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1.04.00 - Agroforestry


Swoyambhu Amatya, Nepal


Edwin Cedamon, Australia

Sanjeev Chauhan, India

Ana Cristina Gonçalves, Portugal

About Unit

In many parts of the world farmers are familiar with the inclusion of trees on their farms for a variety of reasons, such as diversification of products, enhancement of productivity or improvement of the farming environment such as windbreaks. This age old practice has over the last three decades been researched intensively and a remarkable body of knowledge and innovations has arisen. Large scale application of the innovations is likely to transform farming landscapes.

Agroforestry can be understood as a dynamic, ecologically sound system of natural resource management involving the integration of trees on farms in agricultural landscapes. This helps to diversify and sustain production and thereby enhancing economic, environmental and social benefits.

Agroforestry can improve livelihood and provide environmental benefits through the following pathways:

  • Increasing the asset base of poor households through farm-grown trees. The typical tree products are fruits, nuts, medicines, gums, resins, firewood/charcoal, fodder, building materials (timber, poles, withies)
  • Increasing the productivity of crops, especially through nitrogen fixing trees but also through partial shading from the baking sun;
  • Serving as ex situ conservation of biodiversity;
  • Maintaining or enhancing the supply of ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes, particularly water, soil health and carbon sequestration;
  • Improving the multi-functionality of agricultural landscapes by balancing increased productivity with the sustainable management of the natural resource base; and
  • Trees grown on farm complement tree products from forests, thus mitigating deforestation.
  • Improving aesthetic value of farming landscapes.
  • As a knowledge intensive area, agroforestry touches upon various sectors, especially agriculture, horticulture, land planning, forestry, environment, water and energy. With the onset of climate change, the role of agroforestry in mitigating the negative effects and also assisting farmers to adapt is increasingly acknowledged.

State of Knowledge

Research is rapidly expanding and deepening our knowledge of agroforestry. Globally, the major research thrust areas are:

  • Domestication, utilization and conservation of indigenous trees, including genetic studies and on-farm conservation. This enables the development of new tree crops.
  • On-farm tree management science and production ecology. Innovative ways to manage trees in different soils and landscapes and in combination with a wide variety of crops and livestock (silvopastoral systems);
  • Tree products development, processing and marketing; Social and economic studies; Soils and landscape management; Agroforestry in context of climate change and environmental services; and Policies and institutions for agroforestry.