Conservation news

Podcast: Agroforestry, an ancient climate solution that boosts food production and biodiversity

  • On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with three different guests about why agroforestry is increasingly being implemented worldwide to address industrial agriculture’s contributions to the global environmental crises we’re facing as well as to create new livelihood opportunities and build food security for local communities.
  • Agroforestry is the practice of incorporating woody perennials like trees and shrubs into a system with agricultural crops or livestock. It’s been practiced by indigenous peoples for thousands of years, and they are still perhaps the chief practitioners of it today.
  • We speak with Mongabay’s own Erik Hoffner, who edits Mongabay’s ongoing coverage of agroforestry, as well as Sarah Lovell, who talks about agroforestry in the US, and Roger Leakey, who discusses agroforestry in the tropics.

Today we’re taking a look at how agroforestry, an ancient indigenous technology that is increasingly being adopted by farmers around the world, can help solve many of the major environmental issues we’re facing, from deforestation and biodiversity loss to climate change.

Listen here:

Agroforestry involves the use of woody perennials like trees and shrubs together on the same land as agricultural crops or livestock. It’s a land-use system that has been practiced by indigenous peoples around the world for thousands of years, and indigenous peoples are still perhaps the chief practitioners of it today. But agroforestry is increasingly being implemented worldwide not just as a means of addressing industrial agriculture’s contributions to the global environmental crises we’re facing but also as a means of creating new livelihood opportunities and building food security for local communities.

On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we’ve got three guests joining us. The first is Mongabay’s own Erik Hoffner, the producer of this very podcast in addition to the editor of Mongabay’s ongoing agroforestry series. He’s making his first appearance after working behind the scenes on the podcast ever since we launched in 2016. Erik tells us about the different kinds of agroforestry, Mongabay’s coverage of case studies from around the world, and why Wall Street needs to wake up to the potential of agroforestry.

We also speak with Sarah Lovell, a professor and the director of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri in the US. Lovell tells us about agroforestry’s history in the United States, the kinds of agroforestry operations prevalent in the States today, and what impacts she hopes the new Biden Administration will have on agroforestry’s growth.

And last but certainly not least, we speak with Roger Leakey, a professor at James Cook University in Australia and vice president of the International Tree Foundation. He explains to us his extended metaphor describing how trees are much more than the lungs of the planet and discusses agroforestry in the tropics, including how agroforestry is helping build food security in Africa and Asia as well as how agroforestry can help reduce pressures that lead to deforestation and climate change.

Here’s some of Mongabay’s coverage of agroforestry that is mentioned in the episode (the entire series can be viewed here):

“Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s also profitable” by Stephanie Hanes (8 July 2020)

• Agroforestry: “An ancient ‘indigenous technology’ with wide modern appeal (commentary)” by Erik Hoffner (15 July 2019)

“Trees are much more than the lungs of the world (commentary)” by Roger Leakey (2 January 2018)

“Agroforestry: An increasingly popular solution for a hot, hungry world” by Giovanni Ortolani (26 October 2017)

Samuel Rono shows off the cabbages growing among other crops in his agroforestry system. Photo by David Njagi for Mongabay.

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Alley cropping: Cotton grows between rows of Pine trees in Florida. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

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