Trends in Ecology, Conservation and Climate Change: Agroforestry Systems

The presence of trees in agricultural lands contributes to the maintenance of production under a variable climate, and protect crops against climate extreme occurrences (Pramova et al. 2012). The agroforestry system – which combines trees with crops and/or livestock – is therefore, being increasingly recognised as an effective approach for minimising production risks under climate variability and change (Verchot et al. 2008). Moreover, in agroforestry systems only a small percentage of plant biomass is harvested, most of it remains on the ground. Thus, agroforestry systems can offer significant carbon benefits to landscape management.

From an ecological point of view, when compared to conventional forestry systems, agroforestry offers a different land use option. Since trees and crops complement each other, this setup is ideal and available resources are effectively used. Agroforestry has environmental benefits (e.g. soil and water protection), and has also a landscape benefit, thereby promoting food security and income generation for landholders. The agroforestry system constantly generates revenue for the farmer, enabling the diversification of farm activity and a better use of environmental resources. It may include existing native trees, but also forests established by farmers. It is a flexible concept, involving both small and large-sized land holdings.

The benefits of Agroforestry systems:

> Creation of regional markets for agroforestry products and processing

> Enrichment and aesthetic enhancement of the landscape with positive effects on tourism and quality of life

> Development of sustainable agricultural structures

> Strengthening rural regions by promoting regional material cycles and regional value creation

> Sustainable energy supply

> Improved groundwater quality

In Brazil, agroforestry systems are still not broadly adopted, largely because of their level of complexity compared with traditional systems, and also due to the lack of understanding by farmers regarding their benefits (de Almeida et al. 2013). Although the government has allocated financial resources in terms of credit for development and for technology transfer addressing agroforestry systems, farmers continue to have difficulties mostly related to technical assistance and bureaucracy in accessing the financial credit lines. Within this context, the Carbon Neutral Program, an initiative from IDESAM, plays an important role on the promotion of alternative measures for the sustainable use of natural resources.      

The main focus consists of connecting civil society with sustainability in the Amazon. In this program, carbon emissions are translated into how many trees are needed to compensate for such emission. The activities to be ‘carboneutralized’ are mostly related to electricity consumption, travelling, accommodation, and land and/or river transportation. In 2010, IDESAM launched the program for enabling people, companies and initiatives to take responsibility for the impacts they generate on the planet, by offsetting their carbon emissions. The compensation is made through the recovery of degraded areas in Conservation Units in the state of Amazonas. Originally, the residents from such protected areas prepared their land by deforesting to plant. Nowadays, the Carbon Neutral Program takes agroforestry as an alternative to deforestation, and more and more families are becoming interested in implementing the system given the results obtained with the program. By 2019, the program has already planted more than 40,000 trees, representing more than 330,000 m2 of recovered forests and a compensation of 6,700 tons of CO2.

Photo: Richter, K. 2013

You and all of us can directly contribute to the program by offsetting our carbon emissions! For more detailed information, send an email to: bvd@bluoverda.org

References:

Pramova, E., Locatelli, B. Djoudi, H. And Somorin, O. 2012 Forests and Trees for Social Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change. Adavanced Review, v. 03, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Verchot, L.V., Van Noordwijk, M., Kandji, S., Tomich, T., Ong, C., Albrecht, A., Mackensen, J., Bantilan, C., Anupama, K., Palm, C. 2008 Climate change: linking Adaptation and Mitigation through Agroforestry. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change, v. 12, pp. 901-918.

de Almeida, R., de Andrade, C., Paciullo, D., Fernandes, P., Cavalcante, A., Barbosa, R., and do Valle, C. 2013 Brazilian agroforestry systems for cattle and sheep. Tropical Grasslands – Forrajes Tropicales, v.01, 175 pp.

Published by Patrícia Gallo

Co-founder of BluoVerda Deutschland e.V. / With a PhD in forest governance and management, I am a forest engineer, social and environmental researcher from Brazil with many years of experience in project development and policy advice, working with different actors (from traditional communities to private sector and government, for example).

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