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. . .
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. . .
Less than a year after supplying farmers with legume seeds and fertilizer tree seedlings, the Legume CHOICE project team caught up with farmers and traders in Kisii and Migori counties of Kenya. The farmers were already enjoying the benefits and were keen to scale up.
Legume crops like beans and peas (known collectively as pulses when dry) are a versatile and affordable source of protein and other important nutrients. A mainstay of vegetarian diets, legumes play a critical role in meeting the protein needs of people who cannot access animal proteins such as meat and eggs. Read more. . .
At the launch of the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas, experts shone a spotlight on the astonishing biodiversity in the soil, which supports food production, clean water, human health, and environmental sustainability.
The Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas— the outstanding reward of a 3-year global collaboration—was launched on 25 May 2016 in Nairobi. The launch, part of a symposium of the Second United Nations Environment Assembly, provided an opportunity for eminent speakers in the field to discuss the central role soil biodiversity plays in food security, environmental health, and the global sustainable development agenda. Read more…
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.
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. . .
The soil is the “living, breathing skin of our planet.” It is the basis of food production and essential for clean water, health, greenhouse gas capture and numerous other functions that support life on earth.
Soil biodiversity is intimately connected with all terrestrial life. Thanks to advances in technology and global scientific cooperation, huge strides have been made in our understanding of the dazzling diversity of life forms beneath our feet; and especially that of microscopic bacteria, fungi, and nematodes that are invisible to the naked eye. Read more…
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.
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.
Leakey, who serves as the vice-chair of the International Tree Foundation, outlines a three-step action plan that involves:
Using simple biological approaches to rehabilitate degraded farm land and improve crop yields;
Planting local, highly favoured, traditionally important food trees to reduce hunger and malnutrition; and
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. . .
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. . .
A Greenpeace study in Malawi and Kenya has revealed that chemically-intensive farming hurts the bottom line of small-scale farmers; agroecological farming is more profitable.
Agroecology refers to a suite of sustainable farming practices that use few or no external chemical inputs. The approaches, often rooted in traditional farming techniques, include sustainable land management, water harvesting, agroforestry, biological control of pests and weeds, intercropping, organic farming, permaculture, and several others. Read more..