Agroforestry: An ecologically sustainable approach to mitigate climate change

Agroforestry is a type of land management system where trees and shrubs are intentionally combined with agriculture on the same piece of land.

Appropriate tree-crop combinations and their harmonious interactions improve agricultural productivity. When crops fail, tree products such as fodder, timber, fruits could act as safety nets for farmers, thereby enhancing a nation’s economy as well as its farming landscapes.

According to “USDA Agroforestry Strategic Framework: Fiscal Year 2019-2024”, for a management practice to be called agroforestry, it must satisfy the four “I”s:

• Intentional
• Intensive
• Integrated
• Interactive

Major Benefits of Agroforestry

• Controls runoff and soil erosion
• Reduces loss of water, soil material, organic matter and nutrients
• Strengthens rural economy
• Habitat creation
• Improved livestock welfare
• Increased Biodiversity
• Reduced pests and associated diseases
• Reclamation of eroded and degraded land
• Augments soil water availability
• Maintains social, economic and ecological sustainability

Role of Agroforestry in Climate Change Mitigation

The main thing currently we need to do to mitigate climate change is to reduce carbon footprint and lower the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Trees, as we know, are a great way to fulfill this as they take carbon from the surroundings and store it safely deep into the soil.

Not only this, they also cycle nutrients which feed other flora and fauna that go on to nourish the soil further. And healthy soils can not only store far more carbon than degraded soils but also reduce our reliance on chemical fertilizers.

Challenges

Although the concept of agroforestry is gaining attention globally, it faces many challenges, including delayed return on investment, underdeveloped markets, lack of co-ordination, policy conflicts, ambiguous land tenure and over dependence on conventional agriculture methods.

In short, addressing these issues is crucial in order to reap the benefits of the intentional blending of agricultural and forestry production.