Trees sprout across farmland worldwide

mongabay.com
August 26, 2009





Half the planet's farmed landscapes have significant tree cover, reports a new satellite-based study.

The research, conducted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research's World Agroforestry Centre found that tree cover exceeds 10 percent on more than 1 billion hectares of farmland, indicating that agroforestry is a "vital part" of worldwide agricultural production. 320 million hectares of forested agricultural land are found in Latin America, 190 million hectares in sub-Saharan Africa and 130 million hectares in Southeast Asia.

"The area revealed in this study is twice the size of the Amazon, and shows that farmers are protecting and planting trees spontaneously," said Dennis Garrity, the World Agroforestry Centre's Director General. "The problem is that policymakers and planners have been slow to recognize this phenomenon and take advantage of the beneficial effect of planting trees on farms. Trees are providing farmers with everything from carbon sequestration, to nuts and fruits, to windbreaks and erosion control, to fuel for heating and timber for housing. Unless such practices are brought to scale in farming communities worldwide, we will not benefit from the full value trees can bring to livelihoods and landscapes."


Agroforestry in Uganda
The World Agroforestry Centre notes the wide range of benefits trees offer to farmers, including the provision of food, medicine, timber, fuelwood and commodities, as well as fodder and shelter for livestock and fertilizer to boost crop yields and enrich soils. Products from trees — fruit, nuts, fiber, and resins — can boost and diversify income streams for rural populations, while trees themselves can help control erosion, fortify water supplies, and increase local biodiversity.

"If planted systematically on farms, trees could improve the resiliency of farmers by providing them with food and income," said Tony Simons, Deputy Director General at the World Agroforestry Centre. "For example, when crops and livestock fail, trees often withstand drought conditions and allow people to hold over until the next season."

"What trees essentially provide to farmers is choice. Choice of enterprise, choice of market, choice for diversification, choice for low labour requirement, choice for multiple function. Developing country farmers are spoilt for choice. Whilst Western Europe has some 250 native tree species and North America has a larger set of 600 trees species—the developing tropics has a staggering 50,000 tree species to manage and utilize. The priority is to find the right tree for the right place for the right use."


Regenerating forest in Costa Rica
The study's results challenge the conventional assumption that agriculture represents a trade-off "between people and trees."

"This study offers convincing evidence that farms and forests are in no way mutually exclusive, but that trees are in fact critical to agricultural production everywhere," said Professor Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement. Professor Maathai was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to increase community forestry through reforestation across Kenya.

The World Agroforestry Centre hopes that the findings could help rural farmers win recognition, and compensation, for the carbon stored in trees across agricultural landscapes under a proposed U.N. framework for mitigating climate change. The Centre with working with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to develop "a standard method for measuring carbon storage on all types of landscapes, which could provide a basis for providing farmers with a financial incentive to increase tree cover on their farms," according to a statement from Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research's World Agroforestry Centre (CGIAR).

"The data in this report illustrate that agroforestry will be critical to efforts aimed at making agriculture more productive and sustainable in order to contribute to the alleviation of climate change," said Garrity. "It is estimated that further investments in agroforestry over the next 50 years could remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."

World Agroforestry Centre





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CITATION:
mongabay.com (August 26, 2009).

Trees sprout across farmland worldwide.

http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0825-trees.html