‘Tis the season for frankincense, a suitable restoration tree for the Horn of Africa

There’s one more reason to be jolly this season: the frankincense tree—source of one of the precious gifts of the Magi in the Christmas story—is being called “a suitable tree species for use in dryland restoration under a changing climate.”

Bag of Frankincense at Spice Souk. Photo by Liz Lawley via Wikimedia Commons

Based on studies on frankincense trees (Bosweillia neglecta) from southern Ethiopia, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and partner researchers are calling for this tree’s expanded application in the restoration of drylands in the Horn of Africa.

In this region, covering Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and parts of northern Kenya, frankincense is tapped from Bosweillia and several other dryland trees found naturally in dry tropical forests and woodlands. When injured, the bark exudes a fragrant watery sap, which is collected and left to harden into the frankincense resin. Bosweillia neglecta tree produces a particular, earthy frankincense known as ‘Borena type’.

An important commodity, frankincense is used in pharmacology, as a flavouring, in cosmetics and in perfumery, and is traded locally and internationally. The incense is used in many religious and cultural ceremonies around the world; indeed, no Ethiopian coffee ceremony is complete without the sweet, heady aroma frankincense releases when heated over hot coals.Read more

 

While raising crop yields, African thorn tree Faidherbia albida captures large amounts of carbon

A large, old Faidherbia albida tree with a metre-plus diameter stored the equivalent of the CO2 emitted by 8 cars over one year. These useful trees play an important role in carbon sequestration, a critical part of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

People in many areas of Africa gain numerous benefits from the leaves, branches and trunks of the dryland thorn tree Faidherbia albida. 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. . .

“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. . .

Forests and society a major theme at the XIV World Forestry Congress

Forest give food and oxygen, stabilize land, improve water quality and availability, reduce the effects of climate change, and provide spaces for cultural activities, reflection and enjoyment.

Convened by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and hosted in Durban by the Government of South Africa, the XIV World Forestry Congress (#Forests2015 on twitter) 7-11 September 2015, will have a strong focus on young people, women and local communities in defining a vision for a sustainable future of forests and forestry. Read more. . .

Just coping: Farmers’ responses to climate variability in Malawi

The recent devastating floods in southern Malawi and surrounding areas brought into sharp focus the reality of climate change and its effects on ordinary people in this landlocked southern African country.

Besides floods, delayed rains and droughts have become increasingly common in the Shire River Basin of Southern Malawi. Off-season and insufficient rainfall means that more and more smallholder farmers in the region are facing crop failure. Read more. . .

Climate-smart agriculture needs knowledge, cooperation and a healthy dose of trust

Smallholder farms in Kamonyi District, Southern Rwanda. Photo by A. Sigrun Dahlin
Smallholder farms in Kamonyi District, Southern Rwanda. Photo by A. Sigrun Dahlin

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been at the forefront of climate-smart agriculture for the past decade, advocating for and supporting farmers to adopt this type of sustainable land use worldwide. This support is only set to grow with the relocation, starting in 2015, of FAO’s facilitation unit for climate-smart agriculture unit to the organization’s headquarters in Rome.

Eduardo Rojas Briales, Assistant Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said climate smart agriculture offers “an integration of food and nutritional security, higher productivity and increased incomes, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Read more. . .

A new alliance to spread climate smart agriculture among millions of smallholder farmers in Africa

African smallholder farmers have a new ally in their effort to adopt farming practices that raise food production, build resilience to climate change, and create healthier and more sustainable landscapes—that is, practices that are climate smart.

The aim of a new initiative, the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA), is to see 6 million smallholder in Africa practicing climate smart agriculture within the coming 7 years. This effort contributes to NEPAD’s Vision 25 x 25, which aims to reach 25 million African farm households by 2025. Read more. . .

New book arms people with knowledge on landscapes in a changing climate

As the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) launched a new book — designed to arm people with evidence and tools for designing climate smart landscapes—its lead editor underscored the fact that we are a long way from achieving sustainable, climate-smart landscapes across the globe.

Dr Peter Minang, the Global Coordinator of the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins at ICRAF, said, however, that “structured interactions, co-investments and negotiations among concerned actors can nudge landscapes towards multifunctionality.” Read more. . .