Trees for Food Security 2: Developing integrated options and accelerating scaling up of agroforestry for improved food security and resilient livelihoods in Eastern Africa

Project Timeframe:
Jan 2017 to Dec 2020

Related country(s)

Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda

A$ 5,000,000


Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR)


Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) | Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute (EEFRI) | National Forestry Resources Research Institute (NAFFORI) | Mekelle University (Ethiopia) | Makerere University (Uganda) | University of Rwanda | IMBARAGA | Oromia Agricultural Research Institute (OARI/IQQO) | Mbale Coalition Against Poverty (Mbale CAP) | African Network for Agriculture | Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE) | Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) | World Vision-East Africa.


The ACIAR Trees for food security project-T4FS (FSC/2012/014) continue to demonstrate the importance of trees in fields and farming landscapes for enhancing and sustaining crop yield and food security in eastern Africa. A number of promising climate smart agroforestry practices were developed, improving crop yield and in the longer term soil health, water use efficiency, carbon storage and livelihood outcomes. The capacity to reliably predict tree and crop yields across a range of soil and climate was developed within CSIRO’s APSIM model. The project revealed that farmers want greater diversity of trees on their farms than had been previously appreciated. Key adoption constraints include access to appropriate knowledge and financing options, barriers to smallholders accessing markets, availability of water resources, mechanisms to control free grazing and weak local institutions.

This second phase of agroforestry research will continue and build on the activities from T4FS and focus on tree diversity as the cornerstone of smallholder system intensification and integrate tree management with value chain development, better water management and new approaches to govern livestock management. The project aims to improve food security and smallholder livelihoods through the widespread adoption of appropriate locally adapted agroforestry practices in key agricultural landscapes in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda.

The objectives are organized in form of Work Packages (WP) and led by a work package leader.

The project has five main objectives.

  1. To enhance knowledge of the impact of tree cover change on crop productivity, water, nutrients and livelihoods
  2. To integrate appropriate water management technologies and sustainable grazing options with promotion of agroforestry
  3. To establish communities of practice in the promotion of locally adaptable agroforestry options supported by appropriate inputs systems
  4. To strengthen smallholders and other market actor’s ability to participate effectively and profitably in tree product value chains
  5. To strengthen capacity of academic institutions in developing and implementing innovative agroforestry curricula

Research strategy

The T4FS project has shown how farmers are interested in a much broader range of tree species than previously appreciated and highlighted the role that trees can play in system intensification. This is shifting the emphasis of agroforestry extension efforts in the region away from concentration on a few top-down priority species, towards balanced portfolios of trees for their products that underpin sustainable commercialization in the smallholder farming sector. In response to feedback from farmers within the previous research phase, the project will integrate specific components on water management, access to credit, and value chain development to address the needs of farmers for integrated solutions rather than only promoting single components (Research in development strategy below).

Figure 1. The research in development strategy adapted from the generic framework in Coe et al., 2014[1]. Green elements denote key new aspects in the present proposal that augment the core elements in pink.

[1] Coe, R., Sinclair, F. and Barrios, E. (2014). Scaling up agroforestry requires research ‘in’ rather than ‘for’ development. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 6(2014):73–77.


Major impacts and outcomes of T4FS Phase 1:

Establishment of five rural resource Centers (2 in Rwanda, 2 Ethiopia and 1 in Uganda) and nurseries to enhance training and supply of improved tree germplasm. The RRCs have also provided business opportunities for farmer groups and unemployed youth particularly through grafted fruit trees.


Farmers benefit from Avocado seedlings from the RRC in Zeway and tomatoes from the RRC demonstration farm


A section of farmer trainees budding oranges at the RRC in Mbale

Development of a vegetation and species selection map for Burundi which is integrated with the rest of VECEA map including species distribution and species selection tools; and 2 suitable tree species selection tools for Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Improved understanding of tree crop interactions in different species and contexts through establishment of four long-term tree diversity trials, more than 20 controlled on farm and on-station experiments. Over 5,000 farmers have been involved in participatory trials and associated tree planting activities.


Kuli Tiki, a champion farmer whose farm was used as a model farm for other farmers in her area shows the reviewers the different tree species on her farm


Clemena Mukarugwira, Tamarillo farmer from Karago Sector with Tony Barlett at her piece of land planted with tamarillo

Enhanced tree crop modelling capability using a new version of Australia’s agricultural production modeling framework (APSIM agroforestry Next Generation) developed through partnership between CSIRO and ICRAF.


Installation of a sap-flow gauge on Cordia africana Tree in Uganda

Richard Namunyu explaining how the sap-flow gauge works.

Capacity development and strengthening through farmer training and support in MSc and PhD training and through training of national staff in development courses and skills. To enhance outreach of the project initiatives, the project maintains an extensive database in the ICRAF dataverse and the project website which is a repository of project resources and tools. Improved extension systems where training and the use of novel extension methods to promote trees on farms has been achieved.

Through the project, about 2 million tree seedlings have been provided across the project site with close monitoring of their performance by the project staff. Farmers, extension workers and policy makers understanding on the role of trees especially on- farm has also been enhanced.


Tree seedlings distribution in West Shewa, Ethiopia


A farmer in Gakoma, Kadahenda, Gishwati staking her climbing beans using Alnus stakes from her farm

Agroforestry trees transportation from nursery and plantation on farm, Burundi

In pictures

  • Discussions with Butta sub-county farmers participating in the project's long-term trials. Photo May Muthuri
  • Project team and reviewers posing for a group photo with Elgon Trust Women Group. Photo Catherine Muthuri
  • A farmer potting mangoes at the Mbale RRC. Photo May Muthuri
  • A farmer grafting mangoes at the Mbale RRC. Photo May Muthuri
  • A farmer demonstrates how potting tubes are made at the Mbale RRC. Photo May Muthuri
  • John, a champion farmer...
  • Longterm experiment at Bugesera managed by Rwanda Agricultural Board in Rwanda
  • Joseph Desiree Rugerero, a climbing beans farmer at Karago Sector
  • Clemena Mukarugwira, Tamarillo farmer from Karago Sector with Tony Barlett at her piece of land planted with tamarillo
  • Clemena Mukarugwira, Tamarillo farmer from Karago Sector holding her health insurance certificate
  • Clemena Mukarugwira, Tamarillo farmer from Karago Sector answers questions from the reviewers
  • Women working at the RRC plant seedlings
  • Shifarow Tadesse, Associate Researcher and Process Leader at Bako Agricultural Research Centre explains to the review team the work done at the longterm trial site.
  • Kuli Tiki, a champion farmer whose farm was used as a model farm for other farmers in her area shows the reviewers the different tree species on her farm
  • Edushe Guye, Model farmer from Gerbi Village, Batu Area stands by his newly dug well
  • Edushe Guye, Model farmer from Gerbi Village, Batu Area shares how a newly dug borehole has helped him plant more fruit trees
  • Batu RRC workers prepare seed beds for planting tree seedlings.
  • An RRC worker at Karama RRC
  • A diagram representation of the layout of the longterm trial at Bako Agricultural Research Center
  • Tree seedling fenced for protection- Bako Ethiopia