23 Agroforestry practices hold the key to food security and resilience

Getting 500 million smallholder farmers to adopt sustainable agroforestry practices


  • Inga Foundation
  • Sustainable Harvest International
  • FuturaGene
  • FAST International


This side-event will be chaired by H.E Anna Gebremedhin, Ambassador of Finland to the Rome-Based UN Agencies. It will present an overview of agroforestry projects systems that provide sustainable models for the forestry sectors to sustainably increase crop production; improve nutrition and mitigate climate change, while also being resilient to its impacts. 

Civil society, private sector, international organizations, and international agronomic research groups would share examples from their decades of research and implementation around the world. Inga Foundation, Sustainable Harvest International, FAST International, FuturaGene others would share examples

Inga Foundation: The foundation will present its alley-cropping projects in Honduras, in the Congo basin and in Madagascar. This system, based on alley cropping using nitrogen-fixing tree species from the genus Inga, provides a groundbreaking approach to stop slash and burn by working with smallholder farmers to restore degraded land, provide long-term food security, generate sustainable livelihoods and project the rainforest. The Inga Foundation works in partnership with the University of Cambridge and the Kew Royal Gardens and is a beneficiary of the Innocent Foundation.

Sustainable Harvest International. Since 1997, this NGO has provided local, long-term technical assistance and training to rural farming families in Central America. Its model equips and empowers low-income farmers with the resources to implement alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture, sustain the land for future generations of farmers, halt tropical deforestation, and build strong, self-supporting communities through agribusiness.

FuturaGene is exploring in China the potential of woody desert species to couple ecosystem services with economic offtake. One of these species, yellow horn (Xanthoceras sorbifolia) is an oil bearing tree of increasing importance for greening deserts of northern China.  This work was the focus of a recent WWF New Generation Plantation study tour.

FAST: Catalyse investments towards forest SMEs in developing countries. FAST has been working for the past three years with a multi-stakeholder working group (including social investors, certification schemes, enterprises, NGOs, development banks, local experts..) to catalyse investments and measure the social, environmental and economic  impact of investments in forest SMEs. The impact framework aims to measure the positive social and environmental impact of forest SMEs that conventional finance does not incorporate in its ROI. The ultimate goal is to facilitate access to finance for sustainable forest SMEs. The presentation would share the results of pilts tested in Peru, Bolivia, Ghana and Indonesia.

The side-event will provide further examples of the impacts of agroforestry extension programs for smallholder farmers, including the work of CIFOR and the FAO Forestry Division.

After the presentations, those in attendance would be invited to brainstorm a list of barriers to wide-spread implementation of these practices, and then to brainstorm a list of solutions to these barriers. The final desired outcome will be to get pledges from participants to take steps toward implementing these solutions.

Key speakers/presenters

  • H.E Anna Gebremedhin, Permanent Representative of Finland to the Rome-Based UN Agencies
  • Mike Hands, Director, Inga Foundation
  • Florence Reed, Director, Sustainable Harvest International
  • Dror Avisar, Platform Head, Yield Protection, Molecular Biology, R&D, Futuragene
  • Terence Sunderland, Principal Scientist, CIFOR
  • Simone Borelli, Agroforestry and Urban and Periurban Forestry Officer, FAO (Italy)


  • The tremendous potential of agroforestry systems to address world food security
  • Examples of the impacts of agroforestry extension programs for smallholder farmers
  • Plans to expand agroforestry adoption
  • Pledges from participants to take steps toward implementing these plans

Agroforestry systems have tremendous potential to address world food security. Worldwide, as many as 1.7 billion people are estimated to be forest-dependent. Agroforesty reinforces all four of the pillars of food security: (i) food availability, (ii) food system stability, (iii) food accessibility, and (iv) food use. Forests and trees play a crucial role in strengthening the resilience of food systems; in turn, sustainable farming reduces deforestation, a major contributor to climate change.

It is important to develop and mobilize policy-relevant knowledge on the direct and indirect contributions of forests and trees to food security and nutrition. It is also critical to celebrate and expand the role forests play in building resilience in environmental processes at many levels, from household to community to landscape. In addition, we must continue to represent and defend the right to adequate food for forest-dependent people.

Sustainable Harvest International provides smallholder farmers with tools and techniques to reduce their dependence on slash-and-burn farming techniques, improving soil health and crop yields.

The Inga Foundation offers a low-input alternative to slash-and-burn practices: Inga alley-cropping. The Foundation also researches restoration opportunities for landscapes degraded by repeated slash-and-burn. Discoveries have shown the importance of phosphorus in plants and forests to improve post-burn yields and protect fields from erosion.  

Futuragene provides farmers with technologies that improve plant yields. In China, their breeding and germplasm selection, clonal propagation, containerized seedling production, and plantation management of the Yellowhorn Nut Tree have created a seedling ready for transplanting in half the traditional time. These technologies contribute to myriad environmental and socioeconomic benefits.
The FAO currently has agroforestry projects in Seychelles, Comoros, Honduras, Guatemala, and Rwanda with four areas of work focus:

  • Strengthening political will and sharing policy expertise
  • Making information about the transition to sustainable agriculture publicly available
  • Bringing knowledge to the field
  • Supporting countries as they prevent and mitigate risks

Agroforestry extension programs, including the CIFOR and FAO Forestry Division, also support smallholders. Barriers to agroforestry adoption for smallholders include, but are not limited to, (i) insecure land and tree tenure, (ii) poor intersectoral coordination, (iii) inadequate services for smallholders, (iv) insufficient support for women farmers, and (v) limited use of existing knowledge and data collection tools. Steps must be taken toward implementing solutions that encourage dissemination of sustainable agroforestry practices around the world.

Key outcomes / takeaway messages

  • There is insufficient awareness of agroforestry as an essential part of sustainable farming and climate change mitigation.  
  • We must identify barriers to adoption of sustainable agroforestry techniques and create an environment that enables innovative problem-solving.  
  • Future monitoring needs to be evidence-based, acknowledging a persistent need for improved access to data.
  • There is a clear need for partnerships, especially between the private and public sectors.
Side Event - 23 - Agroforestry practices hold the key to food security and resilience