Behind climate change and the economic policy placed on the importance of environmental issues, sustainability is a perpetual challenge and agroforestry is one of the best tools we currently have at hand. Agroforestry plays a key role in helping the world adopt sustainable agriculture and contrast climate change.
But, what is Agroforestry?
Agroforestry is an intensive land management system that optimizes the benefits from the biological interactions created when trees and/or shrubs are deliberately combined with crops and/or livestock. 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.
Agroforestry practices are intentional combinations of trees with crops and/or livestock which involve intensive management of the interactions between the components as an integrated agroecosystem. These four key characteristics – intentional, intensive, interactive and integrated – are the essence of agroforestry and are what distinguish it from other farming or forestry practices.
According to AFTA (association of temperate agroforestry), to be called agroforestry a land use practice must satisfy all of the following four criteria:
- Intentional: Combinations of trees, crops and/or animals are intentionally designed and managed as a whole unit, rather than as individual elements which may occur in close proximity but are controlled separately.
- Intensive: Agroforestry practices are intensively managed to maintain their productive and protective functions, and often involve annual operations such as cultivation, fertilization and irrigation.
- Interactive: Agroforestry management seeks to actively manipulate the biological and physical interactions between the tree, crop and animal components. The goal is to enhance the production of more than one harvestable component at a time, while also providing conservation benefits such as non-point source water pollution control or wildlife habitat.
- Integrated: The tree, crop and/or animal components are structurally and functionally combined into a single, integrated management unit. Integration may be horizontal or vertical, and above- or below-ground. Such integration utilizes more of the productive capacity of the land and helps to balance economic production with resource
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.
An efficient land-use approach where trees can be managed together with crops and animal production systems is an essential component for a sustainable agriculture.
Source: What is Agroforestry?