FAO trains farmers in Burundi to combat soil erosion through agroforestry and contour planting
04 November 2019
World Agroforestry defines agroforestry as the interaction of agriculture and trees, including the agricultural use of trees. It is a dynamic natural resource management system that aims to produce trees for timber, to supply diverse and nutritious foods, and to ensure the protection of the natural environment. Reforestation restores degraded forests to the original state.
In Africa, the demand for food to feed rapidly growing populations is increasing the demand for arable land, leading to direct competition between the agriculture sector and Africa’s woodland and forest areas. Climate change and extreme weather events further impact the productivity of agricultural land, pushing farmers onto previously forested land in order to meet the food and energy needs of their communities.
As demand for food increases, smallholder farmers are not only expanding land under agricultural production, but are intensifying unsustainable agricultural practices in order to meet demand. These practices ultimately lead to land degradation and declining soil health – it is estimated that 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of forests in Africa are degraded. This current pattern perpetuates a vicious cycle whereby soils become less productive, forcing smallholders to continue to expand into forested land in search of arable land, which leads to further degradation, loss of essential ecosystem services, a decline in agricultural productivity, and a loss of carbon sinks.
In order to counteract the negative impacts of deforestation, the RFS programme promotes agroforestry and reforestation interventions as critical components in achieving food and nutrition security and contributing to global environment benefits. Integrating trees into agricultural landscapes and planning land use around forest ecosystems restores degraded land by increasing soil fertility, controlling erosion, improving soil water retention, and improve ground water quality.
In addition to improving crop yields, the rehabilitation and planting of forests provides local communities with access to diversified food and non-food products that contribute to food nutrition and security and generate new streams of income. When it comes to climate change mitigation, agroforestry and reforestation improve carbon sequestration while reducing agricultural contributions to carbon emissions. The rehabilitation and planting of forests also reduces the vulnerability of communities to climate change and increases the resilience of communities to climate shocks.
RFS country projects are implementing a variety of agroforestry and reforestation activities, including tree planting, installing efficient cookstoves, contour planting, hedgerow intercropping, and the promotion of non-timber forest product value chains.
In Burundi, a country that lost 5% of its forest cover between 2001 and 2019, FAO is using the Farmer Field Schools to both raise awareness of the importance of forests and teach smallholder farmers agroforestry techniques, such as contour planting, to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health. In Burkina Faso, the RFS country project team is helping the Government of Burkina Faso to reach its Land Degradation Neutrality targets through promotion of agroforestry and support of forest farmers. In Ethiopia, RFS is helping local school environmental clubs plant tree seedlings within their school compounds while teaching students about the vital importance of forests.
Explore the RFS Country Projects to see more examples of how RFS countries are implementing Agroforestry & Reforestation activities.
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The Danish Forestry Extension (DFE) works in partnership with local communities and local and international organisations to support the development of sustainable forest and natural resources management across the globe. DFE has been involved in establishing farmer field schools and developing training materials for farm forestry in Vietnam and Mozambique.
The field facilitator manual, developed together with the North Vietnam college of Agriculture and Rural Development, is a step by step guide for newly trained field facilitators on establishing and running farmer field schools for farm forestry. The manual is divided into 30 sessions, and includes details on closing ceremonies for FFS and facilitator notes.
This farmer field school implementation guide is based on the experiences gained from the Intensified Social Forestry Project (ISFP) in Kenya (2004 – 2009), which was financed by the Japan International Cooperation and implemented by Kenya Forest Service.
This FFS implementation guide was developed for project designers and managers as well as field practitioners who intend to use the FFS platform for extension and management support for farm forestry and forestry-based livelihood development. It contains an overview of the FFS approach, examples of how FFS was managed and implemented in the Intensified Social Forestry Project and a field guide for practitioners, offering step by step descriptions of FFS field implementation.
FAO Laos uses the farmer field school (FFS) approach to help rural advisory and extension workers guide farming communities in establishing agroforestry practices in rice production landscapes in South-east Asia.
This document is a draft FFS Special Topics Curriculum on Trees in Rice Landscapes in Laos that forms part of seasonal farmer field schools. It includes a curriculum for two Special Topics Sessions that explore the roles that trees – growing in and around rice landscape locations – play in biodiversity conservation and food security. The document provides step by step details on how to conduct the sessions including learning objectives, materials needed, methodology, and discussion guidance.
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Within the Knowledge Centre, you can find helpful resources, tools, case studies, and news stories related to the different countries and themes of the Resilient Food Systems programme.