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  • Vietnam prepares for long-term agroforestry strategy to address national and international commitments

Vietnam prepares for long-term agroforestry strategy to address national and international commitments


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Mountains in Northwest province show signs of erosion from unsustainable farming practices. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF
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Mountains in Northwest province show signs of erosion from unsustainable farming practices. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF

Vietnam is preparing for a long-term strategy to speed up the adoption of agroforestry nationwide.

Agroforestry has been practiced for a long time in Vietnam. However, widespread adoption remains limited. Building on previous work to address barriers to adoption, a workshop was held on April 5, in which participants agreed that a long-term strategy for the development of agroforestry throughout the country was needed to address national and international commitments.

Titled “Enhancing Agroforestry Development in Vietnam: Policy Environment and Investment Opportunities”, the workshop featured presentations by Nguyen Ba Ngai, vice director of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry; Chu Van Chuong, vice director of the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Yurdi Yasmi of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); and Delia Catacutan, country coordinator of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Vietnam.

Read more: Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development awards ICRAF coordinator for agriculture and rural development work

The workshop was another step forward after a 2015 national policy dialogue for agroforestry development, from which two actions were implemented with technical and financial support from FAO. First, a review of agroforestry-related policies; and, second, the formulation of an agroforestry development proposal for the country. Progress on these two actions was presented at the workshop to ensure the most viable strategies were developed for Vietnam.

The policy working group presented its analysis, confirming that there was no specific policy for agroforestry development, the situation being compounded by a lack of legal definition of agroforestry practices and lack of official guidelines. The working group highlighted that many of the barriers to adoption could be addressed through the promulgation of supportive policies, including on land and tenure, financial mechanisms and rural advisory or extension support for farmers.

Workshop participants pose for a photograph. Photo by Tran Ha My/ICRAF

The Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute, ICRAF and UN-REDD presented their experiences of promoting agroforestry practices in different regions of the country, followed by an FAO presentation on the National Target Program on Sustainable Forest Development and Drought Initiatives, which was reinforced by a call for all present to work together to prepare a proposal on nationwide agroforestry development.

Just what shape that would take was discussed by the participants, with many agreeing that it was necessary to have an official definition of agroforestry upon which to base a legal framework for a specific policy and subsequent activities. Others, however, argued that it was not necessary to have a unique policy for agroforestry, saying it would be better to integrate practices into existing policies relating to forestry, agricultural extension or advice, and payment for forest environmental services.

Overall, the workshop participants agreed that there were many way to achieve more effective promotion of agroforestry, such as through promulgating agroforestry techniques, improving governance, establishing financial mechanisms, developing markets (including carbon), increasing education and training, integrating with payment for forest environmental services and UN-REDD programs, and adopting organic certification.

Participants also agreed that there was an urgent need for a nationwide study of agroforestry to assess the successes and lessons from existing practices, regions suitable for agroforestry and the main commodity species. The participants expected that a long-term strategy for the development of agroforestry in Vietnam would be developed in the near future.

Read more: Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Representatives from the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, FAO, ICRAF and the Japan International Cooperation Agency covered such a strategy in a panel discussion. They argued that Vietnam should have a national program with targets and resource mobilization for long-term development. The government is expected to be able to gather national and international partners to fill the gaps in technology, finance and markets.

There was also discussion of deeper collaboration to speed up the adoption of agroforestry. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development expressed its support for partners continuing to work with the government in restructuring the agricultural sector to increase production quality, quantity and value.

By Pham Thanh Van, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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  • Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal


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Terraced hillside in the Son La agroforestry landscape in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo
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Terraced hillside in the Son La agroforestry landscape in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo

Government officers from the mountainous countries of Bhutan and Nepal have visited highly successful agroforestry sites in Northwest Vietnam that are helping to restore degraded sloping land and improve farmers’ incomes.

The steep upland farming areas of Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam share similar challenges in establishing sustainable agricultural practices that improve livelihoods and the environment.

To share knowledge and experience from working with farmers in the steeply sloping landscapes of Northwest Vietnam, government officers from Bhutan and Nepal traveled to Son La and Dien Bien provinces to explore an array of well-developed agroforestry systems, demonstration sites, plantations and nurseries. The visitors learned how the various systems have contributed to increased food security, income stability, water availability and reduced soil erosion.

As well as designing and establishing the systems with farmers and government extension officers, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), has been working with farmers to monitor changes in soil erosion following the adoption of agroforestry practices.

Chuki Wangmo and Kinley Wangmo from the Institute of Conservation and Environmental Research of the Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, and Ram Babu Paudyal and Bishnu Kumari Adhikari from Nepal’s Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation, noted that cultivating on a steep gradient is something that communities across all three countries were familiar with. However, the associated issues of soil and wind erosion were not easy to mitigate.

An agroforestry system is seen on a hillside in Son La province, Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo

The visitors were first shown a five-year-old complex agroforestry system in Son La, where the recorded decline in soil erosion since the introduction of agroforestry was of particular relevance to the officers from Bhutan, who work with farmers in mountainous terrain.

“Hard evidence is very important,” noted Chuki Wangmo. “If people at both the national and local levels can see how agroforestry can be of benefit to crop production, especially by addressing soil and wind erosion issues which many farmers suffer from, it would encourage wider adoption of agroforestry in our country.”

Farmers in both Vietnam and Bhutan are already significantly affected by the impacts of a rapidly changing climate. In Bhutan, changes to precipitation are exacerbating the rate of soil erosion, which is speeding a decline in soil fertility, compounded by the steep terrain. The government often has to compensate farmers affected by crop losses and damage caused by landslides and flooding.

About 70 percent of Bhutanese farmers rely on agriculture, forestry and livestock for subsistence livelihoods yet only 8 percent of Bhutan’s total land area is cultivable. The establishment of agroforestry would enable farmers cultivating small areas of land to improve the efficiency and diversity of crop production in already fragile mountainous areas, whilst meeting the socioeconomic needs of the community.

“The successful agroforestry demonstration sites we visited revealed how agroforestry systems can increase land-use efficiency for smallholders by increasing the productivity per area unit,” noted Ram Babu Paudyal.

Nepal could reap the benefits of such simple yet effective agroforestry systems to produce a diverse range of products on small areas of land.

In Son La province, the Nepali visitors heard how farmers involved in a 50-hectare demonstration agroforestry landscape had migrated from a neighboring area affected by the construction of a hydropower dam.

The role of agroforestry in improving livelihoods is particularly relevant to Nepal because it is experiencing increased out-migration from rural areas. This was a key motive of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in funding a pilot study dubbed Enhancing Rural Livelihoods in Abandoned/Underutilized Agricultural Land through Agroforestry.

“We hope that agroforestry will encourage the return of urban migrants to farms,” said Ram Babu Paudyal. “If agroforestry can be demonstrated as a land-use system that can provide sustainable sources of income and sustainable land cultivation, it could help address poverty and many national environmental concerns.”

ICRAF Vietnam recognizes the importance of establishing long-term relationships and collaboration with district and community organizations to enable the sustainable implementation of agroforestry. Agricultural and forestry extensionists or rural advisors are a key component of such relations. The visitors had the chance to speak with extensionists at the field sites to better understand their role as communicators of technical advice and guidance to, and between, farmers.

“Extensionists are clearly very valuable when it comes to building cohesion between the agricultural and forestry sectors,” commented Kinley Wangmo. “We learned that there were many different stakeholders, including experts, involved in the process of enabling agroforestry on the ground. Our visit to the field sites showed that agroforestry systems differ depending on the type of landscape and that the needs of farmers in those landscapes must always be prioritized.”

By Anoushka Carter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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  • Agroforestry offers pathways to sustainable landscape restoration

Agroforestry offers pathways to sustainable landscape restoration


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Agroforestry techniques can support dairy farming. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF
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Agroforestry landscapes cover 1 billion hectares of land worldwide and make a significant contribution to the overall health of the planet.

The introduction of trees to farms and landscapes for multiple productive purposes could play a key role in mitigating the impact of climate change by potentially contributing to more than 1.5 billion hectares of mosaic land restoration, said a CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) expert speaking at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany.

“Agroforestry provides some of the greatest opportunities for emission reductions and potential carbon neutrality in agriculture — carbon benefits,” said Peter Minang, leader and global coordinator of landscapes governance at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), adding that a huge emissions reduction saving can be achieved by increasing agroforestry landscapes, which sequester carbon.




Land restoration was part of a global plan for meeting targets agreed at UN climate talks in 2015. The aim is to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. For example, more than 80 percent of activities to restore degraded land in Kenya will focus on tree-based or agroforestry systems, according to ICRAF.

Watch: Agroforestry in landscape restoration for livelihoods, climate and ecosystem services

Several large-scale forest restoration projects have been launched to meet a target to restore 350 million hectares of land in accordance with the Bonn Challenge. The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) aims to help achieve the target by restoring 100 million hectares in Africa.

The practice, which can include scattered trees on farmland, intercropping, home gardens, tree crop systems — is increasingly popular on all continents, with 1.2 million people engaging in agroforestry worldwide, Minang said.

Agroforestry leads to better soil fertility, and contributes to improved nutrition by boosting dietary options, but finding financial backing for large-scale projects can be difficult.

In line with this, ICRAF hosted a session at the GLF, along with with Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS) and FTA, titled Agroforestry in landscape restoration for livelihoods, climate and ecosystem services.

Agricultural production is seen in Malawi. Photo by Charlie Pye-Smith/ICRAF

Inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals, the session focused on the accomplishments and future of agroforestry as a path toward sustainable landscape restoration. By offering a route to reconciliation between the frequently competing claims of agriculture and reforestation, agroforestry is playing an increasingly central role in policymaking.

Aiming to achieve an exchange of knowledge on ecosystem functionality, biodiversity, livelihoods and climate change, the forum demonstrated the potential dividends for human wellbeing offered by landscape restoration in developing countries.

Read also: Good investments in agriculture and forestry can benefit smallholders and landscapes

THEORY TO PRACTICE

Working with the private sector and local government in China’s Yunnan province, ICRAF collaborated on a major restoration project that converted a large-scale site degraded by mining into a lush green productive mosaic landscape bolstered by a profitable mushroom trade.

“It’s a tremendous transformation — it’s a really good restoration of multiple services, Minang said. “Mushrooms are being cultivated underneath the tree systems — high value mushrooms, highly economically valuable, but also generating jobs and linking to the market.”

The area also produces timber, fruit, tea, oil, flowers, spices and medicine.

Meanwhile, a restoration project offering multiple socioeconomic benefits to an area degraded by cattle grazing in the Shinyanga region of Tanzania now features almost 380,000 hectares of trees due to a local process known as ngitili, which protects certain areas from grazing.

“The two case studies illustrate there is broad potential,” Minang said.

Agroforestry techniques can support dairy farming. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

Read more: FTA scientists feature in innovative series of talks on landscapes

To fully realize their potential, agroforestry projects must attract more investment and financing, quality planting material, locally appropriate options, relevant incentives, and methods for monitoring agroforestry in restoration projects to implement large-scale transformation, he said.

“We need enabling policies and good governance,” he explained.

WHERE TO IMPLEMENT?

In the latter part of the discussion forum at GLF, ICRAF scientist Roeland Kindt introduced a new publication titled Suitability of key Central American agroforestry species under future climates: an atlas

The atlas provides habitat suitability maps for 54 species that are widely used in Central America for shade in coffee or cocoa agroforestry systems. The 54 species represent 24 fruit species, 24 timber species and six species used for soil fertility improvement. It was developed to support climate change oriented initiatives for diversification and conservation of forest genetic resources across Central America.

The authors expect that farmers, scientists and technicians will be able to use the atlas to identify suitable and vulnerable areas for shade species and develop strategies for climate change adaptation.

Read also: Suitability of key Central American agroforestry species under future climates: an atlas

Adapted from the article written by Julie Mollins, originally published by GLF’s Landscapes News.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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  • Agroforestry in landscape restoration for livelihoods, climate and ecosystem services

Agroforestry in landscape restoration for livelihoods, climate and ecosystem services


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The Agroforestry in landscape restoration for livelihoods, climate and ecosystem services Discussion Forum was held at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn on Dec. 20, 2017.

Inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals, the session focused on the accomplishments and future of agroforestry as a path toward sustainable landscape restoration. By offering a route to reconciliation between the frequently competing claims of agriculture and reforestation, agroforestry is playing an increasingly central role in policy-making.

The session aimed to achieve a vital exchange of knowledge on ecosystem functionality, biodiversity, livelihoods and climate change, among other topics. The forum demonstrated the potential dividends for human wellbeing offered by landscape restoration in developing countries.

The session was hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), with Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

This video was originally published by the GLF.


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  • Suitability of key Central American agroforestry species under future climates: an atlas

Suitability of key Central American agroforestry species under future climates: an atlas


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This atlas provides habitat suitability maps for 54 species that are widely used in Central America for shade in coffee or cocoa agroforestry systems. The 54 species represent 24 fruit species, 24 timber species and 6 species used for soil fertility improvement. Suitability maps correspond to the baseline climate (1960-1990) and 2050 climates predicted for Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5. Habitat was classified as suitable in future climates if a minimum of 12 out of 17 downscaled Global Circulation Models predicted suitable climates. Details of the methodology of ensemble suitability modelling with the BiodiversityR package are provided in the atlas.

The atlas was developed to support climate change oriented initiatives for diversification and conservation of forest genetic resources across Central America. Farmers, scientists and technicians can use the atlas to identify suitable and vulnerable areas for shade species and develop strategies for climate change adaptation.

This work was possible with the financial support of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which are supported by CGIAR Fund Donors, and of HIVOS. The authors of the atlas are scientists of Bioversity International, CATIE and the World Agroforestry Centre.


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  • How Agroforestry Propels Achievement of Nationally Determined Contributions

How Agroforestry Propels Achievement of Nationally Determined Contributions


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Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have emerged as the main tool for defining, communicating and potentially reporting party contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate change. Agroforestry has been identified as a key part of most developing country NDCs, hence it is a potentially important contributor to global climate objectives. This policy brief seeks to explore the degree to which agroforestry is represented in current NDC ambitions, how its application is envisaged and how its contribution could be enhanced.


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  • Cocoa agroforestry is less resilient to sub-optimal and extreme climate than cocoa in full sun

Cocoa agroforestry is less resilient to sub-optimal and extreme climate than cocoa in full sun


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Cocoa agroforestry is perceived as potential adaptation strategy to sub-optimal or adverse environmental conditions such as drought. We tested this strategy over wet, dry and extremely dry periods comparing cocoa in full sun with agroforestry systems: shaded by (i) a leguminous tree species, Albizia ferruginea and (ii) Antiaris toxicaria, the most common shade tree species in the region.

We monitored micro-climate, sap flux density, throughfall, and soil water content from November 2014 to March 2016 at the forest-savannah transition zone of Ghana with climate and drought events during the study period serving as proxy for projected future climatic conditions in marginal cocoa cultivation areas of West Africa. Combined transpiration of cocoa and shade trees was significantly higher than cocoa in full sun during wet and dry periods. During wet period, transpiration rate of cocoa plants shaded by A. ferruginea was significantly lower than cocoa under A. toxicaria and full sun. During the extreme drought of 2015/16, all cocoa plants under A. ferruginea died. Cocoa plants under A. toxicaria suffered 77% mortality and massive stress with significantly reduced sap flux density of 115 g cm−2 day−1, whereas cocoa in full sun maintained higher sap flux density of 170 g cm−2 day−1. Moreover, cocoa sap flux recovery after the extreme drought was significantly higher in full sun (163 g cm−2 day−1) than under A. toxicaria (37 g cm−2 day−1).

Soil water content in full sun was higher than in shaded systems suggesting that cocoa mortality in the shaded systems was linked to strong competition for soil water. The present results have major implications for cocoa cultivation under climate change. Promoting shade cocoa agroforestry as drought resilient system especially under climate change needs to be carefully reconsidered as shade tree species such as the recommended leguminous A. ferruginea constitute major risk to cocoa functioning under extended severe drought.


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  • Guiding the conservation of food tree species in Burkina Faso with a threat-mapping approach

Guiding the conservation of food tree species in Burkina Faso with a threat-mapping approach


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Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) in agroforestry parkland. Photo by H. Gaisberger/Bioversity International
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A shea tree in agroforestry parkland. Photo by H. Gaisberger/Bioversity International

Agroforestry parklands are among the most widespread traditional land-use systems in sub-Saharan Africa, where scattered individual trees occur on cultivated fields. Over the last decades, agroforestry parklands in Burkina Faso have come under increasing demographic and climatic pressures, which are threatening indigenous tree species that contribute to rural households’ income and nutrition.

In a paper published in PLOS ONE, FTA researchers from Bioversity International and the World Agroforestry Centre analyzed 16 important food tree species in Burkina Faso and six key threats to them: overexploitation, overgrazing, fire, cotton production, mining and climate change. This analysis is crucial to plan for timely and more selective and efficient conservation actions.

Figure 2: Combined threat magnitude levels ‘high’ and ‘very high’ for all species across all threats and protected areas. Photo by H. Gaisberger/Bioversity International

Our species-specific threat model, developed with national and international partners, combines freely accessible datasets, species distribution models (SDMs), climate models and expert survey results. The model is able to predict, at a fine-scale, where multiple threats are likely to have a negative impact on the availability of suitable habitat in the present and near future. This approach helps to determine which threat contributes most to high-threat levels in certain areas of the country. This is fundamental to guide specific conservation actions such as ex situ conservation, active regeneration and tree planting.

We have found that all 16 species face serious threats throughout much of their distribution in Burkina Faso, and that climate change is predicted to be the most prevalent threat in the long term, whereas overexploitation and cotton production are the most important in the short term.

More than 55% of the distribution of ten of the species is under high or very high threat (Figure 2). Conservation plans – prioritizing the species and if possible, the populations, that are most important to local people – should be urgently developed.

For example, Vitellaria paradoxa, a multipurpose tree with a wide range of food and medicinal uses, is very highly threatened by climate change along its northern margin (Figure 3). Valuable seed sources in this area may be lost unless seed is collected for planting in more suitable climate and/or for ex situ conservation. Populations highly threatened by overexploitation in the central part of Burkina Faso should be prioritized for assisted regeneration as they grow in areas where predicted future climate would produce suitable habitat.

Figure 3: Threat magnitude levels of ‘Climate change’ for shea tree. Photo by H. Gaisberger/Bioversity International

Knowing the regions where threats are most serious allows decision-makers to plan actions at the population level to maintain the genetic diversity across the species’ distribution range. High genetic diversity is important to ensure growth and resilience to site conditions now and in the future.

In the same way, recommendations can be derived from threat maps of the other selected food tree species such as Parkia biglobosa, Adansonia digitata, Boscia senegalensis and Detarium microcarpum.

This approach can be easily used with other species and in other countries, and applied at different scales, from local to continental level, as long as appropriate spatial data and knowledgeable experts are available.

Using maps to visualize threats and their predicted impact is very powerful – it makes results easily accessible and understandable to decision-makers from private and public agencies, who can take action to conserve vulnerable species.

The GIS threat layers to create the threat maps are accessible on Dataverse.

Read the paper: Spatially explicit multi-threat assessment of food tree species in Burkina Faso: A fine-scale approach.

By Hannes Gaisberger, originally published by Bioversity International.


This study was carried out within the framework of the project ‘Threats to priority food tree species in Burkina Faso: Drivers of resource losses and mitigation measures’, financed by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and through contributions from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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  • Local tree knowledge can fast-track agroforestry recommendations for coffee smallholders along a climate gradient in Mount Elgon, Uganda

Local tree knowledge can fast-track agroforestry recommendations for coffee smallholders along a climate gradient in Mount Elgon, Uganda


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Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) is economically important for many smallholder farmers in the Mount Elgon region of East Uganda, but its production is increasingly threatened by climate change. However, ecosystem services (ES) provided by companion trees in coffee agroforestry systems (AFS) can help farmers adapt to climate change.

The objectives of this research were to develop agroforestry species recommendations and tailor these to the farmers’ needs and local context, taking into consideration gender. Local knowledge of agroforestry species and ES preferences was collected through farmer interviews and rankings. Using the Bradley-Terry approach, analysis was done along an altitudinal gradient in order to study different climate change scenarios for coffee suitability. Farmers had different needs in terms of ES and tree species at different altitudes, e.g. at low altitude they need a relatively larger set of ES to sustain their coffee production and livelihood. Local knowledge is found to be gender blind as no differences were observed in the rankings of species and ES by men and women.

Ranking species by ES and ranking ES by preference is a useful method to help scientists and extension agents to use local knowledge for the development of recommendations on companion trees in AFS for smallholder farmers.


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  • Accurate crop yield predictions from modelling tree-crop interactions in gliricidia-maize agroforestry

Accurate crop yield predictions from modelling tree-crop interactions in gliricidia-maize agroforestry


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Agroforestry systems, containing mixtures of trees and crops, are often promoted because the net effect of interactions between woody and herbaceous components is thought to be positive if evaluated over the long term. From a modelling perspective, agroforestry has received much less attention than monocultures. However, for the potential of agroforestry to impact food security in Africa to be fully evaluated, models are required that accurately predict crop yields in the presence of trees.

The positive effects of the fertiliser tree gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium) on maize (Zea mays) are well documented and use of this tree-crop combination to increase crop production is expanding in several African countries. Simulation of gliricidia-maize interactions can complement field trials by predicting crop response across a broader range of contexts than can be achieved by experimentation alone. We tested a model developed within the APSIM framework. APSIM models are widely used for one dimensional (1D), process-based simulation of crops such as maize and wheat in monoculture. The Next Generation version of APSIM was used here to test a 2D agroforestry model where maize growth and yield varied spatially in response to interactions with gliricidia.

The simulations were done using data for gliricidia-maize interactions over two years (short-term) in Kenya and 11 years (long-term) in Malawi, with differing proportions of trees and crops and contrasting management. Predictions were compared with observations for maize grain yield, and soil water content. Simulations in Kenya were in agreement with observed yields reflecting lower observed maize germination in rows close to gliricidia. Soil water content was also adequately simulated, except for a tendency for slower simulated drying of the soil profile each season. Simulated maize yields in Malawi were also in agreement with observations.

Trends in soil carbon over a decade were similar to those measured, but could not be statistically evaluated. These results show that the agroforestry model in APSIM Next Generation adequately represented tree-crop interactions in these two contrasting agro-ecological conditions and agroforestry practices. Further testing of the model is warranted to explore tree-crop interactions under a wider range of environmental conditions.


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  • Agroforestry for livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Northwest region of Vietnam

Agroforestry for livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Northwest region of Vietnam


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Shifting cultivation and monocropping of staple food crops such as maize, rice, or cassava have been identified as the main reasons for declining yields due to soil degradation and soil erosion in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Recognizing the potential of agroforestry, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is implementing a comprehensive agroforestry research with local partners in the region.

Originally published by ICRAF.


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  • Dreams come true: the benefits of agroforestry

Dreams come true: the benefits of agroforestry


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Hoa, a young woman in the remote highlands of Dien Bien province in Northwest Vietnam, longs to go to university but her parents are unable to pay for her. However, after her father joins an agroforestry development program led by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the results are lucrative enough that Hoa is able to realize her dream.

The  first phase of the Agroforestry for Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers in Northwest Viet Nam project ran for five years until 2016. The second phase began in March 2017. The project is supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

Originally published by ICRAF.


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  • Smart use of trees: Co-investment scheme improves livelihoods, maintains ecosystem services

Smart use of trees: Co-investment scheme improves livelihoods, maintains ecosystem services


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A woman inspects buds on a tree as part of the Climate-smart, Tree-based, Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia project. Photo by ICRAF
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A woman inspects buds on a tree as part of the Smart Tree-Invest project in Indonesia. Photo by ICRAF

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) recently marked the end of its Climate-smart, Tree-based Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart Tree-Invest) project with a closing event in Jakarta. 

Smart Tree-Invest, supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), worked in watersheds in Buol, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia; Lantapan municipality, Bukidnon province, the Philippines; as well as Ha Thinh and Quang Binh provinces in Vietnam.

The project, which ran from 2014 to 2017, aimed to improve the livelihoods and resilience of smallholder farmers through the promotion of climate-smart, tree-based agriculture in the three countries, aimed at reducing their vulnerability to climate change.

It did so by developing co-investment models that involve smallholders as ecosystem service providers while local governments and the private sector invest as ecosystem service beneficiaries.

Based on diagnostic studies of needs and opportunities in each country, the project introduced novel tree-planting schemes to improve the quality of home gardens, smallholders’ plantations, riparian and sloping land — and ultimately the quality of the environment and local livelihoods.

The process of identifying opportunities as well as new schemes for using resources available locally have been adopted by local governments in the three countries, overcoming their initial skepticism based on past ‘project’ experience. Moreover, toward the end of the project, private sectors were eager to join in initially monitoring ecosystem services in their sites in Indonesia, supporting market access for smallholders in Vietnam, and starting the initial incentive flow in the Philippines.

FTA researcher Beria Leimona speaks at the Smart Tree-Invest project’s closing event. Photo by Sidiq Pambudi/ICRAF

Smart Tree-Invest was the first project to explicitly pilot the development of Co-investment in Ecosystem Services (CIS) schemes, a concept that emerged from earlier Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) ideas. More than 600 farmers from the three countries were involved in co-investment activities.

Watch: An introduction to the Smart Tree-Invest project

FTA researcher and ICRAF ecosystem services specialist Beria Leimona, who was the overall leader of Smart Tree-Invest, noted the similarities between the three countries.

“We chose these sites because we work closely with the International Fund for Agricultural Development or IFAD [which had established a presence in the areas through previous projects] and all of the sites are remote, and they are more or less the ‘poorest of the poor’,” she said.

The Lantapan watershed had previously hosted an investment in environmental services project. There was also investor interest in the areas in terms of the private sector, including a major hydropower company in the downstream. It was the first time co-investment had been implemented on the ground.

The area “had been degraded to some extent,” Leimona said. ICRAF has had a presence in Lantapan for quite some time, she explained, beginning with the Landcare initiative in the 1990s.

“With Landcare, we saw the potential: we gave the awareness [about tree planting], but what sort of incentives would make them want to sustain the pilot?”

Following that was the Rewarding Upland Poor for Environmental Services (RUPES) project with its incentive system for farmers.

Researchers subsequently “added information about what type of ecosystem services farmers and outside beneficiaries could get if they planted trees on their farms, which was in this case the watershed functions — increasing water quality for the company and also reducing erosion from farmland.”

“Through Smart Tree-Invest, we wanted to get more stakeholders involved in linking development programs with well-measured conservation objectives to result in green-growth scheme in their jurisdictions, including IFAD as the development agency and particularly the district and provincial government,” Leimona said.

Read also: 

A farmer shows off cacao pods growing on a tree as part of the project. Photo by ICRAF

Buol in Indonesia and Ha Tinh in Vietnam were more remote than the Philippines site. There was “almost no private sector,” Leimona said, adding that there was also less interest from business and infrastructure was less supportive.

She put this down to the area not being “sexy” or high-profile like locations such as Kalimantan, leading to almost no projects occurring there.

The silver lining was that “the enthusiasm of the local government was very high because they were quite eager to see what happened.”

Among the other notable differences between the sites were that in terms of the landscape structure, Vietnam did not have a mixed system or agroforestry. That stemmed from land-use policy, said Leimona, whereby farmers must follow government requirements on what to plant on their land.

In Buol, agroforestry existed with crops such as cacao, coconut and candlenut, Leimona explained. However, it had not been commercialized and was not well managed. “People didn’t think it could be a source of future profits,” she said, adding that farmers previously concentrated more on their patchouli or paddy fields.

Among other approaches, the project used the Capacity Strengthening Approach to Vulnerability Assessment (CaSAVA) framework, which ICRAF developed. The participatory approach of CaSAVA helped the collection of local ecological knowledge from smallholders in Lantapan, according to researcher Kharmina Anit in the Philippines, and increased their awareness of the issues in their landscapes, encouraging practical adaptation solutions at the community level.

The project also provided best practices in support of the implementation of policies in each country.

In Buol, the local administration has committed to replicating Smart Tree-Invest activities including farmers’ learning groups and watershed and tree-planting monitoring. The project was implemented in two subdistricts in the Buol watershed, and the district administration is set to expand activities to the Mulat-Lantika Digo watershed, using its own funding.

FTA scientist Meine van Noordwijk (left) poses for a photograph with members of the Smart Tree-Invest Vietnam team. Photo by Sidiq Pambudi/ICRAF

The administration has requested ICRAF’s support through continued technical assistance as it replicates the project activities after the project’s end.

Watch: Impacts of Smart-Tree Invest project after 3 years

In summing up the project’s impacts and its relation to greater goals at the closing event in Jakarta, FTA scientist Meine van Noordwijk said it was “not only about healthy food but also healthy farmers and healthy forests […] in the frame of climate change.”

Unlike management systems that require results to be outlined beforehand and achieved, Van Noordwijk added, Smart Tree-Invest made a commitment and then awaited the impacts. The “open-ended” learning approach fit into existing structures of regulations and funding mechanisms, as well as working within local contexts.

“[This] provided food for thought on how we may see one object from different perspectives, and end up with different results,” said ICRAF ecosystem services specialist Sacha Amaruzaman. “Professor van Noordwijk reflected on the different characteristics of three country sites; how the similar start in each site through the application of the CaSAVA framework ended up with different co-investment schemes.”

“Clarification of the issues, weighting the trade-off between options and considering context are the three actions required to achieve development goals,” he added.

The partnerships formed with governments and other stakeholders stand as testament to this, as does the continued commitment in the sustainability of the project.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 


This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). We would like to thank all donors who supported this work through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund. This project was  supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).


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  • ASEAN calls for agroforestry guidelines to share benefits across the region

ASEAN calls for agroforestry guidelines to share benefits across the region


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Trees provide shade in a tea agroforestry site in Asia. Photo by ICRAF
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Guidelines to help farmers, advisors and governments develop agroforestry in ASEAN member states have been prioritized. Photo by R. Finlayson/ICRAF

Agroforestry guidelines are to be established by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help its member states share benefits with their 650 million citizens thanks to the leadership of the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry.

The development of the guidelines for member states of ASEAN was formally endorsed and given highest priority at the 11th annual meeting of the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry, held on June 15, 2017, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The group consists of high-level representatives from forestry ministries in the member states and makes recommendations for ministerial-level action.

To be led by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the guidelines are to be developed through an open consultative process that embraces governments, community groups and others. The guidelines are to provide a broad framework and principles that member states can adopt as appropriate for their national and local contexts, which is in keeping with the nature of agroforestry itself.

‘The right tree in the right place’ is a guiding slogan of much of ICRAF’s work throughout the world. Also in keeping with the principles that underpin ICRAF, the guidelines are to be built on scientific, local and policy knowledge to ensure that all voices are heard and included in the final document.

Trees provide shade in a tea agroforestry site in Asia. Photo by ICRAF

“This prioritization is a response to demands from member states for technical and operational guidance on how agroforestry can better support their socioeconomic and environmental objectives and facilitate the achievement of targets under the SDGs, Paris Climate Agreement and the Bonn Challenge,” said Doris Capistrano, senior advisor to the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change program, which has been supporting community forestry in ASEAN for more than 10 years. The program in turn is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

“The ASEAN member states understand the importance of agroforestry in helping them to meet their commitments to improve their people’s welfare and at the same time meet national and international goals for land restoration, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and adapting to climate change.”

A preliminary list of topics to be covered by the guidelines includes, first, a discussion of the international, regional and national policy frameworks that have bearing on the development of agroforestry across Southeast Asia. This would cover related policies that already support agroforestry, such as the Strategic Plan of Action of the ASEAN Cooperation on Food, Agriculture and Forestry 2016–2025.

The principles that should inform the design and implementation of agroforestry programs need to underpin the guidelines and point to safeguards for vulnerable populations, including monitoring and certification options. In essence, the guidelines would address the varying roles and objectives of agroforestry, including any trade-offs that might occur under certain circumstances. The guidelines would also present models of agroforestry practices suitable for diverse biophysical and socioeconomic conditions of the region, with examples of competitive business cases.

Possible mechanisms for financing and sharing of benefits from agroforestry schemes that are developed would also be discussed along with mechanisms for adaptive learning, communications and knowledge exchange. The role of research and analysis, including participatory action research, would also be covered.

Delegates from ASEAN member states receive agroforestry policy briefs and a manual on agroforestry in rice-production landscapes. Photo by R. Finlayson/ICRAF

“ICRAF is very proud to be asked to lead the development of a guiding document that can help the governments of the region achieve their goals,” said Ingrid Öborn, regional coordinator of ICRAF in Southeast Asia. “We have been providing technical support to the Working Group members for many years now. The call for region-wide guidelines is a very welcome outcome. We expect over the next few years that the guidelines will encourage much more agroforestry than we see at present, with all the benefits that this will bring, especially to the many millions of poor smallholding farmers who provide much of the region’s food.

“It will also be a big step forward in helping ICRAF achieve its vision of an equitable world where all people have viable livelihoods supported by healthy and productive landscapes.”

With an urgent and tight timeline in keeping with the demand for direction from member states, ICRAF must now bring together diverse expertise from across the region to gather knowledge about policies, regulations and agroforestry practices best suited to a range of environments from coastal mangrove forests and deltas through lowland rice-production landscapes to uplands and mountain areas.

“It is not a small challenge,” confirmed Nguyen Tien Hai, manager of ICRAF’s component of the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change project, “but we are confident that ICRAF has the expertise in participatory action research in agroforestry development to be able to meet the challenge.”

By Rob Finlayson, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


The ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry is a transformation from the ASEAN Social Forestry Network, a government-driven network in Southeast Asia that aims to promote social forestry policy and practices in the region. It has been contributing to the implementation of the ASEAN Multisectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture and Forestry towards Food Security, the Vision and Strategic Plan of Action of the ASEAN Cooperation in Food, Agriculture and Forestry (2016–2025), and the ASEAN Blueprints for ASEAN Community Building, particularly the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

The ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (ASFCC) is a partnership program that aims to contribute to the ASEAN Mandate and Policy Framework through support through the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry and the ASEAN Multisectoral Framework on Climate Change towards Food Security. With assistance from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, ASFCC addresses interlinked issues of food security, poverty and climate change, particularly in forested landscapes in Southeast Asia through the Cooperation and Partnership Programme activities with ASEAN Member States.

This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.


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  • 'Turning the onus of restoration into a bonus for farmers' in Brazil

‘Turning the onus of restoration into a bonus for farmers’ in Brazil


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David Kenduywo is pictured at his farm in Kembu, Kenya, where he grows fodder trees, shrubs and grass for his dairy cattle. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF
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David Kenduywo is pictured at his farm in Kembu, Kenya, where he grows fodder trees, shrubs and grass for his dairy cattle. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

A recent article on research in Brazil yields seven flexible options for farmers who wish to use agroforestry as a means to comply with regulations while benefitting their land and livelihoods.

Setting aside conservation areas on Brazil’s farms and rural properties isn’t just good for the ecosystem, the climate and biodiversity – it’s the law. In 2012, the country passed a new Brazilian Forest Code known as the Law for Protecting the Native Vegetation.

This code expands on an older law that obliges all farmers and rural property owners to set aside a portion of their land, known as Permanent Preservation Areas and Legal Reserves, for conservation.

Mandating the restoration of a portion of a farmer’s land with a mix of native species carries potential negative short-term economic impacts despite the collective environmental services. Obligatory conservation and/or restoration using conventional methods consisting of planting native trees can reduce the immediate economic potential of the land, which could otherwise be used to farm commercial crops. But this is not necessarily the case.

For the many smallholders, or ‘family farmers’ in Brazil, incorporating agroforestry systems (AFS) is a legally acceptable land use which satisfies the definition of a conservation area. However, regulation is still fledgling and consistency in its application has been erratic.

So what is the best way to incorporate AFS into farm land and rural areas while maximizing species diversity, ecosystem benefits, and ultimately, livelihood benefits?

A farmer walks through an area where intercropping of rubber and food crops takes place. Photo by Julius Atia/ICRAF

The answer is complex due to inconsistencies in regulation, and substantial differences among farmers’ means and goals, access to markets and biophysical conditions, crop choices, and scant access to knowledge on landowners’ restoration options. To help alleviate these knowledge and practical gaps and to strengthen enabling factors like policy and regulation, a body of research was conducted in the Cerrado and Caatinga biomes to analyze the best AFS options.

Through a literature review, interviews with stakeholders, a national workshop and a series of on-site farmer experiences and observations, the research team led by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and partners, including FTA researchers, set out to determine if and how AFS was indeed a viable option for smallholders to both fulfill their legal obligations to conserve and/or restore land and maximize livelihoods and other benefits.

Read the full open source article on Cambridge University Press.

Based on the research, and accounting for biome or landscape context and farmer experiences, seven broad options were identified for farmers and rural landowners as flexible solutions that are adaptive enough to fit most circumstances and cater to individual needs and capabilities. While uptake of these techniques by farmers is a key component, an equally significant result is that state regulators and extension agents, armed with an understanding of these options, are better able to oversee implementation of the new Forest Code and therefore generate consistent services and policy.

The options are:

  • high-input successional agroforestry systems for the Cerrado: planting in beds with annual crops and vegetables with rows of fertilizer trees and agroforestry species;
  • planting alternate strips of agroforestry and native species;
  • planting ‘fertilizer’ and ‘engineer’ species in rows or ‘islands’ (clusters) throughout the area;
  • planting seeds and seedlings for enrichment and managing natural regeneration;
  • agroforestry for restoring steep hillsides in terraces or swales in the Cerrado or soft slopes in the Caatinga;
  • forage agroforestry systems in the Caatinga; and
  • restoring degraded lands in the Caatinga beginning with “engineer” and “fertilizer” species.

This study concludes that AFS is a viable option for smallholder farmers to reconcile with the Forest Code’s goal of increasing conservation while improving the land, and reaping economic and environmental benefits. As notably stated in the article, [AFS] “can indeed provide practical solutions for turning the onus of restoration into a bonus for farmers.”

Originally published on the IUCN website.


This study is part of a partnership between IUCN and ICRAF funded by ‘Improving the way knowledge on forests is understood and used internationally (KNOWFOR)’ under a grant awarded to IUCN by UK Aid from the UK government. In Brazil, this project is coordinated by ICRAF in partnership with IUCN, Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), ISPN (Institute for Society Population and Nature), SFB (Brazilian Forest Service), ISSA (Instituto Salvia) and Mutirão Agroflorestal. 

The research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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