Agroforestry — the use of trees in farming — can bring many benefits for both farmers and the environment. But, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), new rules and policies will need to be implemented around the world in order to fully realize agroforestry’s potential.
According to FAO, “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.” Agroforestry can bring many benefits, including protecting water water supplies and mitigating climate change. FAO has released a detailed set of proposals to reform agroforestry rules, in the publication Advancing Agroforestry on the Policy Agenda: A Guide for Decision Makers.
Because trees can take years to grow and be productive, farmers may be unable to receive credit to plant them from lenders looking for profits every growing season. FAO suggests that policies should be put in place to compensate farmers for the ecosystem services being provided by their trees in the years between planting and profitability.
One of the most important policy changes suggested in the document is promoting agroforestry across government agencies. According to FAO, “the sector is disadvantaged by adverse policies, legal constraints, and lack of coordination between the governmental sectors to which it contributes, namely agriculture, forestry, rural development, environment, and trade.”
Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Center noted, “With growing recognition that agriculture needs to drastically shift to incorporate more sustainable farming systems, agroforestry is gaining more and more prominence.”