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Agroforestry offers climate and sustainability benefits

FAO conference explores opportunities to revive age-old land-use systems that mix trees with crops and livestock

28 November 2016, ROME-Agroforestry has a key role to play in helping the world adopt sustainable agriculture and contrast climate change, according to a high-level conference hosted by FAO today.

"An efficient land-use approach where trees can be managed together with crops and animal production systems" is an essential component of the "new paradigm shift for sustainable agriculture," Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a conference-opening statement delivered by Deputy Director-General Helena Semedo.

Agroforestry, an approach between forest and open-field farming, simultaneously provides an array of social, economic and environmental benefits ranging from nutritious food and renewable energy to clean water and enhanced biodiversity.
"We need better coordination of farm and non-farm natural resource management," Graziano da Silva said.

Agroforestry's mixed land-use approach makes it a tailor-made example of how the agricultural sector can contribute to the global effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"In agriculture, adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin," Semedo added. "We need to better explore the co-benefits of adaptation, mitigation and development."

Sustainability is a perpetual challenge and "agroforestry is of the best tools we have," said Francesco Rutelli, a former mayor of Rome who is now chairman of Centro per un Futuro Sostenibile, an Italian non-governmental organization that promotes greater awareness of the science behind climate change and the economic policy importance of environmental concerns.

"We must certainly allow trees to save us," he said, noting that the robust forests are a powerful lever to mitigate climate change.

Agriculture and climate change

Today's high-level event - organized by FAO along with Italy's Permanent Representation to the Rome-based UN agencies and the Centro per un Futuro Sostenibile- includes presentations and panels by a variety of experts in subjects ranging from zero-emissions farming models to the so-called landscape approach to assessing and modifying carbon cycles.

It is one of a series that, in the wake of the COP22 summit earlier this month in Morocco, FAO plans to host to pursue better understanding of what the agricultural sector can do not only to adapt to but also mitigate climate change.

While most countries recognized agriculture's role as a major GHG emitter, in 2014 only two percent of global climate finance was directed to agriculture, including forests, fisheries and livestock sub-sectors, Semedo said, noting the figure was "disproportionately low."

Photo: ©FAO/Orlando Sierra
Trees can help counter erosion for farmers near Candelaria, Honduras.