Agroforestry

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. 

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The Nhambita community carbon project, Mozambique 

Initiated in 2003, the project pays 1000 smallholder farmers in the buffer zone of the Gorongosa National Park in Sofala Province for sequestering carbon through adoption of agroforestry practices and for reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) of miombo woodlands. Farmers are contracted to sequester carbon on their machambas (farmlands) through adoption of agroforestry practices from a 'menu' that includes horticultural tree species, woodlots, intercropping food crops with Faidherbia albida, planting native hardwoods around the boundary of the machambas, and planting fruit trees within the homestead. In all, different project activities yield carbon offsets equal to 24,117 tCO2e per annum over an area of about 20 000 hectares. Farmers receive carbon payments at a rate of US$4.5 per tCO2 or in the range of US$433/ha to $808/ha over seven years. The project shows that carbon sequestration through land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) can both promote sustainable rural livelihoods as well as generate verifiable carbon emissions reductions for the international community. 

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last updated:  Monday, June 6, 2011