particularly crucial in areas that extension agents rarely visit, where language is a barrier and where there is poor infrastructure,” says Martini.

Her presentation struck a chord with participants at a session that included a range of other presentations addressing why it is that science often does not have the envisaged impact on development.

Christian Borgemeister suggested there are 3 factors needed for science to trigger development: transdisciplinary research, capacity development and symmetrical partnerships.

Tatiana Deane de Abreu Sá who works on agroforestry systems in the Brazilian Amazon also emphasized the need for many disciplines to be involved, in addition to effective collaborations with farmers.

In scaling-up Evergreen Agriculture in Africa, GIZ and ICRAF rely on partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders to reduce barriers and spread the science to farmers. In Ethiopia, greasing the wheels for up-scaling the use of Faidherbia albida (a fertilizer tree) from 1 to 2 million farms will require a “multistakeholder and multidisciplinary approach,” say Joerg Lohmann and Alice Muller.

So, should the dissemination of agroforestry innovation be left to farmers?

Martini believes that improving communication between farmers, agroforestry research agencies and local governments holds the key to providing the information which is needed to extend agroforestry across Sulawesi and indeed Indonesia.

As Borgemeister pointed out, “We need more solution-oriented research.”  Listening to farmers and their needs is crucial. Innovation doesn’t always start with science.

By Kate Langford

Further reading

Abstract of Endri Martini’s presentation

Kiptot E, Franzel S (2013). Voluntarism as an investment in human, social and financial capital: evidence from a farmer-to-farmer extension program in Kenya. Agriculture and Human Values.

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Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


The missing link in agroforestry business chain

We need to combine the science of discovery and the science of delivery: Simons. Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

We need to combine the science of discovery and the science of delivery: Simons. Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

We need to combine the science of discovery and the science of delivery: Simons.
Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

Scientists, farmers, donors, policy makers and marketers of agroforestry products are working in isolated groups, making it difficult to complete the value chain, according to experts at the ongoing World Congress on Agroforestry in Delhi, India.

In one of the sessions to discuss the role of business in accelerating the impacts of agroforestry, Bernard Giraud, the president of Livelihood Ventures, a mutual fund with the global food company Danone and other investors,said that there is need for agroforestry researchers to have sound working relationship with governments, farmers and development partners.

His sentiments were echoed by Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, the minister of agriculture in Karnataka state in South West India.  “As a policy maker, it is good to admit that we have failed in bridging the gap between the researchers and farmers,” he told the forum.

He observed that researchers have already developed solutions to some of the existing problems, but many governments have ignored the researchers, thinking that they (governments) have the capacity to do everything for the farmers

“We have left it for the companies to take the poor farmers for a ride,” he lamented.

According to Giraud, one way of interesting farmers in agroforestry business is by creating a business-oriented environment. “The best way to stimulate the farmers’ interests is by creating projects that are able to reward the results, and research that is closer to the people,” he said. “We need the farmers to own the research being done on the ground,” he stated.

Giraud’s organization’s mission is to support the efforts of agricultural and rural communities to live in sustainable ecosystems which serve as the foundation of their food security and provide the resources that ensure their sustainability.

The experts pointed out that several researches have been done, but governments have implemented some of them in blanket form. “That is wrong. We must understand that as much as technologies are developed, some challenges are specific. So, solutions do not address all the challenges uniformly,” said the Indian legislator.

According to Tony Simons, the director general of the World Agroforestry Centre, agroforestry is the best way to build a sustainable future. “We need to think big and act big. We need to combine the science of discovery and the science of delivery. We need to be performance based,” he told the Congress.

The experts at the forum observed that one of the entry points is working with farmer groups instead of targeting individual farmers, in order to create an agroforestry business environment.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Related blogs:

How to improve the marketing strategy for timber and related tree products in Indonesia

For smallholders, an abundance of opportunities in climate-smart farming

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Mum’s rather mum in agroforestry

Rose Koech, at her farm in Kenya. She grows fodder trees, shrubs and grass for dairy cattle. ICRAF/Sherry Odeyo

Rose Koech, at her farm in Kenya. She grows fodder trees, shrubs and grass for dairy cattle. ICRAF/Sherry Odeyo

Rose Koech, at her farm in Kenya. She grows fodder trees, shrubs and grass for dairy cattle. ICRAF/Sherry Odeyo

Several studies have confirmed that women smallholder farmers produce most of the food eaten particularly in African and Asian Countries. But according to Tony Simons, the Director General for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), gender balance is yet to be fully realized in the field of agroforestry.

“In about 200 abstracts being presented at the ongoing World Congress on Agroforestry, only six papers mention gender, and that is a challenge to all of us,” Simons told the Congress while opening a plenary session to discuss the business of agroforestry in relation to science.

The UN Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) estimates that women produce between 60 and 80 per cent of the food in most developing countries, and are responsible for half of the world’s food production. In Asia, FAO estimates that they provide between 50 and 90 percent of labor for rice cultivation, an industry that supplies many African countries.

Simons said there is need to consider gender equity in all aspects of agroforestry ranging from policy, decision making, research, to markets.

Some of the studies presented at the World Congress on Agroforestry reveal that women are still oppressed, especially in the developing world.

One of the studies done in India by Purabi Bose of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and co-researchers shows that despite the fact that women spent most of their time working on the farms, most of the land in the study area was still owned or claimed by men.

This is worsened by the fact that after the work is done by women, men turn around to make decisions during harvesting and marketing of the farm produce.

In another study from Indonesia presented at the Congress by Ratna Akiefnawati of the World Agroforestry Centre, labor in the study area is generally based on family members, but there is a clear division of farm duties between women and men – which has been the trend since time immemorial. “Women are responsible for the rice fields, their backyard and house work while men are responsible for rubber production and marketing,” said Akiefnawati.

Scientists have pointed out that Africa, in particular, will not achieve a green revolution unless she seriously incorporates farm input use with agroforestry. Hence, women are key to implementing the scientific findings, especially on small holdings.

In another study by scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre, Evelyne Kiptot and Steven Franze found out that the lower involvement of women in agroforestry reflects their lack of resources, particularly land and labour, coupled with their already heavy workload.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Related story

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Are we doing enough to secure livestock fodder for farmers in India’s tough terrains?

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Beyond the project cycle, smallholders can sustain better farming practices

Wadi agroforestry has remained and spread in Channapur. Photo courtesy of James Brockington

Wadi agroforestry has remained and spread in Channapur. Photo courtesy of James Brockington

Wadi agroforestry has remained and spread in Channapur. Photo courtesy of James Brockington

New findings from a village in India fly in the face of the oft-held fear that project interventions on smallholder farms are doomed to whittle away after the project ends.

Presenting at a session at the World Congress on Agroforestry 2014, Bangor University researcher James Brockington said in the village of Channapur in Karnataka, the number of smallholder farmers practicing the Wadi system of agroforestry had not reduced, but grown from 31 households when the project ended in 2005, to 38 households 5 years on.

The 2010 assessment of the spread of the wadi agroforestry system, introduced between 2001 and 2005 in an action-research project funded by DFID in conjunction with BAIF, also indicates that farmers are able to adopt—and adapt—complex agroforestry practices to suit their conditions. This debunks another misconception that smallholders can only embrace simple technologies; Wadi is a complex, multi-component, multi-product agroforestry practice.

Wadi means ‘small orchard’ in Gujirati, and involves intercropping fruit trees and crops inside a boundary of multipurpose trees. The system normally has a farm pond, and is enclosed by a dry fence.

The system was co-developed with tribal communities in south Gujarat, and this might be one of the reasons Wadi has remained and spread in the area.

Another important contributor to the growth and resilience of wadi, said Brockington, was the training, free planting materials and small cash incentives for preparatory groundwork provided to willing farmers during the project. Technical support offered over the 3-year implementation period was also critical, particularly in 2003 when a drought threatened to wipe out gains made over the past year.

“Farmers in Channapur reported higher fruit and timber yields, as well as better harvests of crops, as a result of soil and water conservation practices,” said Brockington. “And crop yields rose even before the benefits from the sale of tree products came through.”

Channapur is in Dharwad District, a semi-arid zone with annual rainfall of less than 850 mm. It is categorised as a ‘less favoured’ area of India, defined by fragile natural resource base and/or limited access to markets and infrastructure.

At the beginning of the project in 2002, only the relatively wealthier households adopted the wadi system (making up 60% of the adopters), with the poorest households recording a mere 3% uptake. At the assessment in 2010, the system was being used by both richer and poorer farmers, and over 90% of the initial adopters continued to practice it.

These preliminary findings are highly encouraging, said Brockington, and point to the need for projects to conduct ex-post analyses some years after project interventions terminate. Furthermore, there is a need to measure impact in terms of farmers’ incomes and livelihoods, rather than simply uptake; this needs well-targeted and robust data at the start of projects.

Another speaker at the same session, Sudhir P. Ahlawat  of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, presented data on the use of bamboo intercropped with chickpea and sesame in semi-arid area of central India. “Bamboo sales compensate any monetary losses of intercrop, through the harvesting of culms. From the sale of bamboo culms, you can get an income of between 12,000 to 35,000 Rupees every year, without any more investment on your part,” said Ahlawat.

Bamboo has another benefit of repairing the soil. “Soil pH, organic carbon and available phosphorous all increased with bamboo.”

Ahlawat recommended that long-term intercrops with bamboo are spaced wider (over 10 x 10 meters apart), to avoid competition for nutrients with crops. Also, “planting of bamboo lines in an east-west direction will reduce the shade effect.”

In his presentation, Prasad V. Jasti said the benefit: cost ratio of certain tree-based interventions in arid and semi-arid areas can be up to 5.5.  “The agroforestry systems also provide stability during years of severe drought,” he added.

Jasti recommended a review of the restrictive regulations around the sale of farm-grown timber, which might discourage farmers from growing trees.

In his presentation, Arun Misra discussed the success of participatory pasture development with trees. By securing a year-round supply of fodder, the system has led farmers to increasingly choose to rear better-quality milking animals instead of keeping large numbers of less productive stock.

“The appropriate combination and management of trees, shrubs, crops, grasses and livestock units will make agriculture a profitable proposal in the face of climate change challenges,” stated Misra in his talk.

Murari M. Roy of the Central Arid Zone Research Institute in Jodhpur, said for dry areas, “agroforestry with livestock integration offers a great scope in combating ill effects of climate change.”

Matilda Palm of the Chalmers University of Technology, discussed the opportunities for restoring degraded and vulnerable lands with agroforestry systems, based on a comparative study from Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Like any good deal, when an agroforestry system works for farmers and they have appropriate support, it can spread far and wide, usually driven by farmer-to-farmer sharing of knowledge. In India, an estimated 500,000 farmers are currently practicing the Wadi agroforestry system.

By Daisy Ouya

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Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Are we doing enough to secure livestock fodder for farmers in India’s tough terrains?

Healthy livestock need year-round supply of good quality fodder. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

Healthy livestock need year-round supply of good quality fodder. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

Healthy livestock need year-round supply of good quality fodder. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

As a farmer who is involved in dairy, I know how important fodder is in lives of farmers who keep livestock. For a farmer with livestock, the day revolves around procuring good fodder for the animals.

I practice dairy farming in the Terai belt of Uttar Pradesh which is very fertile. We get good biomass yields of fodder such as maize, barseem, sorghum, oats and napier grass.

But even in our good topographical conditions and favorable climate, we have to be very careful with our planning for fodder for different seasons of the year. A delay in sowing fodder crop such as sorghum can mean no fodder for animals in the Monsoon months of June, July and August, when we get very heavy rainfall. These tough months can be very difficult for both farmers and livestock. So, Very Good Planning for the year is needed if you want good amounts of fodder for your animals throughout the year.

What about farmers in hilly areas and the drylands of my country, India?

Prior to the World Congress on Agroforestry I had never thought about how farmers there feed their livestock. As a farmer from the plains, the difficulties livestock farmers in the hills and drylands face had never occurred to me. I first learned about it from reading a blog on WCA2014 by Mahesh Chander on Fodder, Livestock and Women, where he described how women climb trees and go to far-off places in search of fodder for their animals.

I got to learn about this topic in detail when I attended session on tree fodder and animal nutrition, on 10February 2014 at Congress.

The Presentation on Sustainable fodder production strategy through utilization of wastelands in hills by Jaideep Kumar Bisht was very informative. He covered two North Indian States with hilly topography—Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

To my surprise, I learnt that during tough-weather months, 70 percent of the animal diet in Himalayan ecosystems comes from trees, and that tree fodder has been undergoing serious research in these regions.

But women here are still totally working for their livestock. More has to be done to bring relief for these women.

In Uttarakhand State which has only 10 percent of irrigated area, growing fodder is not possible on such land as this has to be utilized for growing crops. In Himachal Pradesh the major area is under forest. In both the states farmers are dependent on wastelands for fodder requirements.

Bisht discussed reasons why we are not able to meet the fodder requirements of farmers in hilly areas; he mentioned constraints such as ecology and management problems, and stated that there is lack of community organization, which the State Government should take care of.

If the State Government is able to utilize Panchayati lands for fodder, which they can do by organizing farmers into groups and encouraging them to grow grasses with leguminous crops here, this can to a large extent meet communities’ fodder requirements. Bisht clarified that since nobody will apply fertilizers to grasses in grasslands, intercropping with leguminous crops takes care of the nitrogen requirement of grasses, and give much higher biomass than if grasses were grown alone.

He further discussed the results of trials his team has conducted on grasslands in Uttarakhand, which showed promising results for meeting fodder requirements. He emphasized the importance of Community Organization, if we are to meet the challenge of declining fodder for farmers in hilly areas.

In Himachal Pradesh, most of the land is under Pine forests, he stated. So fodder has to come from forest lands, where he said that after several experiments they got success in growing Napier grass under pine trees. The good thing about hybrid Napier grass is that it gives good yield until frosting starts, and regenerates as soon as temperature starts rising. Hybrid Napier is adopted by farmers on farmlands as well.

Then he moved on to discuss Terrace Risers, and showed the right combinations of trees and fodder crops for the entire year.

Overall, Bisht’s presentation gave the audience good insights into the actual problems and constraints faced by farmers in meeting fodder requirements, and workable solutions to meet these challenges.

I agree with Bisht’s point that unless these options are implemented by government, extension officers and organizers, the situation in these states is unlikely to improve. Government will have to make efforts to utilize wastelands and the floor of forested lands for fodder, and bring farmers together for their overall wellbeing and to relieve their hard lives.

The audience appreciated his work. I, too, was happy to see that there is a way out for farmers who struggle hard in tough terrains to find fodder for their livestock.

Good job,  Bisht!

By Nikki Pilania Chaudhary

Farmer, Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh, India

Related stories:

Trees boost fodder production in dry areas


How to improve the marketing strategy for timber and related tree products in Indonesia

Teak in a landscape in Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara

Teak in a landscape in Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara

Teak in a landscape in Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara

In Java and Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, farmers rely heavily on commodities, timber and fruits to make a living. They grow teak, mahogany, coffee, candle nut, ginger, mango, and bamboo expecting to generate income to pay the bills. Yet according to a study by Muktasam Abdurrahman from Mataram University in Indonesia, the unclear marketing strategy for timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) has resulted in low benefit margins for farmers.

“We found that farmers are lacking knowledge, particularly on production and marketing systems of timber and NTFPs,” said Abdurrahman at a session of the World Congress on Agroforestry. “For example they plant teak without knowing the criteria of high quality teak. They also rarely practice thinning and pruning of the trees, so they lose their chance to maximize production.”

“Farmers are weakly connected to the market, and since they also have very narrow market information, they apply very limited value-adding activities,” he added.

The paper, which shares preliminary findings and lessons learnt from an on-going project by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), gathered data through surveys, scoping studies and group discussions in six villages in Gunung Kidul (Central Java), Sumbawa (West Nusa Tenggara) and Mutis (East Nusa Tenggara).

Abdurrahman stated that one of biggest challenge he found for timber species, particularly in Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara, comes from local bylaws preventing the community from selling timber products from uncertified lands. Problems arise when many farmers do not have land certificates, making it tricky for them to sell their timber.

“Some farmers even say that selling their timber products feels like stealing from their own land,” said Abdurrahman.

In 2012 the government of Indonesia passed a regulation that deregulated the local bylaws, but regrettably the district agency still enforces them, which disadvantages farmers.

The study’s co-author, Syafrudin Syafi’i, highlighted the honey value chain as a successful model that could to be applied in NTFPs such as the ginger and turmeric grown in the study areas.

Honey marketing in Sumbawa is done through collective action, managed by a network that collects and distributes the honey to buyers. “It is ideal to replicate this model to other NTFPs as a marketing strategy, but further assessment is required,” Syafi’i said.

Moreover, as part of solutions to establish a marketing strategy, Abdurrahman recommends interventions such as capacity building for farmers that concentrates on improving knowledge about marketing access, market characteristics, production techniques of timber and NTFPs, as well as resolving the local bylaw issue.

“On top of that, it is necessary to educate farmers to optimize species seasonal calendar,” says Abdurrahman. “This will help them design an agroforestry system that provides sustainable income throughout the year.”


By Enggar Paramita

Find the abstract of the study here:

Related story:

Unity is strength in the marketing of smallholder farm produce

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Our #WCA2014 social media mash-up for Day 1


Every day, our social media team works hard to capture the sessions and discussions at the World Congress on agroforestry, through our social media channels.

A dozen blogposts go online through the day (and night), and a small army of reporters capture the discussions through live tweets, pictures and video. Updates are posted on Facebook and summarized every night via our Storify mash-up:

This mash-up of our social media output was made by Esther Kimani (ICRAF)


Show me the data on carbon in agroforestry!

measuring carbon

measuring carbon

Trees in forests store carbon. So too, do trees in agroforestry systems. But just how much can agroforestry contribute to mitigating climate change?

Finding an answer to this question is problematic due to a lack of knowledge about the amount of carbon individual tree species store both above and below the ground, especially those grown in smallholder farming systems.

Measuring the carbon content of trees generally relies on laborious techniques that involve cutting down and digging up trees of differing diameters, weighing the biomass of their various components (stems, branches, roots etc.) then translating this into the amount of CO2 sequestered.

With a focus on South Asia, several scientists at the World Congress on Agroforestry shared their research using such techniques to determine the potential of different tree-based systems to mitigate climate change.

“To persuade farmers to plant trees on farms, we need hard data about how it will benefit them,” emphasized Richmund Palma in his presentation on timber yields from bagras (Eucalyptus deglupta Blume). In northern Mindanao in the Philippines, bagras is grown alongside corn in hedgerows. Palma hopes to develop a model for measuring carbon density that can be used to determine which places will be suitable for growing bagras.

Tree plantations can be an important tool for mitigating climate change,” concluded Samritika Thakur after presenting her findings from a study into an abandoned plot of 21 year old Grevillea robusta in Kerala, India which has significant below ground carbon content.

Homegardens too are an important carbon sink, as Mangala Premakumara De Zoysa demonstrated while speaking about how there has been a 22 per cent increase in land under forest cover in Sri Lanka. Homegardens tend to contain indigenous species for many different purposes, so they are helping to conserve biodiversity as well as providing farmers with alternative livelihoods

However, if farmers are to benefit from the carbon they sequester through agroforestry then Payment for Environmental Services (PES) schemes need to be in place, and these rely on sound measurement techniques.

“Research can create basis for a PES Scheme,” said Bao Huy as he explained his work on the indigenous Litsea glutinosa tree which is grown in the Central Highlands of Vietnam together with cassava. While farmers tend to harvest these trees after 4 to 6 years, strong growth and greater carbon sequestration occurs after 10 years.

This session at the Congress provided an insight into just how much research is needed to calculate the carbon stored in smallholder agroforestry systems let alone develop mechanisms that can ultimately reward farmers for growing trees.

Blogpost by Kate Langford
Photo courtesy of USAID


Effects of agroforestry policies and laws under scrutiny



A successful farmer attending WCA2014:
Economics plays a key role in farmers’ decisions and often trumps policy

Vietnam has experienced an overall “decreasing trend in agroforestry” since the government launched its natural forest protection programme, stated researcher Hoa Nguyen. This counterintuitive finding was delivered in a World Agroforestry Congress session that addressed policy on agroforestry and tree-based farming systems.

However, in some areas, the growing market for coffee and cashews is causing the opposite effect: agroforestry is expanding into natural forest areas, despite the government’s forest regeneration goal. The ICRAF scientist explained that economics plays a key role in farmers’ decisions and often trumps policy. Richer households, for instance, tend to increase their agroforestry investment rather than respond to government incentives to protect forests.

Chaired by Dr JS Samra of the Indian Council on Agricultural Research, the session probed what policies are needed to promote trees on farms. Some of the speakers focused on laws. Kamla Khanal, a PhD student at University of Nottingham, reported on the impact of India’s 2006 Forest Rights Act, which grants some management of forest land to tribal communities. India has about 84 million indigenous people, a subset of its estimated 275 million forest dwellers.

Working in areas of “left wing extremism” in Odisha state, Khanal showed photos of hills in the Eastern Ghats, denuded of trees 30 years ago. They will now be managed by tribal communities that still practice shifting cultivation but are now increasingly interested in planting coffee and cashews, which like in Vietnam, are seen as profitable. “They say a tree needs to give returns or it disappears from their land” she explained.

Chappidira Kushalappa described his region of Kodagu, which has the highest density of sacred forests in the world and produces 35% of India’s shade-grown coffee. However, the opening of India to the international coffee market is changing the crop’s management, with farmers shifting from growing shaded arabica coffee to full sun robusta. They are also replacing native shade trees with the Australian silver oak, Grevillea robusta. “When Grevillea constitutes more than 30% of the trees, biodiversity starts to go down,” said the coffee farmer.

A survey of 114 estates in Kodagu under the CAFNET project found 240 tree and 120 bird species and mammals, ranging from civets to 64 elephants co-existing among the coffee plants. Kushalappa suggested labeling the region’s production “elephant coffee” and called for two paradigm shifts—from emphasizing coffee productivity to focusing on its quality and from government regulation to certification by bodies such as Rainforest Alliance and UTZ.

He also appealed for more value to be placed on the ecosystem services provided by the forest. The Cauvery River, which originates in Kodagu, is threatened by the shrinking native tree cover. The river is the lifeblood for over one hundred million Indians, has supported irrigated agriculture for centuries and traverses four states to empty in the Bay of Bengal.

Wrapping up the session, Dr Samra listed over 20 must-be-watched policy and economic issues for agroforestry. Among them are the faltering carbon trade; the recently introduced minimum support price for non-timber forest products; and the Free Trade Agreement with the Asean bloc.

India imports $7-8 billion worth of timber a year mostly from Asian countries. Sixty-five per cent of India’s timber comes from farms, with the balance from plantations or imports. Felling in national natural forest is prohibited, and the Supreme Court has ordered the relocation of wood-based industries at least five kilometers away from forest areas, especially in the North East.


By Catharine Watson, Head of Programme Development, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
Photo by Ram Singh


Research: Labour costs and climate change threaten home gardens in Kerala

Home-gardens are declining due to climate change and poor economy[1]

Home-gardens are declining due to climate change and poor economy[1]

A home garden. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

Over the past decade, unfavorable climatic conditions, lack of farm inputs, and the search for white-collar jobs has led to a decline in the number of home gardens to be found in in Kerala, say experts.

Results of a recent survey whose findings were presented at the ongoing World Congress on Agroforestry reveals that a more residents living in this densely populated state of southern India now rely food bought from markets instead of feeding on produce from their home gardens, as they did a decade ago.

“The main purpose of our survey was to verify the aforementioned hypothesis by determining whether or not smallholding agriculture is losing importance in Kerala, and identifying the drivers of these changes,” the lead researcher, Thomas Arcadius Fox told the Congress in New Delhi, India.

The study sampled land owners at 115 randomly selected rural homesteads in eight of the 14 districts in Kerala to find out whether they depended on home gardens for food production or not.

“Overall, our study found that landholders are becoming less dependent on their home gardens for both subsistence and commercial agriculture. And over the past 10 years, there have been declines in the production of food crops, cash crops, spices, timber and livestock,” said Fox.

According to the researcher, the respondents identified increasing labour costs as the primary driver behind decisions to reduce reliance on agriculture. In addition, unreliable climatic conditions, low returns on investment, and increased prevalence of pests and disease discouraged home gardens. Some interviewees cited lack of space for farming, since most of the land had been used for construction of human settlements.

Home garden agroforests are a long-established and important type of smallholder land use in Kerala, and are estimated to constitute about 25 percent of the state’s total land cover, and a half of agricultural land, according to Fox.

The decline in the home-gardens is therefore regarded as a blow to the entire environment, biodiversity and livelihoods of the current and the future generations.

To the contrary, home gardens are on the rise in Sri Lanka, said Prof DKNG Pushpakumara of the University of Peradeniya, another presenter at the same session.

He pointed out that there was a need to incentivize home gardens through carbon financing mechanisms as a way of encouraging farmers to invest more in such agroforests.

“At the moment, home-gardens are the main source of fuelwood, timber and food in Sri Lanka,” he told the Congress.

In a study titled ‘Carbon stock and tree diversity of dry-zone home-gardens in southern Sri Lanka,’ Prof Pushpakumara said that the government can use the study results to decide whether home gardens should directly or indirectly be considered to be included as an activity within Sri Lanka’s newly commenced UN-REDD National Program.

“The good thing with home-gardens is that they are resilient to climate change,” he said.

The country, according to the study, has a tree cover of 40 percent, with most of the trees being found in home-gardens.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Related stories

Do home gardens qualify for carbon financing?


Eucalyptus-assisted drainage and detox

The towering eucalyptus trees can drain and clean up waste water. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

The towering eucalyptus trees can drain and clean up waste water. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

The towering eucalyptus trees can drain and clean up waste water. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

Eucalyptus, which is arguably among the most maligned tree species for its thirsty nature, has now been found to be a most eco-friendly plant for rehabilitating waterlogged areas, through method known as bio-drainage.

In a study presented at the ongoing World Congress on Agroforestry in New Delhi India, Jagdish Dagar, from the Emeritus Scientist Soil Salinity Research Institute in India, pointed out that “pumping of excess soil water by deep rooted plants using bio-energy is a viable alternative to subsurface drainage.”

Apart from being costly, the scientist said that subsurface drainage has been linked to environmental pollution.

Effectiveness of block plantations of Eucalyptus tereticornis was evident in Indira Gandhi Nahar Paryojana area, where the scientists managed to reduce ground water under the block plantation by 15.7 m over a period of six years, enabling farmers to plant wheat and other food crops.

From a different study, Dr Paramjit Singh Minhas, director of the National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management presented research findings that eucalyptus trees can be used to get rid of raw sewage and other forms of wastewater in an eco-friendly manner.

Eucalyptus trees have long been blamed for their ‘thirst’ for ground water, owing to their long taproots, and there is scientific evidence that the species could dry up water bodies.

“Under normal circumstances, eucalyptus trees can lose water four to seven times more than pastures depending on the method used and conditions on the site such as the type of soil, amount of rainfall among other factors,” Dr Minhas told the Congress session.

But the scientists at the Congress have given evidence to show that when exposed to wastewater, eucalyptus plantations can remove toxic metals, since the trees are known to sequester, tolerate and accumulate high levels of various heavy metals.

According to the researcher, developing ‘green belts’ around cities with forest trees under wastewater irrigation will help revive the ecological balance and improve the environment.

The researchers term these agroforestry systems ‘High Transpiration Rate Systems (HRTS)’ for the treatment of wastewater

Apart from putting waste water to use, the trees, especially the hybrid varieties, can produce timber and good fuelwood. Furthermore, eucalyptus are among the best sequesters of carbon from the atmosphere.

According to Dr Dagar, the carbon content in the dry biomass of about 240 Eucalyptus tereticornis species amounted to 15.5 tons per hectare on average.

However, Dr Minhas pointed out that bio-drainage methods were long term, and needed a lot of investment. “Though engineering approaches like surface and subsurface drainage have been standardized for rehabilitating the saline waterlogged soils, their adoption on large scale is hindered by high capital investment, associated operational and maintenance problems in addition to suitable alternatives for drainage water disposal,” said the scientist.

According to Rajbir Singh, one of the major concerns with this bio-drainage system has to do with agricultural land being turned over to non-food trees.

He further notes that the bio-drainage tree areas can become natural habitats for birds, some of which are harmful to crops that being gown on adjacent agricultural land.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Related stories

Using eucalyptus trees to drain wastewater, improve the environment


My advice to nations considering agroforestry

RitaSharma-Feb2014-ByRam Singh

RitaSharma-Feb2014-ByRam Singh

Rita Sharma had some good pointers on developing an agroforestry policy

Trees take a long time to grow. And so do agroforestry policies. If you happen to be a nation considering growing your own policy, you could take a leaf out of India’s book.

The second most populous nation on Earth has just announced its first-ever national agroforestry policy.

Until now, India has had only bits and pieces of agroforestry-related guidelines in branch offices of the various ministries and departments that make up the 1.2-billion-people nation’s large bureaucracy. There was no central document that coherently focused the nation’s energies on putting trees on farms for their multiple benefits to people and the environment. And without such a document there were no specific people in government charged with the task of implementing the policy written on it.

And yet, farmers and scientists have known for a long time that it was a good idea to incorporate food, fuel, medicinal and timber trees with annual crops like wheat, maize or potatoes. Farmers in India plant poplar trees as windbreaks—and timber suppliers—along the edges of their small pieces of land, typically around 1 hectare; or grow wheat amongst mango trees; or combine coconut trees and fish farms. These farm systems also store carbon dioxide, which helps reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and provide homes and food for animals and insects. And they make a farm more adaptable to extreme weather and fluctuations in markets. If there is a drought, for example, and the annual crop fails, the trees will still be likely to produce fruit and nuts, which can be eaten by the household or sold for cash.

Even so, according to Rita Sharma, India’s agroforestry policy’s announcement came “12 years after Dennis Garrity made the claim for agroforestry”. Sharma is the secretary of the National Advisory Council that helped develop the policy and Garrity was then the head of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, which later changed its brand name to the World Agroforestry Centre. Sharma was speaking at the opening day of the World Congress on Agroforestry in New Delhi, on 10 February 2014.

Sharma had some sage advice for other countries that might be thinking of making their own policy. The first question, she said, was “where should the focus be?” There were many different types of agroforestry systems, including ones run by larger enterprises, she said.

But 80% of India’s farmers are smallholders with 2 hectares or less and 60% of the cultivated area relies on infrequent and low rainfall. This land is on the margins of agricultural productivity, is stressed by lack of water and has low biodiversity. So, for Sharma and the others developing the policy, the choice was obvious: any policy had to prioritize the needs smallholders while also providing incentives for bigger system managers.

The second issue was existing legislation, in particular, the National Food Security Act 2013. This Act allows for highly subsidized food grain to be provided to two-thirds of the population: 820 million people are guaranteed that they can buy grain for 2–3 rupees (about US 6 cents) a kilogram. The Government has to supply 65 million tonne a year to meet its commitment. Clearly, any new policy couldn’t encourage taking land out of grain production. Hence, the policy focused on trees being complementary to crops, not substitutes.

The third dimension was one of semantics: is agroforestry really agriculture? Or is it forestry? Or both? While this might seem like something of a minor point, in bureaucracies, such terms define who is responsible for what.

‘In the past’, said Sharma, ‘the forestry people made mention of agroforestry but it wasn’t prioritized. And the same went for the agriculture people’.

The question for the Government was, ‘just which ministry would be responsible for trees on farms?’ Which one would implement the policy? The answer was a mix, like agroforestry itself, in the form of an equal partnership between agriculture and the environment.

“A common board will be set up—an agroforestry commission—so all the stakeholders can have their input,” said Sharma. “It will have funds of about USD 30–40 million, which will leverage funds from other programs.”

Which leads to the final piece of advice for interested nations: the agroforestry policy is a unique instrument in that it doesn’t have a stand-alone architecture of its own—except for the mission—but has many horizontal links with other programs, such as Sustainable Agriculture and the Green India mission. These already spend money on things that are common to agroforestry, such as tree nurseries and farmer training: around USD 1 billion a year. Now these can also support the spread of agroforestry.

“If we went and asked the finance minster for this amount we wouldn’t have got it,” said Sharma. “But this new mechanism will coordinate expenditure to provide technical support, build access to markets, prepare quality planting material and develop financial products and services. For example, banks currently give farmers loans to plant crops, but not trees. The policy will address this.”

This unique way of implementing the policy, and the partnerships it encourages, sets it apart and is its strength, according to Sharma, but is also its weakness: ‘It will need a lot of managerial skill because we are used to vertical silos not horizontal ways of working.

“But the policy is one small step. We have an obligation to ensure its success. We hope in the fullness of time it will culminate in a giant leap for the smallholder farmers of India,”

Blogpost by Robert Finlayson

Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF


India’s bold plan to achieve 33% tree cover through agroforestry

Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Honorable President of India, opened the World Congress on Agroforestry on 10 February 2014. Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Honorable President of India, opened the World Congress on Agroforestry on 10 February 2014. Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Honorable President of India, opened the World Congress on Agroforestry on 10 February 2014. Photo by Ram Singh/ICRAF

There is a sanskrit verse that includes the words ‘ten sons are equal to one tree’. If India is to achieve its ambitious goal of 33 per cent tree cover through agroforestry, then a great many sons (and daughters too) need to be involved.

Today the World Congress on Agroforestry opened in Delhi, India with President the Honorable Shri Pranab Mukherjee saying to the 1,000 delegates gathered: “The cylinders can no longer remain idle; it is time to fire”.

Shri Mukherjee announced a landmark National Agroforestry Policy for India which is aimed at not just increasing tree cover, but providing multiple livelihood and environmental benefits.

The policy is expected to benefit the country’s farmers through incentives for agroforestry, insurance schemes and greater access to markets for agroforestry products.

According to President Mukherjee, the policy will enable farmers to reap the benefits of agroforestry, including sustainable crop production, improved livelihoods, stable ecosystems and resilient cropping and farming systems.

He particularly pointed out the role of agroforestry in climate change mitigation, saying “2014 should be a defining moment for tree-based systems to address climate change.” Certain agroforestry systems have been proven to sequester as much carbon in below-ground biomass as primary forests, and far greater than cropping and grassland systems.

Agroforestry is not new to India, having been practiced for generations. But the full potential of agroforestry has not been realized for many reasons. Among these are adverse policies, legal constraints, inadequate investments, weak markets and a dearth of institutional finance.

In India, as in many other countries, the mandate for agroforestry has fallen through the cracks in various ministries, departments, agencies and state governments.

The new policy brings together all the sons and daughters (i.e. ministries, institutions, programs, agencies and farmers) needed for an agroforestry revolution. It will see the establishment of a new Mission or Board dedicated to agroforestry. Regulatory mechanisms relating to agroforestry produce will be overhauled, sound databases and information systems developed and considerable new investment made in research, extension and capacity building. Greater industry involvement is also a major target.

The policy comes at a time when trees outside forests are becoming increasingly important for India. An estimated 65 per cent of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuel wood comes from trees grown on farms.

With India’s ever expanding population and increasing competition for land and water resources, agroforestry is viewed as having enormous potential to supply nutritious foods, fodder, firewood and timber.

Hopefully this new policy will provide the necessary incentives and remove obstacles so that agroforestry can be adopted with enthusiasm and confidence by farmers across the country.

By Kate Langford

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Hon’ble President of India Inaugurated World Congress on Agro-forestry and Presented Krishi Karman Awards

President inaugurates World Congress on Agro-forestry and presents Krishi Karman Awards


President of India, H.E. Shri Pranab Mukherjee, opens the World Congress on Agroforestry


Following is the speech by the President of India, His Excellency Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the inauguration of the World Congress on Agroforestry:

1. It is my privilege to be here today to inaugurate the World Congress on Agro-forestry.
To begin with, let me extend a very heartly welcome to all the distinguished delegates from abroad. I wish them all a very comfortable stay in Delhi and hope they enjoy its salubrious February weather.

2. I am also happy to take this opportunity to present the Krishi Karman Awards of the Union Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.

3. I congratulate the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, World Agro-forestry Centre and the Indian Society of Agro-forestry for jointly organizing this World Agro-forestry Congress. Being held in the Asia-Pacific region for the first time, I consider it a great honour to be a part of this historic occasion. In the context of increasing environmental degradation and rising pollution levels, the theme of this international conclave, “Trees for Life: Accelerating the Impacts of Agro-forestry” is truly relevant.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

4. Trees have been an integral part of the Indian culture and landscape from the times of yore. During the Vedic Age, which is a period in Indian history between 4500 and 1800 BC, a village would be considered complete only with its complement of woodlands in and around the houses. Surapala, an ancient scholar who lived in the tenth century India, had written Vriksha Ayurveda, or ‘The Science of Plant Life’. This text describes arbori-culture, which is the science and practice associated with the cultivation, management and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines and woody plants. Surapala’s work mentions 170 species of trees, shrubs and herbs. It also provides a comprehensive description for the treatment of seeds and planting materials; selection of land; water management; plant nutrition and control of plant disorders; laying out of gardens and orchards, and growing of rare trees. Much prior to Surapala’s account, Emperor Ashoka who ruled in the third century BC had fostered a system of arbori-horticulture.

5. Due to medicinal and aesthetic qualities, several trees and shrubs are considered sacred in India. Some like Pipal find reference in ancient religious scriptures. The Puranas extol the virtues of tree planting as and I quote: “dasha-kūpa-samā vāpī, dasha-vāpī-samo hradaḥ; dasha-hrada-samaḥ putro, dasha-putra-samo drumaḥ” (unquote), which means “a pond equals ten wells, a reservoir equals ten ponds; a son equals ten reservoirs, and a tree equals ten sons”.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

6. Tree-based production systems abound the tropical regions of the world. Yet, natural conservation has taken a backseat owing to the restless human drive towards urbanization, industrialization and food production. It has also suffered the impact of climate change, which has captured global attention now. 2014 should be a defining moment for evolving tree-based production systems to fight the debilitating impact of climate change in agriculture.

7. Instances of environmental debasement causing acute farmer distress have come to the fore in the recent past. The ecological foundations of soil, water, biodiversity and forests, essential for sustained advances in productivity, are under severe stress today. There are an estimated 500 million small-holder farms in the developing world, supporting the livelihood of about 2 billion people. These small farmers who practice family farming are economically vulnerable. Recognizing the need to reposition family farming at the centre of agricultural, environmental and social policies in the national agendas of different countries, the United Nations (UN) has declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. Sustainable agricultural production systems based on the principle of environmental protection can indeed have a decisive influence in eliminating hunger and extirpating rural poverty.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

8. Agro-forestry offers a significant opening in resetting our priorities on farm sustainability. It is emerging as a major domain in environmentally sustainable food production systems. Agro-forestry system produces food, fuel and fibre; contributes to food and nutritional security; sustains livelihoods; helps in preventing deforestation; increases biodiversity; protects water resources, and reduces erosion. Carbon sequestration of agro-forestry farms is a low-hanging fruit for climate change mitigation, justifying greater investment in them. Agro-forestry is also an important alternative to meet the target of increasing the vegetation cover to 33 per cent from the present level of below 25 per cent.

9. In India, agricultural land makes up over 43 per cent of the total geographical area. Forests occupy about 23 per cent. There exists a vast potential for using agricultural land as a source of timber. It is estimated that already, about 64 per cent of India’s timber requirement is met from trees grown on the farm. Agro-forestry also meets almost half of the total demand of 201 million tonne of fuel wood in the country. Agro-forestry generates 450 labour days per hectare annually without negating farm productivity or income.

10. Though the Green Revolution helped India attain self-sufficiency in food grain production, the indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides and improper land use management led to extensive environmental degradation, eventually affecting crop yield. Agro-forestry is alluring as an alternate land use option. Integration of agricultural and forest crops would not only prevent further land degradation but also ensure timber and firewood availability to the rural population.

11. The potential of agro-forestry to contribute to sustainable development has been recognized internationally as well. For instance, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change have acknowledged agro-forestry as a crucial constituent of climate-smart agriculture. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification recognizes agro-forestry as a key prospect for controlling desertification and pursuing rehabilitation. The Convention on Biological Diversity views agro-forestry as a central element in its ecosystem approach for conservation of agro-biodiversity. Agro-forestry is perhaps the only land use activity that has etched a relevant role for itself in the approaches espoused by these three important UN conventions.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

12. Undoubtedly, agro-forestry holds immense promise in enhancing the productivity of land in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner. Greater research is today required in agro-forestry, focused on creating eco-technologies that purposefully blend traditional ecological prudence with renewable energy technology.

13. India has been in the forefront of research on agro-forestry. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research had initiated a network project – All India Coordinated Research Project on Agro-forestry – in 1983. It had also established a National Research Centre for Agro-forestry in 1988. The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education has recently initiated steps for unveiling another network programme on agro-forestry. State Agricultural Universities having Forestry or Agro-forestry departments partner in these network activities. These pioneering efforts have created a critical mass of manpower in the field of agro-forestry in the country.

14. Despite the large spinoffs agro-forestry can deliver, its development is hampered by lack of policy incentives, inadequate knowledge dissemination, legal constraints and poor coordination among its beneficiary sectors. Inadequate investment, lack of suitable extension strategies and weak market linkages compound the woes of this sector. Rather than being discouraged by long gestation periods normally associated with agro-forestry projects, we need innovative models that encourage investment in this sector.

15. Agro-forestry, as a promising sector, can no longer remain constricted to our tunnel vision. I am happy at the efforts being made to elevate agro-forestry to a wider framework in our policy discourse. I am told that a draft National Agro-forestry Policy has been prepared, which I hope will be finalized soon. A National Mission on Agro-forestry has also been planned that will ensure better coordination, seek convergence and derive synergy between various players operating in the sector.

16. I am confident that this Congress will provide a platform for concrete and meaningful discussions on the agro-forestry sector. The time for ideologic sermoning is over. The cylinders can no longer remain idle. It is time to fire. With these words, I conclude. May this Congress achieve all success.

Thank you.
Jai Hind.

Picture courtesy ICAR


Agroforestry can replace fertilizer subsidy in Malawi – Study

Healthy agroforestry system

Healthy agroforestry system

Healthy agroforestry system

In the recent past Malawi has attracted global attention following huge gains in maize yields that were supported by the introduction of a fertilizer subsidy program in 2005. Now, a new study shows that integrating particular species of nitrogen-fixing trees in maize fields can raise the staple crop’s yield by up to 14 percent, comparable to the gains farmers obtain using subsidized fertilizers.

Viola Glenn from the Research Triangle Institute International in the USA and co-researchers will present these new findings at the World Congress on Agroforestry. They say these results mean that this agroforestry system could sustainably replace the ongoing Farm Input Subsidy Program in the country in case its financing ceases.

According to Glenn and her team, the agronomic and political stability of the fertilizer subsidy program are increasingly being called into question, as Malawi faces recurrent weather-related crop losses of late. They note that similar a program has been discontinued in Zambia due to the financial strain on government funds.

“Agroforestry offers an alternative method to improve crop yields and resilience to climate and weather at a relatively minimal cost,” Glenn and her team say in an abstract to the Congress titled Revitalizing African agriculture from the ground up: A case study of soil fertility, fertilizer subsidy and agroforestry.

The researchers collected data in a household survey of 390 farms in Malawi to assess the impact of the ‘fertilizer tree’ species Faidherbia albida on maize yield, and found an increase of 12 to 14 percent (169–201 kg) per hectare. Though lower than the yield increases recorded in experimental settings, this gain was greater than or equivalent to that recorded using fertilizer purchased under the subsidy program.

However, the scientists point out that farmers’ adoption of agroforestry in Malawi has been slower than their uptake of the fertilizer subsidies. One of the reasons for this, according to the researchers, is that agroforestry implementation can be expected to increase on-farm labor demand by 11 to 14 percent around the time of tree establishment. (However, maintaining well established agroforestry farms requires additional labour of just around one percent.)

During the survey, a ranking exercise identified ‘system flexibility’ and ‘compatibility with existing systems’ as the most important decision criteria in agroforestry adoption. The researchers therefore recommend that efforts to expand the use of this agroforestry system focus on these two areas, rather than focusing mainly on economic profitability.

Separate long-term studies by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and partners has shown the ability of fertilizer trees to not only raise maize yields, but also stabilize them over time. Overall, is a growing body of evidence that incorporating trees into agricultural landscapes is part of the solution to meeting the challenge of climate change.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Related links:


Trees boost fodder production in dry areas

Agroforestry can enhance pasture production

Agroforestry can enhance pasture production

Agroforestry can enhance pasture production

In times of drought, pastoralists are among the groups hardest hit, when lack of fodder threatens their main source of livelihoods — their livestock. But researchers say agroforestry can be used to generate enough pasture to see livestock during dry spells.

In an abstract to the upcoming World Congress on Agroforestry titled ‘Improving productivity of common grazing resources in hot arid region of India through participatory pasture development,’ Arun Misra of the Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI) in India and co-researchers say planting particular drought-tolerant tree species can provide pasture to sustain livestock through a “drought window.”

In a trial on a total of 56 hectares of common lands in four different areas in India, the researchers intercropped two common grass species (Cenchrus setigerus and Lasiurus sindicus) with four drought-tolerant tree species (Acacia senegal, Acacia tortilis, Azadirachta indica and Prosopis cineraria).

After three years of establishment, productivity of the common lands rose to between 1.5 and 2.7 tons of dry fodder per hectare. This was a huge improvement on natural pasture, which produced just 0.5 tons per hectare.

The harvested dry biomass was chopped and stored as ‘fodder bank,’ and made available to the most vulnerable sections of the society during the subsequent drought period.

In another paper at the Congress, researchers from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University will discuss silvipasture models for meeting fodder requirements. The scientists say tree-grass intercrops were able to improve fodder yield. Their study found that cenchrus, guinea grass and desmanthus were the most suitable fodder crops for a Pongamia pinnata-based silvipasture system.

They conclude that adoption of suitable silvipasture models in the drylands of TamilNadu will not only help meet fodder requirements, but could enhance the overall productivity of the region’s drylands.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Edited by D. Ouya


Mobilizing science to create massive transformative impact


The EverGreen Agriculture Partnership is organizing a side event at the Congress on Thursday, 13 February at 1530 hours in the Turquoise Room of the Kempinski.
This side event will provide a forum for catalyzing momentum and linkage between research and scaling activities to spread EverGreen Agriculture technologies in several high potential regions of the world. Participants will be provided the opportunity to brainstorm and plan potential activities to take EverGreen Agriculture forward in their regions, the plans developed will form the basis of the EverGreen Agriculture Partnership’s strategy to provide assistance and support to the regions.

EverGreen Agriculture is emerging as a science-based solution to regenerate the land, combat desertification and increase family food production and cash income.  It is a form of more intensive farming that integrates trees into crop and livestock production systems at the field, farm and landscape scale.  Millions of men and women in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia and other countries are already practicing EverGreen Agriculture, and the momentum for its spread is accelerating.

Welcome & Overview of the event , Dr. Dennis Garrity
Opening remarks, Dr. MS. Swaminathan
Review of advances and plans for EGA in the Sahel, Dr. Antoine Kalinganire
Review of advances and plans for EGA in East Africa, Dr. Jeremias Mowo
Review of advances and plans for EGA in Southern Africa, Dr. Sileshi Getahun and Issac Nyoka
Review of advances and plans for EGA in South Asia, V.P. Singh & Dr. Sanjay Tomar
Breakout Groups by region to examine critical needs and map out an action plan
Breakout Groups report back to plenary
Wrap up & Closure, Dr. Dennis Garrity


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Using agroforestry to restore ecological balance, land health

The right trees can enrich landscapes and prevent soil erosion

The right trees can enrich landscapes and prevent soil erosion

The right trees can enrich landscapes and prevent soil erosion

Five years ago, a two-hectare piece of sloping land in Addis Ababa’s Gurara slum lay bare, allowing rainwater runoff to carry its topsoil into a nearby stream. But after trees were introduced on terraces and the land converted into a demonstration ‘bio-farm,’ it is now productive, with different high-value crops.

“I believe every problem has a solution; soil erosion, land degradation, and deforestation are major problems in the developing world, and one of the simplest way of solving them is by controlling the movement of wind and runoff by planting more trees,” said Getachew Tikubet, the founder BioEconomy Africa, the group that led the restoration of Gurara.

Ecological restoration using agroforestry will be a subject of discussion at the upcoming World Congress on Agroforestry.

Matilda Palm and Eskil Mattsson of the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden will present a study that identifies ecological restoration opportunities. They do this by analyzing how expanding agroforestry management in degraded land could restore productivity and ecosystem services in particular areas.

“In many geographical areas, the deterioration is currently at a near-catastrophic scale and the impact is huge, both in terms of food production and deforestation,” say the scientists. Shifts in global land use are mainly responsible for the loss of biodiversity, land degradation and decline in ecosystem services seen in many places, they add.

In an abstract to the Congress titled ‘Cultivating resilient landscapes – opportunities for restoring degraded and vulnerable lands with agroforestry systems,’ Palm and Mattsson say if managed well, ecological restoration using agroforestry can, in addition, help with climate change mitigation.

Their recommendations are based on comparative field research in Sri Lanka and Vietnam, which sought to propose practical solutions for the restoration of degraded land, with a focus on multiple ecosystem services.

In another paper at the Congress, Elie A. Padonou and co-authors will discuss a model where “climate-resilient” species are grown in suitable ecological zones, as a means of ecological restoration.

By Isaiah Esipisu

What’s a landscape anyway? Tony Simons, director general of World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) describes the historical and environmental angles of the landscape approach to natural resources management, in this video.

Edited by D. Ouya


Gender in agroforestry in India’s drylands

Woman farmer in Nepal. Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Woman farmer in Nepal. Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Woman farmer in Nepal. Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

A session at the forthcoming World Congress on Agroforestry will hear the results of ethnographic research from India that showed how agroforestry can bring high value to households in dry areas with degraded land.

In a paper that explores the gender dimension of agroforestry in semi-arid tribal districts of western India, Purabi Bose of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) will shed light on the important roles played by women and men.

“Men tend to participate more in the meetings, but women are in charge regarding improving the soil quality, and adaptive to agroforestry-related innovations to tackle droughts in the region,” says Bose in a her abstract.

Bose points out that most of the land under agroforestry in her study area was owned (or claimed) by men.

She also found that in the villages, men made most of the decisions on the marketing, while the decisions related to planting and fodder production were made by women. When it came to establishing networks within the villages, however, the women were “more actively involved in communication and exchanging ideas than the men.”

These findings mirror several studies in Africa and Asia, which indicate that smallholder women farmers hold the key to food security in the developing world. According to the UN Food and Agriculture organization (FAO), women produce between 60 and 80 per cent of the food in most developing countries, and are responsible for half of the world’s food production.

The International Centre for Research on Women says there is need to focus on women farmers, since they are integral to alleviating hunger and malnutrition; they make important decisions to ensure that food for their families is reliably available, accessible and nutritionally sound.

Bose’s abstract, titled ‘Gender matters in agroforestry in dry and degraded lands? An analysis from tribal India,‘ concludes that it is important for both men and women to play an active role in implementing agroforestry activities, in order to tackle challenges such as drought and soil infertility.

By Isaiah Esipisu


WCA2014 will be carbon neutral


Certified Carbon Neutral event

The World Congress on Agroforestry will be carbon neutral, even though it is attracting over 800 participants from all over the world. Most participants will be flying to Delhi. Experts in the headquarters of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) have estimated that the carbon emissions of the Congress will be about 900 tonnes. ICRAF has purchased carbon credits to offset that amount of carbon from the Carbon Neutral Company, which has issued the Congress with Carbon Neutral Certificate.

This carbon neutrality comes on the heels of ICRAF achieving carbon-neutral status in December 2012. ICRAF Headquarters and regional offices offset their emissions and were certified as a CarbonNeutral® Office by purchasing carbon credits from the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya. Actions are already planned or underway at ICRAF to reduce the carbon footprint in the long term, including a new recycling system, LED lighting, rainwater harvesting and an improved video conferencing system to reduce the need for air travel.

The CarbonNeutral Protocol is the global standard for carbon neutral certification, providing the pragmatic guidance businesses need to build credible reduction solutions and offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero. The CarbonNeutral Protocol guarantees the integrity and credibility of clients’ carbon neutral certification and enables them to be certified CarbonNeutral®. The Protocol is revised and updated annually to reflect the changing requirements of both science and business.


The World Congress on Agroforestry:
Shaping a new global agriculture with trees

wca heading

wca heading


Trees for Life, the World Congress on Agroforestry 2014, 10-14 February 2014, Delhi, India

Global conference will accelerate the use of trees in agriculture and in the landscape to meet the needs of a burgeoning world population

29 January 2014. In India, 65 percent of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuel wood is sourced from trees on farms and outside forests. In Mali, farmers are increasing their maize yields by up to 400 percent when they grow their crops under nitrogen-fixing trees. In Peru farmers are almost doubling the carbon stocks in their cocoa gardens by planting trees. In Vietnam communities are protecting themselves from the effects of climate change with trees.

These and many other success stories will be discussed in the World Congress on Agroforestry to be held in Delhi, India on 10-14 February 2014. The Congress, entitled ‘Trees for Life’, will see over a 1000 participants drawn from the private sector, research and development sharing the current state of knowledge on the positive financial, environmental and social impacts of agroforestry.

Agroforestry is the practice of growing useful trees on farms and in the landscape.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), together with the Indian Society of Agroforestry, are organizing the Congress, aimed at accelerating the contribution that trees can make to world development.

An agricultural revolution is needed to meet the demands for tomorrow’s food.  As much food needs to be grown in the next 40 years as has been produced in the past 8000 years. The demand for natural products such as timber, plant-based medicines and fodder is also burgeoning. To stand any hope of meeting these demands, global agriculture needs to be drastically modified, especially by incorporating useful trees into farms and the landscape.

Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India, will give the inaugural address, backed up by several ministers from his government. The world-renown scientist  M.S. Swaminathan will give a keynote address on the contributions that agroforestry is making to development, especially in India, and breakout sessions will discuss agroforestry systems, income and environmental benefits, climate change, livestock and fish systems

Offering a  unique opportunity for the business and development communities to interact, the Congress will be built around a structure dealing with science and innovation; food and nutrition; environmental protection; enterprise; knowledge and policy environment; and climate change.

Howard Shapiro, the Chief Agronomist at Mars Incorporated, will lead a discussion on the science that underpins the business of agroforestry, with contributions from, among others, the Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Inc.  Key scientists and development experts from around the world will discuss ways to apply the latest scientific innovations to bring benefits to farmers on the ground.

Dennis Garrity, a Drylands Ambassador for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, will chair a panel discussing the integration of science, business and the Sustainable Development Goals, aided by a panel of senior business leaders such as Harish Bhat, the CEO of Tata Global Beverages.

“Trees play a crucial role in almost all the Earth’s ecosystems and benefits rural and urban people,” said Tony Simons, the Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre. “Landscapes without trees can quickly erode into barren, unproductive expanses. As well as bringing many environmental benefits, adding trees to agriculture can be highly profitable. This Congress will produce a roadmap for the future of agroforestry.”

Follow the Congress via #WCA2014 on Twitter, on Facebook and on our blog.

Media briefing

A media briefing is being scheduled for 11am on Tuesday 11th February with speakers from the opening plenary session including Howard Shapiro and other key business leaders. To attend this briefing and be part of the accredited media for the event please contact Daniel Kapsoot (d.kapsoot(at)cgiar.org).

The World Congress on Agroforestry will be co-organized by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (www.icar.org.in), the World Agroforestry Centre (www.worldagroforestry.org), which is a member of the CGIAR Consortium, the Indian Society of Agroforestry (www.nrcaf.ernet.in/isaf.html) and Global Initiatives (www.globalinitiatives.com).

For further details, see www.wca2014.org or email wca2014(at)CGIAR.org


Urban agroforestry can address nutrition in growing cities

Avocado fruit tree

Avocado fruit tree

Avocado fruit tree

According to the United Nations Populations Fund, the world is experiencing the largest wave of urban growth in recorded history. And as the population of cities swells to five billion by 2030 as projected by the UN agency, food and nutritional security is emerging as one of the biggest challenges in urban areas.

At the forthcoming World Congress on Agroforestry 2014, Eefke Mollee and co-researchers from Bangor University will discuss agroforestry in Kampala city, and how a focus on farming fruit trees in peri-urban and urban areas can help tackle major issues such as urban poverty and malnutrition.

In their study, the scientists say poor urban households often maintain close links with their previous rural (agricultural- and forestry-based) backgrounds. This means that forests and agroforestry systems in and around cities can provide urban areas with traditional forest products, providing employment and food security.

According to UN drylands ambassador Dennis Garitty, the demand for high value tree products in cities can also promote the expansion of agroforestry in urban areas.

“The growth of cities around the world has increased the market demand for fruit, timber and a host of other tree products, a force that is slowly transforming areas around cities into agroforests,” said Garrity in a recorded interview.

Mollee and co-researchers say urban forests and forestry systems are largely ignored in forestry debates, and little research has been done on their contribution to household nutrition.

“It is a missed opportunity, since the cultivation of nutrient-rich fruit trees could form important opportunities for growing urban populations,” they say in their Congress abstract titled ‘Linking urban agroforestry and nutrition: a case study from Kampala, Uganda.

“With the limited space available in peri-urban and urban areas, fruit trees epitomize the concept of ‘vertical production,” they add.

Further reading:

See http://www.worldagroforestry.org/africa-food for links and more stories

By Isaiah Esipisu

Edited by D. Ouya


Agroforestry can be a long-term solution to closing Africa’s food gap

A farmer intercrops Gliricidia with maize. In Malawi this has been shown to improve water filtration and water use efficiency. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

A farmer intercrops Gliricidia with maize. In Malawi this has been shown to improve water filtration and water use efficiency. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

A farmer intercrops Gliricidia with maize. In Malawi this has been shown to improve water filtration and water use efficiency. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

A viable option to avoid over dependence on fertilizers and pesticides in closing the yield gap in Africa is to ensure agricultural intensification occurs through natural and resource-conserving approaches such as agroforestry, say scientists in a special issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability due to be released in February 2014 to coincide with the 3rd World Congress on Agroforestry in Delhi, India.

Intensification – growing more on the same amount of land – is seen as key to increasing food production in Africa to meet the needs of a growing population. In many parts of Asia, this has been achieved through the use of greater inputs such as fertilizer, but it has come at a cost – causing soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and pollution which has impacted on food security and farm incomes.

“A long-term solution to intensification in Africa should not purely be based on an imported intensification model but instead consider approaches that can maintain the quality of the available resource base through ensuring nutrient cycling, organic matter build-up, biodiversity improvements and water quality regulation,” says Sammy Carsan, Tree Domestication Scientist with the World Agroforestry Centre and lead author of the article. “All this can be achieved through agroforestry.”

Click here for full article.


Domesticating fruit trees for nutrition and livelihood

Boy eating the fruit of East African doum palm tree, Hyphaene compressa, in Lodwar, Turkana, Kenya. The fruits mature during droughts. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

Nearly every rural homestead in western Kenya has some fruit trees. And even though they pay very little attention to these trees, the villagers here know the trees are crucial cushions against hunger.

“In all the years I have lived here, I have never seen anyone planting a guava tree. Yet guavas come in very handy during times of starvation,” said 50-year-old Robert Amianda, a small-scale farmer in Essong’olo village. “The trees usually have mature fruits when there is nothing else on the farm; during such times, my children have these fruits for lunch and then go back to school.”

Boy eating the fruit of East African doum palm tree, Hyphaene compressa, in Lodwar, Turkana, Kenya. The fruits mature during droughts. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

Boy eating the fruit of East African doum palm tree, Hyphaene compressa, in Lodwar, Turkana, Kenya. The fruits mature during droughts. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

The results of a study to be presented at the World Congress on Agroforestry show that indigenous and exotic fruit tree species in agroforestry systems can bring significant health, environmental and economic benefits for smallholder farmers, particularly in the face of climate change.

The study, led by Katja Kehlenbeck and colleagues from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), found that in the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa, various trees provide edible fruits of great local importance for food security and nutrition, particularly during droughts and the ‘hunger gap’ periods that occur at the beginning of the cropping season, when the previous season’s harvest has been exhausted.

In Adjumani district in Uganda, nearly half the respondents reported using the fruit pulp of the desert date, Balanites aegyptiaca. They said over 80 percent of the fruits were harvested from the wild, mainly by children and women. In eastern Kenya, 104 respondents reported consuming fruits of 57 indigenous fruit tree species; 36 species found on-farm and 21 in the wild. During the ‘hunger gap’ periods, at least 12 of the indigenous fruit tree species had mature fruits.

In other regions, farmers are growing improved varieties of fruit trees for income. Kehlenbeck and colleagues report that in semi-arid eastern Kenya, mango farming generated 320 USD per household per year from 77 mango trees on average.

“Mangoes, oranges and papaya fruits are now my main source of livelihood,” said Judith Mwikali Musau, a member of Mbiuni Farmers Association in Makueni, eastern Kenya, corroborating these findings.

In the Miombo area of Southern Africa, on-going participatory domestication of wild loquat (Uapaca kirkiana), wild orange (Strychnos cocculoides) and marula (Sclerocarya birrea) seeks to develop new tree crops to capture economic opportunities, while at the same time reducing the dependence on and and exploitation of forest trees.

The researchers say similar domestication efforts are underway in the West African Sahel, for baobab (Adansonia digitata), tamarind Tamarindus indica and jujube/ber fruit (Ziziphus mauritiana).

Further reading

See Agroforestry Species Switchboard for information on these and many more species.

See http://www.worldagroforestry.org/africa-food for links and more stories

Related stories:

The little-understood indigenous African fruit trees: http://bit.ly/14jrdQS

On the forest’s margins: bringing the benefits of trees from the wild into the farm

A bit of baobab a day keeps the doctor away: wild fruits help solve Africa’s malnutrition crisis

By Isaiah Esipisu

Edited by D. Ouya



Using eucalyptus trees to drain wastewater, improve the environment

Eucalyptus trees can be used to clear waste water

Eucalyptus trees can be used to clear waste water

Eucalyptus trees can be used to clear waste water

In a report titled ‘Sick Water? the central role of wastewater management in sustainable development,’ the UN points out that a staggering 80 to 90 percent of all wastewater generated in developing countries is discharged directly into surface-water bodies, where it poses hazards to human health and the environment.

But researchers say there is a way out, using trees. Dr Paramjit Singh Minhas, director of the National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management and co-authors will present a paper at the World Congress on Agroforestry titled ‘Potential of tree plantations for wastewater disposal: Long term use in Eucalyptus.’ The researchers argue that trees with high transpiration rate (‘thirsty’ trees) such as eucalyptus can be easily used to clean the environment of wastewater. The trees grown in wastewater will also produce fuelwood and timber for income generation, and as well sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Eucalyptus have long been blamed for their ‘thirst’ for ground water, owing to their long tap roots, and there is scientific evidence that the species could dry up water bodies.

For instance, a recent study titled ‘Local knowledge of the impacts of eucalyptus expansion on water security in the Ethiopian highlands’ found increased water stress from unplanned eucalyptus expansion, among other factors. But these tall trees native to Australia are arguably among the most commercially viable species. They grow fast, quickly amassing biomass that is important for fuelwood production, timber and carbon banking. Minhas and colleagues point out that when grown using wastewater, eucalyptus plantations can remove toxic metals, since the trees are known to sequester, tolerate and accumulate high levels of various heavy metals.

According to the scientists, developing ‘green belts’ around cities with forest trees under wastewater irrigation will also help revive the ecological balance and improve the environment. The researchers term these agroforestry systems ‘High Transpiration Rate Systems (HRTS)’ for the treatment of wastewater. “Adoption of agro-forestry systems further reduce the farmer’s direct contact with and exposure to sewage, and carbon sequestration is an additional bonus,” say the researchers.

By Isaiah Esipisu


Do home gardens qualify for carbon financing?

Homegrown trees

Homegrown trees

Homegrown trees

Several researchers presenting at the forthcoming World Congress on Agroforestry say homegrown systems that capture carbon should be incentivized. They go further to propose the inclusion of agroforests, home gardens and boundary plantings in the UN systems for carbon financing for climate change mitigation.

Prasad V. Jasti and other scientists will discuss a study which quantified the extent of emission reductions and carbon sequestration in a contiguous area of 5000 ha (a grid) involving about 2000 households in three villages in southern India.

One of the important findings of the study is that integrating high-value trees such as teak (Tectona grandis) on farm boundaries could reduce emissions to the extent 60 percent, if done in the entire rainfed area of the grid.

Eskil Mattsson and colleagues will discuss ‘Carbon stock and tree diversity of dry-zone homegardens in southern Sri Lanka’, which also concludes that tropical homegardens hold great potential for climate change mitigation and adaptation, owing to their multifunctional role in providing income and ecosystem services while decreasing pressures on natural forests.

A decade ago, researchers from Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) published a study showing that long-rotation systems such as agroforests, homegardens and boundary plantings could sequester sizeable quantities of carbon in plant biomass, soil, and woody matter.

However, more quantitative data is needed on homegardens and their landscape-wide potential for carbon sequestration. The scientists say such results would be useful to determine whether homegardens should directly or indirectly be considered for inclusion as an activity within UN-REDD national programmes.

In general, Jasti and fellow scientists say agroforestry (farming with trees) and the introduction of energy-efficient systems are compatible with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). However, an umbrella methodology integrating these interventions at a landscape level is lacking.

“Such an approach will not only help to realize the benefits from trees but also make possible returns from carbon finance mechanisms by integrating smallholders,” they say in an abstract titled ‘Greenhouse gas mitigation in a landscape perspective: A case study from semi arid regions of India.’

By Isaiah Esipisu

Edited by D. Ouya


Doors closing! Last 5 days for registration


If you want to join over 200 speakers and over 800 participants from 80 countries around the world, you have exactly five (5!) days in which to register. On January 31st at 23:00 IST (17:30 GMT) we will be closing the registration portal of World Congress on Agroforestry 2014. Please hurry!

For those of you have registered but not yet paid, you have two options – pay through the web page until January 31st or you can pay on the spot when you arrive at the venue. However, this will mean that you will probably have to miss the inaugural session of the Congress on that day.  To understand why, read on.

India is according agroforestry extraordinary importance in its strategy to feed and green the country. As a sign of this the Hon. President of India, along with the Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Environment and Forestry will be inaugurating the Congress. While this is a great honour for the Congress it also means that there will be very high security at the venue, Vigyan Bhavan, on February 10th. All foreign participants wishing to participate on February 10th inaugural session must send a scan of their passport to the Congress Secretariat by January 31st. These will be used to get security clearance and invitations to the opening ceremony. The email address to forward the passport scan to is: wca2014@mci-group.com

Those of you who have not registered by 31 January, may register and pay at either of the venues (Vigyan Bhavan on the 10th or Kempinski Ambience 11th onwards). However you will only be allowed access to Vigyan Bhavan after departure of the President of India for security reasons.

The full Programme of the Congress will be available on the Congress website (www.wca2014.org) shortly. Here is an overview:

10th February: Inauguration, opening ceremony, Breakout Sessions 1&2 at Vigyan Bhawan. Followed by cocktail reception and dinner at Ashok Hotel.
11th-13th February: Plenaries and Breakout Sessions 3-6 at Kempinski Ambience Hotel, followed by side events on February 13th, also at Kempinski Ambience Hotel
14th February onwards: Optional field trips and participants return home.

Here is some more pertinent information:

  • To upload a scan your passport log in to the registration portal with the ID and password you generated at the time of registration. If you are having problems with this please email the relevant file to wca2014@mci-group.com with your registration ID.
  • Carry a copy of ‘registration confirmation’ with you to the Congress venues. This has your unique identifier in it. You will be given your Congress badge based on this.
  • Do carry your passport with you at all times, especially when coming to Vigyan Bhavan on 10 February 2014
  • Do not bring your camera or cell phone with you to Vigyan Bhavan on February 10th, as their use is prohibited for security reasons.
  • If you have any queries or need any help at all please contact secretariat at wca2014@mci-group.com and we will do our best to help!

We look forward seeing you at WCA2014!


Calling all Bangor Alumni



If you studied Agroforestry or a related course at Bangor University (Wales, UK) and are attending the World Congress on Agroforestry, we want to hear from you!

We are arranging a social event for us to gather together and catch up on the good times and see where each other are these days.

Whether you studied 20 years ago or just last year, it would be wonderful to hear your latest news and share ours with you.

Please contact Genevieve Lamond in the School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography to register your interest: g.lamond(at)bangor.ac.uk.

Further details will be e-mailed once you have contacted Genevieve.


“And… the winner is…”: The results of the youth competition

kattupakkam centre competition 1 (2)

kattupakkam centre competition 1 (2)

Children in the Kattupakkam Centre during the drawing competition

One of the key pre-congress activities related to World Congress on Agroforestry 2014 was a painting and essay-writing competition for schoolchildren. The objective of activity was to promote a love for trees and nature in the young generation, so they can develop into citizens conscious of their duty to care for the environment. Similar to the Congress, the theme of the competition was ‘Trees for Life.’

The competition had two categories: a painting competition for 6 to 12-year-olds and an essay competition for 13 to 18-years-olds.

It was well publicized through announcements on the official web pages of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, and the National Research Centre for Agroforestry (NRCAF), Jhansi. Information on the competition was also displayed on Facebook pages and sent to the pan-India database of more than 264 schools, 25 State agricultural universities countrywide, and to the officers-in-charge of coordinating centres of the All India Coordinated Research Project on Agroforestry (AICRP). The competition was also publicised in the NRCAF newsletter.

The competition recorded an overwhelming response, with the participation of children from 18 States: Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Island, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, New Delhi, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and West Bengal. About 56 per cent of the participants were girls.

The entries were judged by an independent jury.

The President of the Indian Society of Agroforestry Dr Shiv Kumar Dhyani announced the results on 15 January 2014. He congratulated the winners, their parents and teachers, and thanked all the children who participated in the competition.

The winners of essay competition are:

  • 1st Prize: Km. Nisitha Pattanaik, daughter of Shri Kshitish Chandra Pattanaik. Bhubaneswar, Odisha
  • 2nd Prize: Mr. V.S. Naveen Kumar, son of R. Saravanan. Karamadai, Dist.- Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
  • 3rd Prize: Mr. Prashant Kaushik, son of Shri J.L. Sharma. Mathura , Uttar Pradesh


The winners of painting competition are:

  • 1st Prize: Km. V. Niharika, daughter of S. Varada Rajan.K.K. Pudur, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
  • 2nd Prize: Km.Bidyasha Harichandan, daughter of Benudhar Harichandan. IRC Village, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
  • 3rd Prize: Km. Vaishvi Shah, daughter of Dr. Sarvesh Kumar Shah. SDAU, Sardarkrushinagar, Gujarat


V. Niharika's prizewinning illustration of the role of trees in our lives

V. Niharika’s prizewinning illustration
of the role of trees in our lives
(Click on the picture to see the full size drawing)

Km. Nisitha Pattanaik from Bhubaneswar, who won the first prize in the essay competition, elaborated in a very interesting and emphatic way the role of trees in our lives and the future of human and animal life on earth, as well as the need to conserve our environment and biodiversity by saving trees and forests. Similarly, the first-prize winner in the painting competition, Km. V. Niharika from Tamil Nadu, illustrated the role of trees in our lives in a very beautiful and colourful way.

The winners of the competition will receive their prizes and certificates from the Honorable President of India, as part of the Congress opening ceremony at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, on 10 February 2014.

The organizers of the World Congress on Agroforestry congratulate all the winners and look forward to being part of one of their proudest moments, in Delhi!

Blogpost and illustration with thanks to Dr A K Handa


Complexity lives at the tree–people–planet interface

Agroforestry Montage

Agroforestry Montage

Agroforestry Montage

In their editorial review for a special edition of the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Mark Stafford Smith of CSIRO and Cheikh Mbow of World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) give compelling examples of the complex challenges the agroforestry researcher works through in analyzing the interactions between people, trees and agriculture. The complexity arises in large part because the interactions happen within dynamic landscapes that are also influenced by policy decisions, market forces, and climate change.

“These social–ecological interactions are not mutually exclusive and require systemic approaches,” say the authors, who based the editorial on the 23 articles published in the special journal edition.

Take for instance the issue of drivers (causes) of deforestation in Africa. These are intimately linked with the growing demand for commodities, fuelwood and charcoal, and could be addressed through sustainable intensification using agroforestry practices. Yet this growth in demand, itself, can also encourage on-farm intensification, by stimulating the market.

On the issue of gender equity, agroforestry has the potential to offer substantial benefits to women, e.g. by bringing fuelwood close to the home. These gender outcomes happen at the same time as trees on farms provide households with nutrition, income from non-timber products (e.g. shea fruits), and a range of ecological services.

Click here for full article

Complexity lives at the tree–people–planet interface – See more at: http://blog.worldagroforestry.org/index.php/2014/01/20/complexity-lives-at-the-tree-people-planet-interface#sthash.nkHYpkQS.dpuf


Researchers to discuss jatropha and other biofuel trees at World Congress on Agroforestry

Jatropha in Kiambere, Eastern Kenya - Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

Jatropha in Kiambere, Eastern Kenya - Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

Jatropha in Kiambere, Eastern Kenya – Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

At least three research papers to be presented at the World Congress on Agroforestry will deal with Jatropha curcas, a tree that was once promoted in Africa as a biodiesel source, but disappointed many small-scale farmers.

One of the papers, ‘Agroforestry – a promising option for tree borne oil seeds production,’ argues that the major constraint in farming oilseeds is the lack of accurate information about the cultivation practices of particular species, their potential yields and income-generating potential.

Dr P. Kumar of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and co-authors say a systematic approach backed by scientifically validated information is necessary to inform the promotion of oilseed species.

In another presentation, ICRAF scientist Miyuki Iiyama and colleagues will analyse the factors that adversely affected the value chain of jatropha in Africa. This post-assessment of the evidence is expected to provide important lessons from the past, as well as insights into future biofuel development in Africa.

In a third presentation, Balakrishna Gowda and colleagues will show how non-edible oil seed trees and crops can be important in multipurpose agroforestry systems. Based on a successful model developed and implemented in the state of Karnataka, India, the scientists will argue that the adoption of “multispecies consortia” of non-edible oilseed trees, including jatropha, supports productivity in food crops, and produces biodiesel for local use. Furthermore, the trees can be used to improve soil health, produce animal feeds, and so on.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Edited by D. Ouya


Using improved cook-stoves to fight climate change

While cooking using firewood, this burner produces charcoal - Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

While cooking using firewood, this burner produces charcoal

While cooking using firewood, this burner produces charcoal

Fuelwood and charcoal remain the most important sources of energy among both the rural and urban poor in the developing world, but their unsustainable use can quickly degrade the environment. But one Kenyan scholar has shown the way to mitigate this impact.

Before he died, the late Dr Maxwell Kinyanjui had invented a firewood burner, which by using dry wood, produces charcoal to be used for making another meal, another time.

And now, with just Sh1200 ($15), those in Kenya who can access the improved cook-stoves have the opportunity to ‘recycle’ fuelwood, by using it first as firewood, and later as charcoal.

Kinyanjui believed in maximising the use of energy. “We cannot do away with charcoal and firewood in many African countries because we do not have a perfect and affordable alternative,” he used to say.“All we need is to encourage people to engage in charcoal farming, and use the wood more sustainably,” said the man who had planted acacia trees on over 1000 acres, specifically for charcoal production.

Experts at the forthcoming World Congress on Agroforestry will discuss modalities on how dissemination of such energy saving cook-stoves can attract climate financing.

During the congress, Olivia Freeman and Hisham Zerriffi will examine the potential of carbon financing as a tool for promoting cook-stove dissemination,with reference to a research that looks at the impacts of carbon finance on organizational activities and business models using India as a case study.

In their discussion, the two researchers will explore different organizational approaches employed, perceptions around carbon financing from both those choosing to and not to apply for carbon certification, and identification of the opportunities, challenges and unknowns surrounding carbon finance for cook-stove dissemination.

Switching to energy-saving stoves will greatly reduce the demand for biomass fuel because, according to the researchers, 90 percent of the rural population and 31 percent of the urban population still primarily depend on solid fuels for cooking. At the same time, the improved stoves will directly improve livelihoods and help address climate change.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Edited by D. Ouya


Commercializing nutritious foods from native Kenyan trees

Agroforestry can improve food security - Photo by Isaiah Esipisu

Agroforestry can improve food security

Agroforestry can improve food security

Kenyan athletes returning home from their characteristic winning performances are usually welcomed with a gourdfull of mursik—a specially fermented milk preserved with the ash of the indigenous tree species Senna didymobotrya (syn. Cassia didymobotrya), known locally as Itet.

However, with the pressures of climate change and human activities, important indigenous tree species such as Itet face the risk of decimation. These trees and related herbal shrubs have great cultural importance, yet are neither domesticated nor commercialised.

At the World Congress on Agroforestry, Anja M. Oussoren of AgriPRO, Ivory Consult Ltd will explain how her company is working with partners to conserve and commercialise the healthy foods derived from indigenous trees in Kenya.

The company works together with ethnobotanists, horticultural scientists, food, beverage and nutraceutical companies, food scientists, lawyers and policy makers, in the identification and prioritization of indigenous trees for conservation, propagation, regeneration and commercialization. The company is using an innovative technique known as Indigenous Trees Incubators (ITIs) in this effort.

So far, says Oussoren, extensive conversations and in some cases draft memorandums of understanding are in place with Kenyan and international gene banks, national agricultural and forestry research centres, ministries of agriculture and environment, county decision makers, community representatives, research universities, food and beverage companies, and research foundations.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Edited by D. Ouya


Important information regarding Visa


Please be advised that the Congress has obtained the requisite ministerial permissions from the Government of India, namely, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Delhi State Government and the Ministry of External Affairs (M.E.A). A copy of the permissions is hosted on the Congress website and can be viewed here. You are requested to download the same and apply for your Indian VISA in your respective countries. The list of Indian High Commissions is available here. Note the application requirements may vary for different countries.

Queries pertaining to assistance towards VISA may be addressed to Mr. Devkant Shacksaria and send to wca2014@mci-group.com with subject as “VISA ASSISTANCE”
A helpline has been created w.e.f 20th January 2014 functional from Monday through Friday 0930 to 1830 hrs (IST +530hrs GMT). Helpline number – +91-124-4974173
It shall be our endeavour to assist you.

The M.E.A permission as you would notice carries certain names from the Delegate attendee list for WCA. Please do not panic if you don’t find your name in there. Your name has been submitted to the M.E.A and is under their internal verification process. This should not affect your VISA application and we urge you to go ahead with applying your VISA at the earliest.

Whilst a Conference Visa is suggested to be applied for, delegates who have booked field trips may also apply for a Tourist Visa as this may be faster, being careful not to mention Conference but Touristic purposes as the reason for travel.


Unity is strength in the marketing of smallholder farm produce

Delivering Allanblackia seeds to a collection centre in Tanzania. Photo by Charlie Pye-Smith/ICRAF - See more at: http://blog.worldagroforestry.org/index.php/2014/01/09/unity-is-strength-in-marketing-smallholder-agroforestry-

Farmers producing small quantities of a particular crop or tree product face the challenge of selling it at fair prices, and one effective way to improve matters is ‘collective action’ for marketing. If done right, much can be gained in terms of increased income and food security when smallholder farmers come together and pool their harvest, selling it in bulk.

Nonetheless, collective action in marketing, particularly for small-scale farmers in Africa, is not as simple as it seems at first glance, as a new article shows. The review, published in the journal Current Opinions on Environmental Sustainability, synthesizes some of the lessons learned over two decades of implementing collective action, and provides some pointers for success.

Collective action has been defined as “Group activities that directly or indirectly enhance the production and marketing of agricultural and food products…” and “Action by members of a group or cooperative who come together to share market knowledge, sell together and develop business opportunities.”

Click here for the full article

Farmers producing small quantities of a particular crop or tree product face the challenge of selling it at fair prices, and one effective way to improve matters is ‘collective action’ for marketing. If done right, much can be gained in terms of increased income and food security when smallholder farmers come together and pool their harvest, selling it in bulk.

Nonetheless, collective action in marketing, particularly for small-scale farmers in Africa, is not as simple as it seems at first glance, as a new article shows. The review, published in the journal Current Opinions on Environmental Sustainability, synthesizes some of the lessons learned over two decades of implementing collective action, and provides some pointers for success.

Collective action has been defined as “Group activities that directly or indirectly enhance the production and marketing of agricultural and food products…” and “Action by members of a group or cooperative who come together to share market knowledge, sell together and develop business opportunities.”

– See more at: http://blog.worldagroforestry.org/index.php/2014/01/09/unity-is-strength-in-marketing-smallholder-agroforestry-produce#sthash.ywmwX3Xc.dpuf

Farmers producing small quantities of a particular crop or tree product face the challenge of selling it at fair prices, and one effective way to improve matters is ‘collective action’ for marketing. If done right, much can be gained in terms of increased income and food security when smallholder farmers come together and pool their harvest, selling it in bulk.

Nonetheless, collective action in marketing, particularly for small-scale farmers in Africa, is not as simple as it seems at first glance, as a new article shows. The review, published in the journal Current Opinions on Environmental Sustainability, synthesizes some of the lessons learned over two decades of implementing collective action, and provides some pointers for success.

Collective action has been defined as “Group activities that directly or indirectly enhance the production and marketing of agricultural and food products…” and “Action by members of a group or cooperative who come together to share market knowledge, sell together and develop business opportunities.”

– See more at: http://blog.worldagroforestry.org/index.php/2014/01/09/unity-is-strength-in-marketing-smallholder-agroforestry-produce#sthash.ywmwX3Xc.dpuf

Farmers producing small quantities of a particular crop or tree product face the challenge of selling it at fair prices, and one effective way to improve matters is ‘collective action’ for marketing. If done right, much can be gained in terms of increased income and food security when smallholder farmers come together and pool their harvest, selling it in bulk.

Nonetheless, collective action in marketing, particularly for small-scale farmers in Africa, is not as simple as it seems at first glance, as a new article shows. The review, published in the journal Current Opinions on Environmental Sustainability, synthesizes some of the lessons learned over two decades of implementing collective action, and provides some pointers for success.

Collective action has been defined as “Group activities that directly or indirectly enhance the production and marketing of agricultural and food products…” and “Action by members of a group or cooperative who come together to share market knowledge, sell together and develop business opportunities.”

– See more at: http://blog.worldagroforestry.org/index.php/2014/01/09/unity-is-strength-in-marketing-smallholder-agroforestry-produce#sthash.ywmwX3Xc.dpuf


How growing mangoes can make a difference in a farmer’s life

Growing fruit trees along side crops can have many benefits. In this video, farmer Om Prakash talks about how keeping mango-trees on his farm has change his life.

Indian farmer Om Prakash Shukul began planting trees on his farm after following an awareness programme on agroforestry in his community. He was more than happy to talk about his fruit tree-planting activities during an interview:  

“I earn from the crop yields as well as by selling mangoes. I am very happy with the results,” he says in the below video.

Om Prakash hopes to earn an income from the mangoes for the next few years, and has in addition planted guava as a security, should his crops fail. By diversifying his farm and adopting this 'climate-smart' intervention, he feels better prepared to cope with erratic weather events and the challenges from the changing climate. And he is also earning an income along the way.

Growing mangoes has really impacted his life in a positive way, he explained during the making of the video.   

Click here for the full article


Indian Farmers Fighting Pollution One Tree at a Time

Farmers Chaudhry Sukhvir Singh and Chaudhry Singh at a farm near the town of Indri in India's Haryana state. (Aru Pande/VOA)

In a few years, the 500 poplar trees planted on Singh’s property in the northern state of Haryana will eventually earn him $15,000 when they are mature, cut down and sold to local plywood factories.

The farmer is among several hundred who receive support and guidance from the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Center. The organization promotes sustainable agriculture by encouraging farmers to plant trees that produce fruit, timber, biodiesel and rubber.

Click here for the full article


Using bananas to fight gender imbalances on cocoa plantations

Cocoa production is often a man's world. Women assist but don’t normally own any of the plantations. This gender imbalance could be one factor why children in regions of intensive cocoa production are malnourished. Photo: Elke de Buh

There is an interesting link between female empowerment, cocoa production and under-nourished children, a link which is not always visible at first glance.

You see, children growing up in areas that produce large quantities of cocoa tend to be stunted in growth and subject to higher rates of malnutrition compared to children in other, nearby regions. This is especially true for the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

Fighting under-nutrition in children is crucial. Not getting vital vitamins A:s, B:s and D:s early in life can have very negative consequences later on. For example, it has been shown that adults who were undernourished as children have 15 percent less cognitive capacity. This will affect a person for the rest of his or her life, and cannot be repaired by eating right later in life. 

Click here for the full article


Fruit tree planting is no monkey business

Planting fruit trees for nutrition, food security, and climate resilience can't be a bad investment. But is it as straight forward as it seems? Photo: V. Atakos

Almost 45 percent of the land in Sub-Saharan Africa is being cultivated. This means crops are being grown on almost half of the continent. In addition, agriculture employs 65 percent of the total population in the region, earning farmers both an income and food. So why then, are so many still going hungry each day?

We have heard the question before and we know that answers do not come easy.

Yet it was exactly these questions and answers which were explored at the World Agroforestry Centre's side event at the Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW). During the session, panelists found themselves confronted by an audience who didn't hold back, as they spoke about the links between fruit trees and food security under the topic of ‘Agroforestry for food and nutritional security in Africa’.

Click here for the full article


Africa faces food security and climate change challenges, is agroforestry the solution?

Photo credit: Niel Palmer (CIAT)

These challenges were recently addressed by Mbow and colleagues in an article featured in a special issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (COSUST).

The authors highlighted a number of recognized benefits arising from the use of agroforestry in smallholder systems, such as enhancing soil fertility and improving household resilience through the provision of additional products for sale or home consumption.

Furthermore, with an increasing imperative for smallholder farmers to adapt to and mitigate climate change, agroforestry offers a cost-effective option of doing so. Many studies have shown that agroforestry practices can sequester carbon from the atmosphere and diversify rural livelihoods through the provision of ecological and economic benefits.

However, these benefits are often overshadowed by the challenges of establishing tree-based systems in areas marred by poor land use and lack of governmental oversight: while many smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa practice agroforestry, adoption has not been widespread and this may be attributed to the political and socioeconomic environment, or the farmers’ disposition towards trees on their farms.

These obstacles are compounded by the lack of support for tree-based systems through public policies, and this is something that requires shifts in regional and national-level institutional frameworks.

Click here for the full article


“Farmers should use trees to cushion their farms from degradation”

A Tree nursery. Photo: K. Trautmann

In the Lushoto District in Northeastern Tanzania, more than 60 percent of the land is eroded. Therefore farmers in the area have begun testing a portfolio of promising climate change adaptation, mitigation and risk management interventions to help turn this around. This is being done together with research and development partners, and government extension agents.

Agroforestry and land management are among the mitigation interventions used in Lushoto.

Agroforestry has both ecological and economic benefits.  It can provide farming families with the ‘five Fs’: Food, Fuel, Fodder, Finance and Fertility. In a nutshell, by integrating trees in farms and rangelands, farmers reduce their dependency on a single staple crop thereby diversifying their livelihoods.

Sadick Selemani in Lushoto is a champion farmer with trees like Albizzia and Grevillea species along the boundary and across contours on his 1.5 acre farm.

“I recently harvested 10 trees for timber which I used for roofing my house. Additionally, I sold five trees for 125,000 Tanzania Shillings (US$ 80) and used the money to pay school fees for my children” he said.

Another champion farmer, William Dennis has Grevillea, Casuarina and Pinus tree species on his three acre farm.

“Climate variability will hasten degradation of soil and water resources. Therefore our local community members should use trees to cushion their farms from degradation and benefit from the income generated,” says William. 

In addition to individual farmers, schools have participated in tree planting. Yamba and Kongei Primary Schools planted Casuarina species around the school to act as a windbreaker.

There is a surging demand for tree seedling which are in short supply, and Tanzania Forestry Research Institute (TAFORI) is spearheading farmer training to establish three tree nurseries; each under the management of three newly established umbrella community based organizations, with a combined capacity of producing 45,000 tree seedlings in a season.

The main partners for this work: include the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Tanzania Forestry Research Institute (TAFORI), Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and Lushoto District Council.

Each partner contributes their expertise to specific interventions, integrating these within existing community institutions and organisations.

The partnership has revived private tree nurseries that were dormant, making them able to supply 17,000 tree seedlings in the 2012 long rain season and 15,000 tree seedlings in the 2013 long rain season. At least 250 male and 150 female headed households have each planted 60 tree seedlings in the past two years. The tree planting also responds to a policy by the Lushoto District Council requiring a 10 percent tree cover on all farms.

Soil erosion is rampant in two annual rainy seasons in Nyando, and run off forms deep gullies that affect about 40 percent of the landscape which has negatively affected agriculture and food security.

To tackle these problems, people in Nyando have organized themselves into self-help groups covering 1,200 households. The majority of the active members are women.

The community-based organisations have partnered with CCAFS, World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), CARE International, World Neighbors, VI-Agroforestry,  Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF), and Ministry of Environment, and Natural Resources (MENR) to increase tree cover on farm.  

The partnership has supported 25 tree nurseries, with a capability of producing 80,000 high quality tree seedlings in a season. The number of tree nurseries as well as their capacity has increased five times compared to five years ago. With a survival rate of 75 percent, the on-farm tree population has increased by at least 150,000 trees within five years.

By John Recha, Philip Kimeli and Vivian Atakos

Learn more: Empowering a local community to address climate risks and food insecurity in Lower Nyando, Kenya

Related journal article: Are food insecure smallholder households making changes in their farming practices? Evidence from East Africa

Access baseline surveys for the CCAFS Learning sites: Baseline Household Surveys 2010-2011

John Recha is a Participatory Action Research specialist, Philip Kimeli is a Research Assistant and Vivian Atakos is a Communication Specialist. All members of the CCAFS East Africa team. Follow East Africa on Twitter: @Cgiarclimate_ea


This article is published here with permission from CCAFS, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. A full version with links to multimedia is available on the CCAFS blog.




Announcing the #WCA2014 Blog Competition
— Showcase your agroforestry projects! —

logo competition

Where I come from, there is an old saying: “You might be doing a great job, but if nobody knows about it, ask yourself if it is worth doing”.

We know there are many people – scientists, farmers, communities, governments, universities and their students, private individuals and companies – who are working on great agroforestry projects.

Through our  #WCA2014 blog for the World Congress on Agroforestry, we want to provide YOU the platform to showcase YOUR work:

Here is what we would like you to do:

  • Write a blogpost of 500-1,000 words
  • … which describes your agroforestry project, your newest initiative, your finest invention, your ingenious idea for which you would like support, your latest research findings. The general theme is “Trees for Life”
  • Find a great picture to go with it
  • Email the blogpost and picture to p.casier(at)cgiar.org

Here is what we will do for you:

  • We will publish your blogpost and picture on the #WCA2014 blog, and possibly other online media.
  • We will spread your post through our vast social media network, using over 100 social reporting volunteers
  • And… your blogpost will enter into our competition

A competition?

Every blogpost will automatically be entered into an online competition: The online public will be able to vote for your blogpost – which will depend on WHAT you write about, and HOW you present it..

The five most popular blogposts will be announced at the upcoming World Congress on Agroforestry, and their authors will receive a certificate and a signed copy of “The Trees for Life,” a new book to launched at the Congress.

The writer of the best blogpost, will receive an Apple iPad.

Make it thrilling!

Remember: we want blogposts. We are not looking for dissertations, nor abstracts.

We are looking for inspiring stories, enticing enthusiasm about the current achievements and future potentials of agroforestry. We are looking for blogposts which are thrilling, and fun to read.

As the online community will judge your post, not only on the content, but also HOW it is presented, keep these simple tips on “How to write a good blogpost” in mind.

Some technical details:

  • Your blogpost can be 800-1,000 words, and needs to be written in English
  • The blogpost will be published as-is…
  • Once published, the blogpost will not be edited for corrections
  • Your blogpost needs to be submitted in a MS Word or plain text file.
  • The blogpost should NOT contain any formatting, nor any pictures
  • The main picture should be attached to the email, as a separate file. The picture should be of good quality, and at least 500 px wide.
  • The caption for the picture should be included in the blogpost-file
  • The credits for the picture should be included in the blogpost-file too. Please do not use pictures with a copyright, unless if you have permission to use the picture from the copyright holder
  • If you are unable to find an appropriate picture, we will use a generic picture from our photo library
  • It is advised to embed links in your blogpost, to illustrate “further reading” or reference material
  • The blogpost should contain your name, email address, city and country (and if appropriate, the name of your company/institute/organisation and your function) – see this blogpost as an example.

What are we looking for again?

We want blogposts to showcase “Trees for Life”, illustrating the importance, and future potentials of agroforestry. We want to accelerate the impacts of agroforestry, and prove how agroforestry builds people’s livelihoods, increases the vitality of the landscape and how we can drive the adoption of large-scale innovations.

With the aim to significantly boost awareness, engagement and investments in agroforestry, anyone can submit a blogpost. Students can describe their project and field experience. Researchers can illustrate their findings. Farmers can submit stories on how they converted research to practice. Policy makers and advocacy groups can showcase the projects they implemented, etc.

Deadline for submissions

The blogposts and pictures can be submitted as of now until COB February 5th 2014. But remember: the earlier you submit, the more online votes you will get.
The votes will be tallied at midnight on February 9th 2014.

Submissions and further inquiries: Please contact Peter Casier – p.casier(at)cgiar.org

We will acknowledge every blogpost submission by email.

All competition entries can be found on this page.

Image courtesy RSA Education


Trees or food: Will climate change force farmers to make a choice?


One or two generations ago, smallholder farmers might have grown food crops mainly to feed their own families. But those days are gone. Farmers are looking more and more for cash income.

Like in Bihar, North-Central India: farmers still value the “yield” of a crop, but the “revenue” becomes increasingly important. It is not just because of the “Modern Times”, where electricity bills and school fees are to be paid, and people want to buy a mobile phone, a television or a tractor. No, there is more than that: climate change has chased up the expenses: boreholes, mechanical or electric pumps, hybrid seeds… Each of these has a price tag attached to it. A price tag, farmers are scrambling to pay, but a necessity for any land to bare any crop.


The droughts

A good crowd had gathered in Rambad, a small village in Bihar. Both young and old, from the better-off farmers to the day labourers, all were sitting around us. We were talking about the change in weather, the effects it had on this farmers’ community and ways these people have tried to adapt over time.

When we asked who of the farmers had experimented with new things in the past years, they pointed out a slim man, probably in his late thirties, standing in a bit of a distance. As we all looked at him, he came nearer, stood up straight and held his arms stiff along his body as he said his name, “Vidyabhushan Kumar”, in a loud voice. As if a teacher had just summoned him. We asked Vidyabhushan to sit with us and tell his story.

At first, his story did not differ much from many others we heard in North India: He had a small plot of land, shared with his brothers, where they used to crop wheat and maize. In the past years, the rains have become less predictable: the monsoon comes later, and is shorter. Water has become scarce. The yearly floods bringing in new soil and moisture to the fields are a thing of the past now.


The expenses

“Nowadays, no borehole, no crops”, Vidyabhushan explained, “We need to irrigate our fields, so we have to pump water from the boreholes. But it costs money to dig a borehole. Pump sets are expensive too. They require diesel to run, and need maintenance. All of that costs money, money we need to get from what we produce. No matter what we produce, we need to look at the market value; we look at the revenue it brings.”

In the past years, Vidyabhushan started to crop vegetables after the wheat and maize harvest. “I can get several crops of vegetables before I need to sow wheat again”, he said, “but still that is not enough to provide an income for my family. I needed more.”

Teak, a new source of income.

He took us to the flat roof of his house. In a corner about one hundred small seedlings stood together.

“Teak”, he said, “These are teak seedlings. You see, I calculated: I can buy these at 76 rupees a piece (about US$ 2). The tree needs 10 years to mature, and its timber will bring me 30,000 to 40,000 rupees (US$750 to US$1,000) for each tree. If I plant teak trees on the border of my field, about 6 feet apart, I can plant one hundred teak trees. This will give me a cash revenue of about 300,000 rupees (US$7,500) per year.”

“There is a big teak market abroad, so the resale value is almost guaranteed.” Vidyabhushan smiled, “ But my risks are low. Teak trees don’t need a lot of water, and they don’t conflict with my other crops. The trees can just grow on the edge of my fields. These trees will bring me the cash I need, both for my family, and to counter the increased expenses I have with my other crops. ”


The future: cash or food?

He kneeled down to pick up one of the seedlings. I noticed how careful and softly he handles the tiny plant as he shows it to me. It was as if he was holding his future in his hands.

When we thanked him for the interview, he said “No, don’t go yet, I still want to show you my field, and my crops.”  Vidyabhushan smiled as he walked through his vegetable patch: “You see, we can’t eat timber, we can’t eat money.  No matter how the market would change, no matter of the revenue teak would bring me, I still need to feed my family. And for that I need to grow food, not just timber!”

But maybe, he is the last generation to still think so. Maybe, as the climate changes, erratic rains, droughts and pests might push farmers’ expenses even higher. Would the next generation of farmers then think of “Revenue only”-crops? What would happen then if they’d stop growing food crops? What would happen if smallholder farmers would switch to non-food crops on a large scale?

Blogpost and photo by Peter Casier/CCAFS (Rome, Italy) – p.casier(at)cgiar.org
Blogpost originally published on the blog from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)




This is an example entry for our #WCA2014 blog competition. The five blogposts with the most and highest votes will receive a signed copy of the book "Trees for Life". The most popular blogpost will get an iPad.


So, dear reader, YOUR vote is important. Please rate this post, for the originality of the project, the way its story inspired you, and the way the blogpost was written. The more stars, the higher your appreciation:


If you have questions or remarks on the project described in this post, please leave a comment below. We also invite you to follow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.




Land tenure and agroforestry at the heart of a sustainable future Earth

Abraham Kiprotich at his farm in Metkei, Elgeyo/Marakwet County in Kenya. He grows fodder trees, shrubs and grass

Our suffering planet looks set on a path of destruction, according to many. But leading thinkers gathered at the World Agroforestry Centre’s annual Science Week see the possibility of a bright, and sustainable, future Earth with secure land rights and agroforestry at its core, says Robert Finlayson

Every year, most of the World Agroforestry Centre’s 300-plus scientists gather in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss their research methods and findings from projects in 38 or so countries around the world. The week-long event ended this year with a panel of distinguished guests discussing what is needed to create a future, sustainable Earth.

The panel was part of a contribution to the Future Earth initiative. The questions, ‘What is this future Earth? What does it demand of all of us? What can we identify as a path to progress?’ were put by the moderator, Dr Ravi Prabhu, the Centre’s deputy director-general research.

The first to respond was Achim Steiner, executive director and under-secretary-general of the United Nations Environment Programme, who argued that we needed more research into sustainable production landscapes. And to make such landscapes a reality, decision makers needed to receive more information that was relevant for implementation. So the real question was what could we do to make sure that people were properly informed and motivated to act?

For Steiner, the current age focuses on the ‘production maximisation curve’ but rather than exploit resources we need to manage systems if we are to feed 7 billion people without destroying ourselves in the process.


New Agroforestry Species Switchboard means easier, faster access to quality information

Faidherbia albida, a nitrogen-fixing acacia, is among the over 22,000 species searchable on the new Agroforestry Species Switchboard

The word ‘Acacia’ returns about 25 million results from an online search. The same genus name, entered in the newly launched Agroforestry Species Switchboard, produces a list of the 629 species names containing ‘Acacia’,  easily navigable with links to further information from over a dozen globally renowned databases. Acacia are among the 22,212 useful tree, shrub and related plant species listed searchable from this new information gateway on the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) website.

“The Switchboard’s main strength is that it shortens the time and energy spent on searches, and generates quality information drawn from trusted sources,” says Roeland Kindt, the senior ecologist at ICRAF who led the development of the tool. “Its creation was driven by a need expressed by users, for a “one-stop-shop” for good quality and detailed information on species of interest,” says Kindt.

The work was funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, and during the development of the tool, most of ICRAF research divisions, known as Science Domains, were involved.

The 13 websites the Switchboard links to include The Plant Resources for Tropical Africa, The Useful Tree Species for Africa, Tree Seed Suppliers Directory, The UNEP-WCMC Species Database,  and The VECEA interactive vegetation map. In addition to directly harnessing information from these 13, the switchboard also provides hyperlinks to The Plant ListTropicosRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and The Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

“Before the Switchboard, you had to search for a particular species one database at a time. But now, multiple databases that list information on a particular species can be accessed in one go,” says Kindt.

“Because listings of species in databases only partially overlap, it is common to find little or no information on a particular species in one database, but plenty of it in a second or third database. So it makes sense to query multiple trusted sources of data on one web interface,” he states.

By harvesting information in this way, the user can find out detailed descriptions on a particular species, its uses, availability of its seed and seedlings, how suitable it is for growing in various ecological zones, as well as its photographs or line drawings.

Read article here


Land-use planning for low-emissions development strategies

The LUWES method is participatory, working closely with all people involved. Pictured are farmers in Merauka, Papua province, Indonesia, measuring carbon stock. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Degi Harja

Farms, estates and other land uses produce food and other benefits but they can also produce greenhouse gases. To reduce these, Indonesia is working with the World Agroforestry Centre to implement land-use planning for low-emissions development strategies, say Sonya Dewi, Feri Johana, Andree Ekadinata and Putra Agung in a new policy brief

Agriculture and forestry generate food, building materials and economic returns, amongst other things of crucial importance to human wellbeing. However, they often also generate emissions of greenhouse gases and contribute significantly to global warming. Yet they have the potential to absorb carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change.

If not properly planned, trying to stop such emissions by halting deforestation or changing agricultural practices can restrict economic growth and threaten the security of food supplies.

We have found that a ‘landscape approach’—rather than one-off, site-specific interventions—can more effectively reduce emissions while maintaining development targets. This is because in any given area decisions about how land is used—and therefore what emissions are produced—are made by a complex web of people with differing motivations. We call this approach ‘Land-use planning for low-emission development strategies’ or LUWES.

Using this approach with local governments to plan how land is used is critically important because it is in local villages and farms that agriculture and forestry—and any associated emissions—take place. In complex landscapes that are home to diverse and perhaps conflicting groups, an inclusive, integrated and informed planning process is much more likely to reduce emissions than a ‘top–down’ approach.

Read full article here


Seeds of hope emerge across the world’s drylands

Rabi Saadou with a young Combretum glutinosum tree in her millet field. Photo by Charlie Pye-Smith/ICRAF

Drylands occupy 40% of the earth’s land area and are home to 2.5 billion people – nearly a third of the world’s population. People in dry areas are forced to contend with severe environmental degradation and increasing climate variability, as population soars. A groundbreaking paper heralding a new integrated systems approach to agricultural research in the drylands, was published in the journal Food Security this week .

This is good news for 400 million people in the developing world who depend on dryland agriculture for their livelihoods. But what is new?

To begin with, the authors distinguish between households with a low asset base, whose livelihoods are dominated by vulnerability, and those with a stronger asset base. For the first group the priority is to reduce vulnerability and improve their resilience whereas the second group are well placed to benefit from sustainable intensification, focused on improving productivity per unit of land and water. “In reality, households are spread along a continuum from low to high resilience and productivity,” said Fergus Sinclair, Science Domain Leader at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and one of the authors of the paper,

“But, there is a threshold of vulnerability that you have to cross before people are able to invest in increasing productivity, rather than protecting themselves from the sort of catastrophic collapses that we saw affecting close to 10 million people in the Horn of Africa in the 2011 drought.”

The paper proposes an approach to research for development that integrates action horizontally (across sectors) and vertically (across scales) all along impact pathways, from research activity, through outputs (new research findings), outcomes (how the findings are applied to change what extension, development partners and policy makers do), and impact (improved food security and nutrition, reduced poverty and enhanced environmental integrity in the drylands).

Click here for the full article


Sahelian parklands needs improved tree, crop and livestock integration for future productivity


In the agroforestry parklands of the Sahel, generations of farmers have integrated crops, livestock and trees. With increasing pressure on natural resources to provide fuel, food and fodder for a growing population, farmers and scientists are looking at how these systems can best be intensified to increase productivity.

“Trees, crops and livestock all benefit from each other in the parkland farming systems of countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali,” explains Jules Bayala, Senior Scientist in Ecophysiology with the World Agroforestry Centre. “But to ensure all components are as productive as they can be relies on better integration and increased knowledge about the dependency, competition and complementarity of each element.”

In the agroforestry parkland farming system, livestock – cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, camels, donkeys and foul – are kept as a source of food, transport, power and cash. During the dry season, livestock freely browse in the parklands, providing manure that improves soil fertility and helps nourish trees and crops. Livestock also disburse the seeds of trees and sometimes break seed dormancy.

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One small change of words – a giant leap in effectiveness!


One small change of words is a giant leap in the effectiveness of agricultural research and development.

The race is on to find sustainable ways of producing enough food to feed the world over the next three to four decades. Over this time, population, and living standards for many people, are both set to rise, creating a burgeoning demand for food, at the same time as pressures on land and ecosystems threaten supply. A new article, just out in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, tackles the thorny question of how to ‘scale up’ the use of sustainable intensification options so that they are available to large numbers of smallholder farmers.

There have been a number of high profile calls to scale-up agroforestry as a means to produce more food and fuel in an environmentally sustainable way. Jerry Glover of USAID set out the stall for perennial agriculture in Africa, in a piece in Nature last year: Agriculture: Plant perennials to save Africa’s soils. Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, recently made the case that agroecology can feed the world, and even Bill Gates, quoted on the sleeve of Gordon Conway’s 2012 book One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World? says “we will need to help smallholder farmers sustainably increase their productivity.” Sustainable, ecological or agroecological ‘intensification’, are the new buzzwords in the corridors of aid agencies and government ministries, and Brian Keating has rekindled interest in agricultural systems thinking under a banner of ‘eco-efficiency’.

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ICRAF and partners launch first ever African Plant Breeding Academy


Hearty applaus­­e mingled with the sound of drumbeat at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) as the African Plant Breeding Academy came into being shortly after midday on 3 December 2013. The Academy, an initiative of the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC),[1] is hosted by ICRAF and will be used to train around 250 African scientists in the latest biotechnological techniques to optimize the yield and nutritional content of 100 important but little-researched edible crops and trees native to Africa. Grown widely on farms, the improved varieties will help address the serious challenge of poor health caused by chronic malnutrition and recurrent episodes of hunger among Africa’s populations, especially the rural poor.

Professor Onesmo ole MoiYoi, the event’s keynote speaker, was emphatic: “We have to get serious about getting people out of episodes of starvation,” he said. Ole MoiYoi, chair of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute Board, discussed the many dangers of poor nutrition in mothers, babies, and young children. These include an acquired predisposition to life-threatening conditions like coronary disease, hypertension, certain cancers, and even schizophrenia, later in life. “Imprinting during fetal development commits an individual to develop traits that can be passed on to grandchildren,” he stated, citing observations from Europe and China.

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Join our #WCA2014 social media team!

social media app

Are you familiar with things like "Twitter", "Facebook", "blogging", "vlogging", "podcasting",…? Join us! Or if those words sound like gibberish to you, well… You are welcome too!

Experienced social media users, professionals, volunteers, journalists as well as beginners are equally welcome in the social media team of the World Congress on Agroforestry (WCA2014) held in Delhi – India, on February 10-14 (2014)…

We are assembling a large team of social media volunteers to support the conference. The volunteers can participate either online, or at the event itself. We are offering a free two days' social media training course for all onsite volunteers.

So join our online group of social media volunteers, or our onsite social reporting team!

Join our social reporters volunteering team:

This team is a mixture of professionals and young volunteers. Some work for the organisations participating in the WCA2014 and others work for our partners or other organisations. Most of our social reporters, though, are social media enthusiasts, who contribute to our social media outreach through their own networks.

Some of our volunteers are present at the forum itself, but most are supporting us remotely in various social media activities, ranging from writing or editing blogposts, uploading videos and pictures, spreading different content pieces via Twitter, Facebook,..

Our social reporters coordinate their activities via a Google Group discussion forum, and have already started their work for the event. Each contributes whatever they can into the discussions, dependent on their time availability, expertise and eagerness…

The real exciting part is "while doing, we learn": having such a large and diverse social reporting team, gives us a wealth of experience, which allows our social reporters to learn from each other.

You don't have to fulfill any criteria to be part of our social reporting team, other than being enthusiastic about our causes: agroforestry, forestry, agriculture, sustainable development, food security, natural research management, …

Even if you can't come to the event itself, you can still participate online. You'll be able to contribute to the group's discussions, help with the social media outreach, or even report via one of our live webcasts!

Interested? Send our social media coordinator an email: Peter Casier – p.casier(at)cgiar(dot)org – and we'll plug you into our team!

Join our onsite social reporters team, register for the free social media training!

If you are coming to the conference itself, we're happy to integrate you into our social media team, reporting live from the Congress!

To help you prepare, we are giving a free social media training for all volunteers on Feb 8-9 at the WCA2014 venue.

The training will cover:

  • an overview of all social media tools, and their use within a professional environment;
  • an overview of how to pull all these tools into a strategy;
  • hands-on introduction in two key tools we will use for social reporting at WCA2014: Twitter and blogging;

On Feb 9th, the training will conclude with a meeting of all onsite social reporting volunteers.

The training is free, and open to all social reporting volunteers (congress participants, students, scientists and staff from partners etc..).

Interested in joining our social reporting team? Email our social media coordinator: Peter Casier – p.casier(at)cgiar(dot)org and we will enlist you on our e-discussion group.
In your mail, please mark clearly if you want to participate in the training, as the number of seats is limited!

For more information just email Peter and he will be happy to assist you.

Picture courtesy: Jason A. Howie


How can science bridge development in agroforestry?

coffee experts share knowledge

While agroforestry technologies have been shown to increase production and food security and contribute to income generation, how can we ensure the science of agroforestry truly has a positive impact on development?

A session on Bridging Science and Development, during the second day of the World Congress of Agroforestry, will explore the conditions which are necessary to ensure agroforestry science has a positive influence on social, environmental and/or economic development.

What type of agroforestry science is needed to deliver positive development? How can science ‘on’ development be converted to science 'for' development in agroforestry? What policy approaches help to bridge science and development? These are among the questions which speakers working in academia, development, policy and extension will attempt to answer.
Best practice in establishing agroforestry research for development projects will be discussed along with what is currently known about the adoption of science-based agroforestry technologies and what is required to convert agroforestry research into policies.

Presentations will also analyze the ability of agroforestry research to contribute to local capacity development and the current situation with regard to where science and development practitioners working on agroforestry already cooperate and where is there room for improvement.

Photo: Coffee experts share knowledge about pruning management in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. (courtesy Enggar Paramita, World Agroforestry Centre)


Extension of early bird registration


The Congress Organising Committee has decided to extend early registration deadline to 30 December 2013, to encourage more participants to register for the congress with benefits of lower registration fees. From 31 December 2013, the regular registration fee will apply.
The Congress will feature Keynote Addresses, Plenary Discussions and Breakout Sessions, structured around the business, development and science of agroforestry.
The first day will be devoted to agroforestry systems, income and environmental benefits in South Asia. Subsequent days are arranged around the themes of: Business in the context of science and development, Sustaining development through agroforestry, breakthroughs and innovations, and The integration of science, business and development. 

Looking forward to seeing you at the WCA 2014.


Abstract deadline extended


To give interested parties a last chance to contribute to the deliberations, the Organizing Committee of the World Congress on Agroforestry 2014 has decided to extend the deadline for submitting an abstracts to 15 October 2013.

The Congress will feature Keynote Addresses, Plenary Discussions and Breakout Sessions, structured around the business, development and science of agroforestry.

The first day will be devoted to agroforestry systems, income and environmental benefits in South Asia. Subsequent days are arranged around the themes of: Business in the context of science and development, Sustaining development through agroforestry, breakthroughs and innovations, and The integration of science, business and development.

A total of 32 breakout sessions, for which abstracts should be submitted, will consider issues from agroforestry policy through public-private partnerships to the agroforestry of degraded lands. Full details of the agenda are available here.  Submit your abstract here.


How much are environmental services worth?

WCA Blog

Trees in the landscape provide goods and services that are important to the livelihoods, welfare and wellbeing of people in the landscape, and beyond it. Such services that benefit humankind are regulating water flow, preventing erosion, protecting biodiversity and even providing beautiful scenery.


However, decisions to cut, plant or otherwise manage these trees tend to be dominated by the direct benefits that the ‘owner’ expects. The environmental services are not considered, but they become more valuable as the trees and forests are destroyed.


Session 3.6 of the World Congress on Agroforestry 2014 will look at ways to put a value on the environmental services of trees in the landscape. Various approaches exist. Some rely on valuation in economic terms, to allow direct equivalence to traded goods that can be extracted from the landscape, with or without forest and/or trees.


Other studies have been designed to calculate the costs to land owners of not removing trees and forests as a basis for compensation, and/ to design co-investment programmes that support enhancement of environmental services.


Agroforestry landscape mosaics provide ecosystem services at levels substantially above those of intensified agriculture, yet there is no responsibility for them being lost.


The session will aim to provide a cross section of current research methods that involve economic valuation of the environmental services that trees provide in landscapes (in dependence of tree density, diversity, spatial pattern, management regime and other factors), but also of action research that seeks to change the (perceived) incentives for land managers to enhance tree roles in providing environmental services.


Climate change adaptation high on congress agenda

Climate Change1

Farmers in developing countries will have to face the main impacts of climate change: extreme weather events like tornadoes, floods and droughts. Unreliable rainfall and rising temperatures will threaten food supplies, crops and livestock. At the same time, farming households will lose the ability to cope with these stresses. Putting trees into agriculture and actively managing them in the landscape is a way  to buffer climate risk and protect the ecosystems that support poor farmers. Cheik Mbow, Senior Scientist, Climate Change and Development of the World Agroforestry Centre, will run a session on climate change at the Congress, with his colleague Todd Rosenstock. “Adaptation with agroforestry is seen in this session as potential response to the adverse effects of climate change but also as a viable option to respond to and reduce the anticipated negative impacts with trees,” he said.


Many agroforestry options can be pursued depending to the time period, the scale, the actors, the expected outcomes and available resources. There remains a wide range of research to be done to answer the fundamental questions about the benefits and challenges of adapting agroforestry to climate change. “We require a renewed effort to develop approaches capable of generating comprehensive and generalizable knowledge about these systems,” said Mbow. “To manage the diversity of approaches and case studies, this session will explore the communities’ ability to use agroforestry to adapt to climate change.”


The six scientists who will be talking during the session will be answering questions like: under what conditions can agroforestry systems contribute to the current well-being of the poor while enhancing their adaptive capacity? Are all components and processes relevant for understanding and managing benefit flows from agroforestry in changing climate and agricultural landscape included in current policies and development agendas? What are the current challenges for scientists and developers to better specify the adaptation strategies related to agroforestry in multifunctional and changing agricultural landscapes?


The answers will contribute to the road map that the Congress will produce for future action.


Professor M.S. Swaminathan confirmed as keynote speaker


Professor M.S. Swaminathan has been confirmed as a keynote speaker for the World Congress on Agrofroestry 2014. Professor Swaminathan is known as the 'Father of the Green Revolution in India' for his leadership and success in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of wheat in India. He is the founder and Chair of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. His vision is to rid the world of hunger and poverty. Professor Swaminathan is an advocate of moving India to sustainable development, especially using environmentally sustainable agriculture, sustainable food security and the preservation of biodiversity. This he calls an 'evergreen revolution', which will increase productivity in perpetuity without causing ecological damage.


The 'evergreen revolution' is closely tied to the concept of 'Evergreen Agriculture', where trees that fix nitrogen in their root, the so-called 'fertilizer trees' are integrated into annual food crop and livestock systems, sustaining a green cover on the land throughout the year. It bolsters nutrient supply through nitrogen fixation and nutrient cycling, increases direct production of food, fodder, fuel, and fibre, and provides additional income to farmers from tree products.


Swaminathan is a strong advocate of the use of agroforestry in developing country agriculture. He has been quoted as saying "Agroforestry is a science by itself and has to maintain its identity. And forestry helps us from a green revolution to an evergreen revolution." He has stressed the importance of agroforestry in overcoming nutritional challenges and highlighted its many benefits. "We need to reinvent agriculture in a sustainable and affordable way so that it can adapt to climate change and reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases. Novel solutions and technological advances must be married with ecological thinking to drive a truly sustainable agricultural revolution".

"Successful examples of evergreen agriculture … urgently need further research and scaling up to create a real evergreen revolution," he said.


Field Trip Themes Annouced for WCA 2014


World Congress on Agroforestry 2014 will be organising fieldtrips for participants on February 13-14 to close out the congress. The fleld trips will be throughout the South Asian region and demonstrating in-person some of the topics previously addressed in the days leading up to the trips.


With a total of 6 tracks, the theme of the field trips include
1. South Asia: Agroforestry systems, income and environmental benefits
2. South Asia: Climate change, multi-functionality, livestock and fish systems
3. The business of agroforestry: Applying science
4. Sustaining development through agroforestry
5. Applying science to the future of agroforestry: Breakthroughs and innovations
6. Applying science to the future of agroforestry: Policy innovation and global issues


More information regarding individual field trip locations, schedules, agendas and details will be posted as we approach the event. To receive updates on field trips and reminders on registration please submit your email address in the capture field at the bottom of the page (footer).


Abstract submissions now open


Submissions are now being accepted for WCA 2014 abstracts and posters through our dedicated abstracts portal. We will be displaying these on-site at the Congress in Delhi from February 10-14, 2014 at the Kempinski Ambience Shahdara hotel where the majority of the conference will take place.


Deadline for submissions is September 30, 2013. Interested participants are urged to apply early through our submissions portal here.


More details regarding poster size, abstract themes and guidelines can be found on the Abstracts page.


WCA 2014 agenda announced


Congress schedule is announced for World Congress on Agroforestry, February 10-14, 2014 in Delhi. The four-day event looks to offer a broad array of activities fostering an unique opportunity for the business and research communities to interact.


The WCA 2014 is formatted to promote cross-disciplinary cooperation between science and innovation, food and nutrition, environmental protection, enterprise, knowledge and policy environment, and climate change.


The opening day's morning sessions are slated to take place at the Vigyan Bhavan conference Centre, followed by the afternoon sessions at the Kempinski Ambience Shahdara hotel, Delhi. Congress sessions from February 11th through the morning of February 13th will continue at the Kempinski hotel. Field trips throughout the South Asia region will take place from the afternoon of the 13th through the 14th.


For full draft agenda details see here.


Congress to accelerate agroforestry impacts


Nairobi, Kenya – The World Agroforestry Centre announces its congress taking place in February 2014 in Delhi in association with the Indian Council on Agricultural Research. The congress aims to accelerate the contribution that trees can make to world development.


The Congress will attract 1200 participants, drawn from the private sector, NGOs, policy makers and stakeholders all looking to share the current state of knowledge and accelerate the positive financial, environmental and social impacts of agroforestry. It will create conditions for these stakeholders to engage effectively in discussions that answer the question "How can agroforestry make a difference?"


Using trees in a new global agriculture will shape a better future. This global congress will accelerate the use of trees in agriculture to meet the food needs of a burgeoning world population. WCA will showcase the most recent and significant work on agroforestry, and aims to deliver state-of-the-art analysis, inspiring visions and innovative research methods arising from interdisciplinary research.


Agroforestry has the opportunity to transform lives and our environment as trees play a fundamental role in almost all the Earth's ecosystems and provide a range of benefits to rural and urban people. Landscapes without trees can quickly erode into barren, unproductive expanses. As well as bringing many environmental benefits, adding trees to agriculture can be highly profitable, producing valuable fruit, fodder, oil, timber, medicinals and fuels, as well as valuable commodities such as coffee, cocoa and rubber.


Public-private sector partnerships established at WCA give both parties a chance to sustainably increase yields and accomplish greater returns for both the farmers and corporate actors. Few of the 9 billion people who will be around in 2050 will be able to live sustainably without relying in a significant way on trees. The clock is ticking, and WCA is ahead of the game.


"The Congress will produce a global roadmap for agroforestry in the context of world development," said Dr Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre. "For 2014 we want a whole different type of event and experience that will leave a deliberate and tangible legacy in terms of recognition, partnerships, investments and impact."