Agroforestry into its fifth decade: local responses to global challenges and goals in the Anthropocene

Chapter 1 outlined the evolution of agroforestry as a concept at plot/farm, landscape and policy scales, with all three coexisting in the current links between praxis, knowledge and policy. Chapter 19 ended with the need for policies that seek and support SDG synergy in pursuit of landscapes that not only produce goods for existing markets, but also provide the services that ‘downstream’ stakeholders have in the past taken for granted but do miss when they are affected.

Methods in agroforestry research across its three paradigms

Methods, subject to scrutiny of underlying assumptions and sources of bias, define the scientific approach to knowledge more than any other aspect, but they are driven by questions and judged by the results (data) they generate and the implications these are considered to have. Agroforestry research methods are ‘horses for courses’; there is no single method that stands out across all purposes of research. Similarly, there are no research methods that are unique to agroforestry, and few that are completely new rather than modifications of something used earlier.

Policies for ecosystem services enhancement

Ecosystem services have increasingly been highlighted as central to human wellbeing1,2,3. Ecosystem services refer to the various benefits that humans gain from nature and functioning ecosystems. Four groups of ecosystem services are commonly recognized: provisioning (e.g. food, drinking water, fibre), regulating (e.g. climate, disease control, flood prevention, waste-water self-cleaning), supporting (e.g. nutrient cycling, crop pollination, maintenance of genetic diversity), and cultural (e.g. recreation, spiritual)4 services.

Policy guidelines for agroforestry development adopted by ASEAN

Getting agroforestry on negotiation tables where global, regional, national and local policy responses to current ‘issues’ are discussed takes patience and time. Yet, without such investment, flexibility in the language to be used, and persistence and consensus on the core aspects, agroforestry practitioners will continue to face hurdles because policy documents don’t refer to it as a potential contribution.