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Agroforestry offers a way to stand against climate change

Combining apiculture with trees

Increasing agricultural productivity by over 20 percent just by using a negligible percent of arable land for creating forest areas sounds like a good deal. As practice shows, this is achievable with agroforestry – the practice of integrating woody vegetation with crops or animal systems. And the real bonus is that it helps combat climate change.

To help people better understand this sustainable method, a two-day workshop is opening here today, organized by FOREST EUROPE, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, and the National Agricultural Research and Innovation Centre of Hungary. Participants have come from 20 European countries, Canada, and several international organizations.

“The idea is to link experts of the agriculture and the forest sector,” said FAO forestry officer Norbert Winkler-Rathonyi, “and, by sharing knowledge and experience, to establish a mutual understanding of agroforestry and lay down the basis of future cooperation.”

Agroforestry can be defined as a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that includes both traditional and modern land-use methods. Through the integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, agroforestry diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels.

The great majority of farmland suffers from some kind of environmental problem, and introducing agroforestry would support the adaptation of the landscape to climate change in general. It helps combat land degradation and desertification, protect biodiversity and soil fertility, and ensure a healthier water system. It decreases the likeliness and intensity of forest fires, which is especially important for countries in the Mediterranean region.

“During the workshop, we’ll discuss the main drivers and barriers for agroforestry in order to formulate possible future steps and recommendations for Europe,” said Ludmila Marušáková, head of FOREST EUROPE’s Liaison Unit in Bratislava. “These should promote the further spread of agroforestry and thus contribute to landscape resilience. In this regard, FOREST EUROPE strive to further develop approaches to protection of forests to address new challenges and risks posed to European forests associated with climate change.”

Also addressed at the workshop will be the promotion of forest farming to increase the use of short supply chains and to increase the connection of urban, peri-urban and rural areas within a bioeconomy and circular economy framework.
Though they have been fading away in some countries, agroforestry practices are not new to many European countries. Since 2007, agroforestry has been supported by the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP, as a sustainable land use system.

Silvopasture, which combines forest areas with pasture grazing of domesticated animals, is the most widespread agroforestry practice, appearing in all parts of the continent. In the mountainous areas of Austria, Switzerland and the Mediterranean, fruit orchards are grazed or intercropped. Windbreaks are common in the former Soviet republics; in Ukraine, for example, windbreaks have more than 200 years of history.

Countries in Central and Eastern Europe, with the exception of Hungary, have not adopted agroforestry-related measures.
Ireland, whose case is being presented during the workshop, has been ambitious in its plan to cut the carbon footprint of its livestock sector by increasing the area of land managed using agroforestry practices.

As part of the events, participants will visit an agroforestry demonstration plot and get a hands-on experience on sustainable forest management in Hungary.

9 October 2018, Budapest, Hungary

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