As world population increases, the need for more productive and sustainable use of the land becomes more urgent. According to the United Nations, more than 7 billion people populated the Earth in 2011 and this number is expected to go up to 9.3 billion by the mid-century. To meet the demand for food by 2050, production will have to increase by over 60%. These figures, coupled with current problems borne out of past and existing non-sustainable land use practices, provide the case for changing the way we manage lands and our production of agricultural and tree goods.
Thanks to its multifunctional properties, agroforestry is part of the solution to addressing these issues, whether they be environmental, economic or social. Agroforestry systems include both traditional and modern land-use systems where trees are managed together with crops and/or animal production systems in agricultural settings. They are dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management systems that diversify and sustain production in order to increase social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all scales.
There is a growing body of scientific literature that demonstrates the gains accruing from agroforestry adoption. FAO recognizes these advantages and believes agroforestry can contribute to improve the environment and the lives of people.
Yilou, Burkina Faso. ©FAO/ Renee VanDis
Guatemala: the potential of agroforestry to restore degraded lands
The Guatemala National Strategy for Forest Landscape Restoration aims to restore 1.2 million ha of degraded land by 2045. Following a set of criteria, eight systems were identified as most suitable for landscape restoration interventions: riparian forest, mangrove, protected forest, commercial forest, agroforestry with permanent crops, agroforestry with annual crops, silvopastoral systems and protected areas. Agroforestry represents an interesting option especially in those areas where the need for landscape restoration is associated with the need for increased food and fuel production. This is the case for Guatemala, where a number of activities are currently being implemented on the ground through the National Forest Institute (INAB) with the support of the FAO Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism. Our colleagues Anique Hillbrand and Cesar Sabogal, recently travelled to Guatemala to assess the potential of agroforestry implementation for landscape restoration and provide technical backstopping to the FAO – National Forest Institute (INAB) team involved in the project. Follow our colleagues with this travel report to Guatemala and read about the establishment of agroforestry demonstration sites where farmers can learn how agroforestry works and get knowledge on how to implement the production of native tree seedlings to scale up agroforestry to the whole country. Travel Report
Climate-smart agroforestry systems for the Dry Corridor of Central America – Interview with Alberto Bigi, FAO
Which countries are involved in the project?
FAO is currently implementing this project in Guatemala and Honduras with the support of the sub-regional office for Mesoamerica in Panamá. The so-called “Dry Corridor” is a drought-prone area which covers part of the pacific side of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. People living in this territory are family farmers depending on low input agriculture (and weather) for their livelihoods thus very vulnerable to climatic shocks.
What benefits are expected to be achieved?
The program has two main objectives: (i) to improve the knowledge and awareness of the local, national and regional civil society and government institutions as to the importance of climate-smart agroforestry systems in public policies; and, (ii) to enhance the sustainable productivity and conservation of soil and water through the use of agroforestry systems and technologies that reduce wood consumption and increase water availability ».
What kind of agroforestry systems are being implemented or improved?
The agroforestry systems promoted through the project have proven to be good options to increase productivity, improve soil and water conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These agroforestry systems constitute a transformation from the traditional slash-and-burn method of farming to an integrated production system that allow farmers to control soil erosion and water retention through growing of staple crops interspersed with native trees. The main pillars of both systems are:
1. integration of tree-crop species in the farm management system 2. avoiding the use of fire to clean up the land 3. use of mulching and minimum tillage 4. use of good quality seeds sown at adequate planting distanceIn Guatemala, it is called Kuxur Rum and consists in a traditional system which combines staple crops with trees, such as Gliricidia sepium, the Madre cacao. The technique consists in letting the stubbles of the crops, resulting in mulch. Together with the trees, this practice helps restore and maintain soil humidity and fertility. To learn more on the Kuxur Rum.
In Honduras, it is called Quesungal and involves annual crops, maize, beans and sorghum for example, with trees. It uses a slash and mulch technique, with no burning, and the yearly thinning and pruning of the trees and vegetation to ensure adequate light for the crops. It seeks, among other functions, to improve soil water retention and decrease erosion. To learn more on the Quesungal.
How many people participate in the project?
Some 800 households will benefit directly from the program (400 Guatemala and 400 in Honduras). At least more than 55% of participants are expected to be women.
last updated: Friday, June 14, 2019