The Evergreen Agriculture project supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has won a Climate Week Award for the “Best Initiative by a Governmental or Statutory Body.” Climate Week is Britain’s biggest climate change campaign and runs from 4 to 10 March 2013, with over 2600 individual events organized throughout the country.
The entry “Evergreen Agriculture: feeding the world’s poor, sustainably” represents work that the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) has been pursuing for many years. It was competing against three other finalists in the category. The results of the competition were announced at an event at the UK House of Commons on 4 March 2013.
Evergreen agriculture - the integration of trees into crop and livestock systems - is helping millions of smallholder farmers across Africa protect themselves against drought and hunger, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientific research and upscaling efforts supported by DFID during the past 20 years have now fully demonstrated the exceptional value of these systems for increasing the production of cash-poor smallholder farmers in a wide range of agricultural environments across the tropics.
Researchers from ICRAF and African partners have been evaluating the use of fertiliser trees and shrubs since the late 1980s. Results have been impressive. In Malawi, analysis shows that farms planted with these trees can generate between 1.4 and 2.0 tonnes per hectare more maize grain compared to other maize plots on the same farms, without any additional cash costs. This approach enables farmers to save water, whilst accumulating carbon both in and above the soil. The system also helps farmers to adapt to the effects of a changing climate by making their crops more resilient to drought.
In Zambia, unfertilised maize yields in the vicinity of Faidherbia trees averaged 4.1 tonnes per hectare, compared to 1.3 tonnes per hectare nearby but beyond the canopy, in the absence of any commercial fertilizer application.
Given the current tree densities farmers have on their fields, the average impact of a combination of soil fertility trees on cereal yields is usually around 30%. Trials in Malawi and Zambia revealed that the efficiency of rainwater use increases by up to 380% where maize was intercropped with fertiliser trees. Emissions of 1.6-3.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent were mitigated per ha annually.
In Malawi, intercropping Gliricidia trees with maize reduced inorganic fertiliser use , mitigating 0.48 kg of nitrous oxide emissions per ha annually. Evergreen agriculture has also been shown to accumulate carbon both above and below ground in the range of 2-4 tonnes of carbon per ha per year.
“Evergreen agriculture allows us to glimpse a future of more environmentally sound farming where much of our annual food crop production occurs under a full canopy of trees,” said Dennis Garrity, Distinguished Board Research Fellow and Evergreen Agriculture Partnership Chair.
For more information see:
Agroforestry and the future (YouTube video)