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. ..

Immense benefits from agroforestry in rural Cameroon

Yaounde — Commercial agriculture has received a major boost and the impact of climate change minimised in Cameroon thanks to the adoption of agroforestry techniques by thousands of farmers.

Seedlings of traditionally important food trees in Louis-Marie Atangana’s home nursery in Nkenlikok, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF
Seedlings of traditionally important food trees in Louis-Marie Atangana’s home nursery in Nkenlikok, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

The World Agroforestry Centre introduced agroforestry methods to rural farmers in the central African country some 20 years ago.

Also known as agro-sylviculture, it a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland. These techniques aim to ensure smallholder households increase their use of trees in agricultural landscapes to improve food security, nutrition, income, health, shelter, social cohesion, energy resources and environmental sustainability. 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. . .

Private companies partner with small producers to create sustainable supply chains of the future

Leveraging their buying power and financial resources, companies are working to create the sustainable supply chains we need in a changing climate. Ones in which farmers and companies prosper together. Where farmers will produce more using ecologically sound practices, and earn decent incomes for their production.

An estimated half a billion smallholder farmers produce 70% of the world’s raw materials and are the pillar of the food industry. Their sustainability is tied together with that of the companies—large and small— that buy this produce, process and market foods and natural products. 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. . .

“It’s time to stop talking and start acting” : Agroecological farming for people and the planet

Back in 2009, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) issued a clarion call for a deep reform of agriculture globally.

“Business as usual is not an option,” the comprehensive, evidence-based global series titled Agriculture at Crossroads, stated boldly.

The IAASTD report urged, among other things, for global agriculture to respect the agroecological principles that had served farmers and nature well since the dawn of farming; practices such as organic farming and agroforestry which supply the nutritional needs of people without harming the natural resource base on which all life depends. Read  more. . .

To Paris COP21 with an agroforestry message

Our changing climate and burgeoning population urgently needs agricultural techniques that can produce more on less land and with fewer inputs, while keeping the environment healthy. As such, sustainable agriculture that brings climate adaptation and mitigation benefits is one of the issues to be tackled at the 21st UN climate conference (COP 21), which kicks off in Paris today, 30 November. (See www.worldagroforestry.org/cop21 for the full program of ICRAF’s activities at Paris COP21).

Agroecological practices such as agroforestry, which involves integrating the right trees and woody shrubs into agricultural landscapes— are an important part of the solution. The trees to use for agroforestry can be selected so they deliver products and services that improve not only farmers’ lives and countries’ economies, but also the environment. 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. . .

Evergreen, Nipa and ‘push-pull’ presented at global innovations forum 2015

Agriculture as practiced in most parts of the world today will simply not feed a human population of 9 billion by 2050. Innovation in food production is needed, and it needs to be adopted on a wide scale.

Indeed, the purpose of the ongoing Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) 2015 has been to bring together global leaders, policy makers, researchers, manufacturers and community leaders to showcase and discuss the best agricultural innovations.The high-profile event was opened with keynote speeches by HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nayan of the United Arab Emirates, HRH King George Rukidi IV of Toro, Uganda, HRH Charles, the Prince of Wales,  and US Vice President John Kerry. Read more…

Empower Women for a Sustainable Africa: 2015 Africa Environment Day/ Wangari Maathai Day

“You do not need a diploma to plant a tree.”

This was Professor Wangari Maathai’s smart response to people who were questioning her decision to train illiterate rural women on how to grow and nurture trees.

To celebrate Africa Environment Day and Wangari Maathai Day, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), the Government of Kenya, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), hosted a day-long Women and Environment Forum. The event at ICRAF Headquarters in Nairobi, 4 March, brought together over 60 participants from 6 countries. Read more..