Evergreen Agriculture: rethinking modern farming

ITW_dennis_garrity.jpgDennis Garrity is Chair of the Evergreen Agriculture Partnership, Senior Fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre and Drylands Ambassador at the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

The Evergreen Agriculture Partnership was launched in 2009 to build the capacity of smallholder farmers to integrate trees in their cropping systems in order to increase productivity and incomes, while making farming systems more resilient in the context of climate change.

How is Evergreen Agriculture different to agroforestry?

Evergreen Agriculture re-branded what had been known as ‘tree-crop intercropping’. Agroforestry has too often been considered a type of forestry and the agricultural community has tended to ignore the potential of trees when grown in association with crops. But when grown among crops and properly managed, trees provide a source of biofertilisers, reduce temperatures, conserve rainwater in the soil, and produce abundant wood for cooking fuel and construction and nutritious fodder for livestock.

Evergreen Agriculture is a type of more intensive farming that integrates trees into crop and livestock production systems, to sustain a green cover on the land throughout the year. It is a matter of choosing and incorporating the right kinds of trees with crops, and managing them for optimal benefits. There are three main types of Evergreen Agriculture: farmer managed natural regeneration (farmers select trees that come up naturally in their cropland), conservation agriculture (zero tillage) with trees, and incorporating trees within conventional agriculture.

What are the main obstacles and drivers of success for this initiative?

Evergreen Agriculture is an under-appreciated but truly ecological approach. It is all the more relevant when climate change endangers world food security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The main challenges are conventional attitudes and technical constraints. Models of ‘modern’ agriculture typically promote a trend toward monoculture, which goes in the opposite direction to an ecologically-sane agriculture for the future.

How can the approach be scaled up and what support will be needed?

About 1.2 million farmers in Niger have established Evergreen Agriculture systems across 5 million ha of farmland. Evergreen Agriculture is also practised in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Senegal and Zambia, amongst others. Inspired by these successes, many international and national organisations, NGOs and governments are now working to scale-up Evergreen Agriculture systems. The research community is working to fill knowledge gaps and provide practical recommendations for this. Due to climate change, the world is realising that it needs to rethink how agriculture will be practised in the future. The most favourable option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture is to sequester much more carbon in agricultural systems, and the expansion of trees on farms is an obvious option to do this while achieving production, profit and environmental co-benefits.

Can Evergreen Agriculture increase food and nutrition security?

Food security is a major challenge since climate change is already affecting farmers across the world. Building more climate-resilient farming systems is key to overcoming this challenge. This is why the Evergreen Agriculture Partnership is deeply engaged in creating ‘climate smart agriculture’. Recently the World Agroforestry Centre hosted a workshop in Nairobi, gathering together the African Union, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, major development NGOs and many other organisations working in Africa, as well as country representatives. This meeting conceived an African Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, with a target of enabling 25 million African farmers to practise climate smart agriculture by 2025. I am a strong believer in the importance of creating a continent-wide movement to achieve this ambitious target and see that Evergreen Agriculture contributes to a more sustainable future for the entire planet.

Anne Perrin



 
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