How can agroforestry help farmers adapt to climate change?

World Agroforestry Centre scientists, James Roshetko and Rodel Lasco, have published in article in SciDev.Net looking at the urgent need to better understand what strategies farmers can put in place to cope with future changes in climate.

It is estimated that climate change in South Asia and Southeast Asia – where both scientists live and work – could reduce agricultural productivity by as much as 50 per cent in the next 30 years if appropriate measures aren’t taken.

“Much is known about agroforestry — the mixing of tree species with crops and livestock to enrich farmers' livelihoods. But less is known about how it can help farmers adapt to climate change,” the authors say.

Agroforestry can provide farmers with wood and tree products as well as helping to improve soil fertility and protect the environment. Trees also store far greater carbon than other land uses but the amount depends on the species and how they are cultivated and managed. Carbon payments are still by and large a foreign concept to farmers, so the authors believe that any income received from them should be treated as additional to the services they already provide.

Roshetko and Lasco point out areas that require more research, including how growing crops under trees can expand food production and increase food security.

Encouragingly, a recent study in Vietnam found that smallholders were growing fruit, nut and berry trees on their farms along with crops and livestock in order to help them better cope with varying climatic conditions. Another study in Indonesia has shown that vegetables can be grown productively in the understory of a mixture of fruit, timber and banana trees.

“More research should be carried out to test these findings in other settings, and to learn how other farmers and systems adapt,” they say.

Read the full story: Let's add climate knowledge to agroforestry plans

Read more about the Indonesian study into vegetable grown under trees