Seeking a financial sweet spot for land restoration through agroforestry

Julie Mollins
8 February 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) – Agroforestry landscapes cover 1 billion hectares of terrain worldwide and make a significant contribution to the overall health of the planet.

The introduction of trees to farms and landscapes for multiple productive purposes could play a key role in mitigating the impact of climate change by potentially contributing to more than 1.5 billion hectares of mosaic land restoration, said an expert speaking at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany.

“Agroforestry provides some of the greatest opportunities for emission reductions and potential carbon neutrality in agriculture – carbon benefits,” said Peter Minang, leader and global coordinator of landscapes governance at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), adding that a huge emissions reduction saving can be achieved by increasing agroforestry landscapes, which sequester carbon.

Land restoration is part of a global plan for meeting targets agreed at U.N. climate talks in 2015. The aim is to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

For example, more than 80 percent of activities to restore degraded land in Kenya will focus on tree-based or agroforestry systems, according to ICRAF.

Several large-scale forest restoration projects have been launched to meet a target to restore 350 million hectares of land in accordance with the Bonn Challenge. The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) aims to help achieve the target by restoring 100 million hectares in Africa.

Agroforestry, which can include scattered trees on farmland, intercropping, home gardens and tree crop systems – is increasingly popular on all continents, with 1.2 million people engaging in the practice worldwide, Minang said during a talk jointly hosted by ICRAF, the Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

It leads to better soil fertility, and contributes to improved nutrition by boosting dietary options, but finding financial backing for large-scale projects can be difficult.

THEORY TO PRACTICE

Working with the private sector and the local government in China’s Yunnan province, ICRAF collaborated on a major restoration project that converted a massive site degraded by mining into a lush green productive mosaic landscape bolstered by a profitable mushroom trade.

“It’s a tremendous transformation — it’s a really good restoration of multiple services, Minang said. “Mushrooms are being cultivated underneath the tree systems – high value mushrooms, highly economically valuable, but also generating jobs and linking to the market,” Minang said.

The area also produces timber, fruit, tea, oil, flowers, spices and medicinal plants.

A restoration project offering multiple socio-economic benefits to an area degraded by cattle grazing in the Shinyanga region of Tanzania, now features almost 380,000 hectares of trees due to a local process known as “ngitili,” which protects certain areas from grazing.

“The two case studies illustrate there is broad potential,” Minang said.

To fully realize their potential, agroforestry projects must attract more investment and financing, quality planting material, locally appropriate options, relevant incentives, and methods for monitoring agroforestry in restoration projects to implement large-scale transformation, he said, adding: “We need enabling policies and good governance.”

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