Agroforestry at 40: How Tree-Farm Science Has Changed the World

PEOPLE TERRACING SLOPING LAND TO CONTROL SOIL EROSION.    PHOTO COURTESY OF CCAFS.

PEOPLE TERRACING SLOPING LAND TO CONTROL SOIL EROSION. PHOTO COURTESY OF CCAFS.

Agroforestry at 40: How Tree-Farm Science Has Changed the World

“Agroforestry” – the practice of having trees as part of farms – is as old as agriculture itself. But as a field of scientific enquiry and policy making, it’s now marking its 40th birthday.

In 1978 the International Council for Research in Agro-Forestry was created to document the use of trees on farms – as a source of income, food and for a healthy environment – and spread information about it. Research gradually became a stronger focus and today it is known as the World Agroforestry Centre.

It’s an important area of research because more than 40% of the worlds’ agricultural lands have at least 10% tree cover. Because the interactions between trees, soils, crops and livestock can be positive or negative, their relationship must be balanced and understood.

To mark this anniversary my colleagues and I from the World Agroforestry Centre, launched a book which takes stock of the science produced and what else needs to be done. A total of 80 authors looked at approaches to agroforestry and how it has contributed to the transformation of rural livelihoods and landscapes. (Note from Anne: you can read this entire book online for free, so follow the link.)