FAO trains farmers in Burundi to combat soil erosion through agroforestry and contour planting
04 November 2019
World Agroforestry defines agroforestry as the interaction of agriculture and trees, including the agricultural use of trees. It is a dynamic natural resource management system that aims to produce trees for timber, to supply diverse and nutritious foods, and to ensure the protection of the natural environment. Reforestation restores degraded forests to the original state.
In Africa, the demand for food to feed rapidly growing populations is increasing the demand for arable land, leading to direct competition between the agriculture sector and Africa’s woodland and forest areas. Climate change and extreme weather events further impact the productivity of agricultural land, pushing farmers onto previously forested land in order to meet the food and energy needs of their communities.
As demand for food increases, smallholder farmers are not only expanding land under agricultural production, but are intensifying unsustainable agricultural practices in order to meet demand. These practices ultimately lead to land degradation and declining soil health – it is estimated that 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of forests in Africa are degraded. This current pattern perpetuates a vicious cycle whereby soils become less productive, forcing smallholders to continue to expand into forested land in search of arable land, which leads to further degradation, loss of essential ecosystem services, a decline in agricultural productivity, and a loss of carbon sinks.
In order to counteract the negative impacts of deforestation, the RFS programme promotes agroforestry and reforestation interventions as critical components in achieving food and nutrition security and contributing to global environment benefits. Integrating trees into agricultural landscapes and planning land use around forest ecosystems restores degraded land by increasing soil fertility, controlling erosion, improving soil water retention, and improve ground water quality.
In addition to improving crop yields, the rehabilitation and planting of forests provides local communities with access to diversified food and non-food products that contribute to food nutrition and security and generate new streams of income. When it comes to climate change mitigation, agroforestry and reforestation improve carbon sequestration while reducing agricultural contributions to carbon emissions. The rehabilitation and planting of forests also reduces the vulnerability of communities to climate change and increases the resilience of communities to climate shocks.
RFS country projects are implementing a variety of agroforestry and reforestation activities, including tree planting, installing efficient cookstoves, contour planting, hedgerow intercropping, and the promotion of non-timber forest product value chains.
In Burundi, a country that lost 5% of its forest cover between 2001 and 2019, FAO is using the Farmer Field Schools to both raise awareness of the importance of forests and teach smallholder farmers agroforestry techniques, such as contour planting, to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health. In Burkina Faso, the RFS country project team is helping the Government of Burkina Faso to reach its Land Degradation Neutrality targets through promotion of agroforestry and support of forest farmers. In Ethiopia, RFS is helping local school environmental clubs plant tree seedlings within their school compounds while teaching students about the vital importance of forests.
Explore the RFS Country Projects to see more examples of how RFS countries are implementing Agroforestry & Reforestation activities.
Stories from the Field
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This IUCN report compiles case studies from Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, the Philippines and Viet Nam to highlight how forest landscape restoration (FLR) interventions enhance food security. They illustrate the ‘win-win’ solutions that can enhance land functionality and productivity, develop resilient food systems and explore the long-term potential outputs and enabling conditions for FLR interventions. A greater emphasis on the impacts of degradation and deforestation and other indicators are exemplified throughout these case studies in order to better understand the results from FLR interventions and their relationship to land productivity.
This paper, from colleagues at IUCN and the International Food Policy Research Institute, provides important insight into how a full integration of crop production in restoration efforts could impact food production levels, food availability, forest carbon stocks, and Greenhouse gas emissions. Existing approaches and methodologies that investigate effects of land degradation on food security vary greatly. Although a relatively rich body of literature that investigates localized experiences, geophysical, and socioeconomic drivers of land degradation, and the costs and benefits of avoiding land degradation already exists, less rigorously explored are the global effects of restoring degraded landscapes for the health of the land, the climate, and world food security. The current scale of land degradation is such that the problem can be meaningfully addressed only if local successes are upscaled and a large number of landowners and land managers implement restoration activities.
EX-ACT is an appraisal system developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that provides estimates of the impact of agriculture and forestry development projects, programmes and policies on the carbon-balance. The tool helps project designers estimate and prioritise project activities with high benefits in economic and climate change mitigation terms. The amount of greenhouse gas mitigation may also be used as part of economic analyses and in project funding applications.
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