Benta Muga in Kenya uses agroforestry on his farm and plants crops together with trees. Photo: Amunga Eschuchi, Vi-skogen

Benta Muga in Kenya uses agroforestry on his farm and plants crops together with trees. Photo: Amunga Eschuchi, Vi-skogen


Reduce climate change and hunger with trees

It is not sustainable to solve the need for more food and feed with continued deforestation or overuse of agricultural land. Instead, we need to invest in production that reduces emissions, increases biodiversity and provides food for people. Part of the solution is about trees, write researchers and organizations within the Agroforestry Network.

Hunger in the world is increasing for the third year in a row. Every ninth person on earth today is malnourished. Climate change and extreme weather are contributing to reduced harvests and insecure food supplies.

The majority of world leaders have agreed that we must stay below the 2 degree increase in the earth's average temperature. It is becoming increasingly urgent to implement massive measures to reduce emissions, while at the same time methods are needed to adapt to the effects of a changing climate. The industrialized countries have the greatest responsibility for emissions, while those most affected by climate change are people living in poverty.

Strong driving forces behind deforestation

Today, large areas of forest are converted into agricultural land for food and feed production, with reduced biodiversity as a result. High population growth and international demand for agricultural products such as soy, beef and palm oil are strong driving forces behind tropical deforestation. At the same time, small-scale farmers are producing booklets of the world's food. Many live in poverty themselves and are often dependent on depleted agricultural land for their survival.

The world simply has to urgently accept the complex challenge of simultaneously ensuring that people have enough food, that they can adapt to climate change, that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and that biodiversity is preserved.

It is not sustainable to solve the need for more food and feed with continued deforestation or overuse of existing agricultural land. Instead, productivity needs to be restored and raised on many lands that were previously deforested and overexploited.

Part of the solution is about trees. In the report now being launched by the Agroforestry Network, Achieving the Global Goals through Agroforestry, It is noted that of the 17 global goals agreed upon by the countries of the world to achieve a sustainable world by 2030, agroforestry - planting trees together with arable crops - can contribute to achieving nine. It is not just about reducing hunger and poverty and fighting climate change, but also agroforestry contributes to greater biodiversity, greater equality, better health, increased access to clean water, sustainable energy solutions and sustainable production.

Agroforestry is a cultivation system that combines the cultivation of crops and trees, sometimes in combination with animal husbandry. Agroforestry is not new - it is a sustainable, proven and effective way to use the land and it is used in many parts of the world. But there is great potential to scale up.

Agroforestry can increase yields

The scientific studies on which the report is based show that agroforestry can significantly increase yields, in some cases by several hundred percent. At the same time, agriculture with agroforestry is becoming more resilient to the effects of climate change. By growing different kinds of crops, a farmer still has food on the table and an income if the drought or pests knock out a type of crop. By also planting trees among the crops, she reduces the risk of the soil eroding away when heavy rain and storms strike. Trees can supply nutrients such as nitrogen through nitrogen fixation and add organic material to the arable land and make it more fertile. The report also shows that agriculture with trees binds significantly more carbon than other types of agriculture.

Despite proven benefits, agroforestry is not a priority in Swedish development assistance. Today, it is difficult to know how much of Sweden's budget for international development cooperation goes to agroforestry projects, as agroforestry is rarely defined and projects can be included in both agriculture and forestry. An initial analysis indicates that approximately 0,1% of Swedish development assistance goes to agroforestry. It is an under-prioritization that the world cannot afford.

The Agroforesty Network now therefore calls on the newly elected Riksdag and the incoming government to:

  • Increase investment in agroforestry projects: There is a potential to contribute to expanded areas with agroforestry, but in order to be able to be implemented on a larger scale, Sweden should take the lead, with larger investments and more long-term financing cycles.
  • Increase visibility: Pay attention to agroforestry and ensure that the cultivation system is included to a much greater extent in Sweden's various strategies for international development work, and in the planning and follow-up of Swedish development assistance. To promote agroforestry, it is important to know what we are talking about, a recommendation is to use the prevailing definition of agroforestry, that is, at least 10 percent of the arable land is covered by trees.
  • Increase knowledge: There are knowledge and successful projects on agroforestry around the world. In addition, there are several players in Sweden with broad knowledge. But the experience must be spread. Ensure that Sweden's reporting to, for example, Agenda 2030, highlights agroforestry projects. Also support need-driven and inclusive research, not least regarding the socio-economic effects of agroforestry. We can achieve the global goals by 2030. One way is to invest in the methods that already exist and work.
New report on agroforestry

Agroforestry Network was started by Vi-skogen and brings together experts in Agroforestry, both in Sweden and abroad. Their new report Achieving the Global Goals through Agroforestry is about how the global goals for sustainable development can be achieved with the help of agroforestry.

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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