Agroforestry is the use of trees and shrubs in agricultural crop and/or animal production and land management systems. Trees are used in many traditional and modern farming and rangeland systems. Trees on farms are particularly prevalent in Southeast Asia and Central and South America. Practiotioners agree that agroforestry systems and practices come in many forms, including improved fallows, taungya (growing annual agricultural crops during the establishment of a forest plantation), home gardens, growing multipurpose trees and shrubs, boundary planting, farm woodlots, orchards, plantation/crop combinations, shelterbelts, windbreaks, conservation hedges, fodder banks, live fences, trees on pasture and tree apiculture.
|Faidherbia albida agroforestry/agrosilvipastoral system |
Faidherbia albida is a tree commonly found in agroforestry systems in sub-Saharan Africa. This tree, which is widespread throughout the continent, thrives on a range of soils and occurs in ecosystems from, deserts to wet tropical climates. It fixes nitrogen and has the special feature of 'reversed leaf phenology' meaning it is dormant and sheds its leaves during the early rainy season and leafs out when the dry season begins. This feature makes it compatible with food crop production, because it does not compete for light, nutrients and water. Farmers have frequently reported significant crop yield increases for maize, sorghum, millet, cotton and groundnut when grown in proximity to Faidherbia. From 6 percent to more than 100 percent yield increases have been reported in the literature.
Like many other agroforestry species, Faidherbia tends to increase carbon stocks both above-ground and in the soil (8) and improves soil water retention and nutrient status. Faidherbia trees are currently found on less than 2 percent of Africa's maize area and less than 13 percent of the area grown with sorghum and millet. With maize being the most widely cropped staple in Africa, the potential for adopting this agroforestry system is tremendous. Further research is needed to better explore the potential benefits Faidherbia can provide, including for crop productivity in different agro-ecosystems; wood and non-wood products for household use or sale on the market; and possibilities for engaging with carbon markets.