Social issues and agroforestry solutions

People living in rural areas are often the most poor and the most marginalized. Limited and declining possibilities for a decent life in the countryside often leads to migration of men or whole families to cities. Kigoma, Tanzania ©FAO/Simon Maina 

Women often having more limited access to resources than men, they are more vulnerable than men to land degradation and natural disasters. This is especially the case of women-headed households. Women are usually responsible for gathering firewood, a task which may take several hours.

Indigenous peoples are another highly vulnerable sector of society; they make up 5% of the world population, but count for 15% of all the poor.

There is a need to improve living conditions in rural regions and address the specific needs of vulnerable groups.

How agroforestry can contribute to solving these problems

Agroforestry can improve gender equality

Women make up a significant share, and in many cases, the majority, of both the agricultural and forest/tree labor force. Including trees in agricultural systems can help empower them. For example:

  • When trees are more closely accessible, women, who are often responsible for the collecting of fuelwood or fodder, save precious time and energy.
  • By selling fruits, fodder or fuelwood coming from the trees on the land, women can increase their access to cash.
  • Because of women frequently have a more difficult access to resources, financial or other, agroforestry is a low-input solution to restoring soil fertility and increasing agricultural output.

To learn more, read the paper ICRAF has produced in 2011 the place of women in agroforestry in Africa. For more general information, see FAO's 2013 publication on forests, food security and gender.

Morongoro, Tanzania ©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri    Injil, Afghanistan ©FAO/Shah Marai 

Agroforestry can help local communities and cultures thrive

Agroforestry systems are frequently part of traditional land management techniques and, as such, their maintaining holds cultural and social importance:

  • By working together with indigenous people and local communities, modern agroforestry specialists can help ensure the long term sustainability of traditional systems while respecting local beliefs and culture.
  • Preserving indigenous working techniques and species is a way of protecting humankind’s agricultural heritage.
  • The recognition of indigenous agroforestry systems contributes to cultural diversity.
  • By providing decent rural livelihoods, agroforestry can contribute to maintaining thriving rural communities.
  • Using species that have strong spiritual significance for the people can help maintain local spiritual beliefs.

To learn more on agricultural heritage, see the Initiative on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. See also FAO's work in cooperation with indigenous peoples.

last updated:  Friday, October 23, 2015