Research cuts a potential new path to faster, cheaper tropical forest restoration: Thinning

A perfusion of pioneers in a regenerating part of the Harapan Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo By Rhett Harrison/ICRAF
A perfusion of pioneers in a regenerating part of the Harapan Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo By Rhett Harrison/ICRAF

A common way to restore a degraded forest is to plant seedlings and nurture these into full trees. Indeed, to most people restoration and tree-planting (with native species) are virtually synonymous. Planting and nurturing tree seedlings over a wide area, however, can be an expensive and labour-intensive affair. Not to mention the decades or even centuries it takes before seedlings grow into trees.

Another common path to restoration is to simply protect a degraded forest from further degradation, often by fencing it off. Over time, lost tree cover will return through natural regeneration. This option is a relatively inexpensive, but it can also take centuries to achieve full restoration and the environmental benefits it brings.

Read more. . .

Fig trees throw down a lifeline to a healthier planet

Fig trees were here when dinosaurs first roamed the planet. And today, just as they did 80 million years ago, Ficus species continue to bring nourishment, shade, water and numerous other gifts to people and plants. What’s more, these trees may help us claw our way out of the ecological conundrums we currently find ourselves in—deforestation, species loss, and even climate change.

In a gripping 224 pages of eloquent writing, Mike Shanahan’s first book, ‘Ladders to Heaven: How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future’, brings us the fascinating story of fig trees. From the age of dinosaurs, to pre-history and the age of exploration, and into the present times, the reader learns how these trees shaped the planet and fascinated philosophers, conquerors and commoners alike. Read more. . .

What will it take to restore 100 million hectares of land in Africa?

The challenge is massive, but so is the promise. Healing 100 million hectares of degraded and deforested land in Africa will bring countless benefits: fresh air and water, food and energy —the very stuff of survival. It will also build people’s climate resilience, and contribute in a big way to global climate change mitigation goals.

Land restoration aims to bring back ecological functionality to degraded ecosystems. It can be achieved by introducing or allowing trees to grow on landscapes and using sustainable land management techniques such as terracing steep hillsides, minimizing tillage and building structures to stop soil erosion. Curbing free-grazing of livestock and managing water also support land restoration. Read more. . .

Two books launched at ICRAF Science Week 2016

Kimutai Maritim, the Assistant Director of Veterinary Services in Kenya, was the chief guest at the launch of Traditional ethnoveterinary medicine in East Africa: a manual on the use of medicinal plants.

A veterinary epidemiologist with long experience in the Kenya livestock sector, Maritim congratulated the authors on the publication. He said the book was timely and important, and it described important plant species, some of which may be facing local extinction in Kenya. Read more. . .

Success factors for land and water management in Africa

At present, large expanses of land in rural Africa are degraded as a result of over extraction of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal. The problem is exacerbated by poor crop and animal husbandry practices, such as growing crops in unsuitable ecological zones and on steep slopes, as well as unplanned grazing on Africa’s vast rangelands. Soils in degraded landscapes erode and lose their biodiversity and fertility, and the hydrologic functions of surrounding watersheds are diminished, leading to loss of water quantity and quality; land and water management, after all, are two sides of the same coin.

Immaculée Nyirahabimana is a farmer from Cyuve district-CIAT
Immaculée Nyirahabimana is a farmer from Cyuve district-CIAT. Photo by Stephanie Malyon / CIAT. www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/?p=7981

A side event convened by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) at the seventh Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW7) sought to share knowledge on how to better manage the continent’s water and land resources, as a means to support higher and more sustainable agricultural productivity and better livelihoods for people. The session contributed recommendations to the just-ended conference convened in Kigali by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, FARA, the apex continental organization responsible for coordinating and advocating for agricultural research-for-development. Read more. . .

For more and better-quality food production, take care of pollinators

The evidence is clear: For big gains in crop production, our landscapes must become more hospitable to some of the planet’s littlest creatures— its pollinators.

bee-coffee
Coffee pollination by carpenter bee (Xylocopa sp.). Photo by Dino Martins

Bees, birds, butterflies, moths and some small mammals transfer pollen from flower to flower, causing fruit to set. This environmental service of pollinators is what secures the harvest of a huge proportion of the world’s food production.

At an invited talk at the Nairobi headquarters of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) on 8 January 2016, Kenyan naturalist and entomologist Dino Martins, the Executive Director of the Mpala Research Centre and Chair of the Insect Committee of Nature Kenya, delved into the intimate links between the world’s food security and pollination. Read more. ..

With trees on farms, climate-change mitigation is a co-benefit of broader socioeconomic gains

In a ‘Letter to the Editor’ published in the Guardian Development Blog, Professor Roger Leakey urges a closer look at agroforestry’s potential as a pathway for both mitigating climate change and fighting hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Part of ICRAF's tree domestication and experimentation nursery in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF
Part of ICRAF’s tree domestication and experimentation nursery in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

Leakey, who serves as the vice-chair of the International Tree Foundation, outlines a three-step action plan that involves:

  1. Using simple biological approaches to rehabilitate degraded farm land and improve crop yields;
  2. Planting local, highly favoured, traditionally important food trees to reduce hunger and malnutrition; and
  3. Setting up new cottage industries to process and add value to these products, creating business and job opportunities to further improve household livelihoods. Read more. . .

Rainfall: a new way to look at trees for climate mitigation

A side event at the UN climate change conference now underway in Paris (COP21

'Alone', a photo by Yudha Lesmana, was finalist in the XIV World Forestry Congress photo competition. http://bit.ly/1OjlqSp
‘Alone’, a photo by Yudha Lesmana, was finalist in the XIV World Forestry Congress photo competition. http://bit.ly/1OjlqSp

) urged a new, easier-to-understand way to discuss trees and climate change mitigation: Rainfall.

Rainfall made through evapotranspiration from plant matter cools

the air around, since plants use heat energy to release water into the atmosphere.  And a tree is more cooling than short vegetation; it uses 100–200 mm more water per year.

But the story is much more interesting, thanks to air currents that transport moisture from one place to another.

Read more. . .

‘De-risk’ the wood energy sector to unleash green growth

With population growth and urbanization, the demand for energy from trees is growing rapidly around the world. This demand presents a golden opportunity for wood energy be a force for energy security, sustainable development and greener economies. But this exciting potential can only be realized when the wood energy sector, particularly the one in sub-Saharan Africa, is ‘de-risked’ to become orderly, legitimate and sustainable.

Charcoal traders in DR Congo. Photo courtesy of Jolien Schure/CIRAD
Charcoal traders in DR Congo. Photo courtesy of Jolien Schure/CIRAD

A special event at the recent XIV World Forestry Congress (7 to 11 September, Durban, South Africa) saw a high-level panel of experts discuss the situation of woodfuel and charcoal production, trade and consumption around the world, with a particular focus on Africa. The event titled “More than heat! Wood energy for the future,” went beyond wood as a household energy resource, to its potential—as a modern fuel—to power green growth for national economies. Read more. . .

First ‘fruit tree portfolios’ established in Kenya, in a novel approach to improved year-round nutrition

World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) researchers have launched a novel approach to tackle the problem of micronutrient deficiencies, also known as ‘hidden hunger.’ The fruit tree portfolio approach involves cultivating a set of fruit trees on farms, which is carefully designed to supply nutritious fruits to eat throughout the year, for diverse diets and improved health.

The fruit tree portfolio for a particular locality gives the optimum number and combination of ecologically suitable agroforestry tree species to provide for year-round fresh fruits for households’ requirements of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A, both essential nutrients. Because the trees in the portfolio have different harvest seasons spanning the entire calendar year, they provide a year-round supply of at least one fruit species per month for the household. Read more…

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