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Project team and reviewers posing for a group photo with Elgon Trust Women Group. Photo Catherine Muthuri

A number of women in Manafwa District, Uganda, sought to establish a group that would create a joint income generating platform through nurseries, dubbed Elgon Trust Women group. The group started with 8 members and currently has 22members. Challenges arising from harsh weather conditions (mainly having to carry water from a steam to water the seedlings during the dry season) and lack of support from husbands forced some members to opt out. However, knowing the benefits of trees in curbing soil erosion, which was a prevalent challenge in the area
, encouraged the remaining members to stay on, doing the best they could. The group also allows the enrolment (hires) of young men who mainly assist in fetching water to water the seedlings during the dry season. Carolyne, the group leader, highlighted that the Trees for Food Security (T4FS) Project reversed the named challenges through supply of quality seeds and trainings on potting, nursery management, and suitable tree species based on their needs and record keeping.

Members now enjoy diverse benefits such as increased income from the sale of seedlings which enables them to provide loans amongst themselves as well as offer support when one is bereaved or ailing. The group’s success is also hinged on recommendations from the District Forestry Officer, and support from community based organizations, created opportunities to supply seedlings to local Non-Governmental Organizations. The group therefore gets to supply huge orders of between 1,000 – 5,000 seedlings. Furthermore, the group acquires quality seeds and seedlings through the project, wheelbarrows, nails, watering cans and polythene tubes, keeping them afloat at all times.

Members also noted they sell firewood or poles to other farmers and earn some income to takwwe them through a number of days. The poles are usually in demand after harvesting periods as they are used for drying beans. Moreover, the women get to make charcoal from the trees they have planted on their farms and earn income through the surplus. Members stated that they no longer have to necessarily rely on their husbands to meet all their household needs such as paying school fees for their children.

Operating like a cooperative, members are encouraged to acquire extra income for their own use, by collecting seeds on behalf of the group as well as potting coffee in plantations nearby. The youngest member of the group highlighted that he can now pay his own school fees from income he has accrued over the months, by collecting seeds for the members. For a while, his parents could not afford to cater for his fees and that is when he considered joining the group, having noted the benefits members enjoy.

Women are also able to sustaiwwen themselves, not borrowing money from their husbands all the time as was the norm. “Courtesy of the Project, all members are smartly dressed, have neat hair and still have some income left to cater for personal needs. Moreover, since its women’s role to fetch firewood, it’s much easier now as we have them readily available in our farms hence don’t have to travel distances for the same,” stated Carolyne.

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“It’s better to have a team of good farmers than good researchers, in terms of impacts.” These were Tony Bartlett’s remarks during the Trees for Food Security (T4FS) Project review in Uganda. Richard Namunyu, a lead farmer of the Project wowed reviewers with his vast knowledge of trees and farming, as well as the extensive work carried out on his 10 acre farm. Through a tour around the farm, reviewers got to sample most of the participatory trials he hosted such as fodder banks, tree diversity, trees for shade and food, firewood, boundary planting as well as the sap flow biophysical experiments.

During the tour Namunyu was keen to highlight the benefits and income earning opportunities opened up by the project including fodder, firewood, charcoal, mulch, high crop and milk yields, fruits, supportive function for Matoke and climbing plants like yams, knowledge on tree planting, management and nursery development.  “I am earning more through this project than I used to before. I now earn UGX 200,000 from each acre of beans in each harvesting period, and through sale of timber, I get an average annual income of UGX 3 million. My 6 children have never been sent home for lack of fees or study materials,”stated Namunyu.

These benefits are incurred through various tree and shrub species on his farm, some of which were introduced by the project, including: Calliandra Calothyrsus, Maesopsis eminii,Neolamarckia cadamba, Eucalyptus grandis, Mahogany, Cordia africana, Melia volkensii, Neem, Alnus acuminata and Leucaena leucocephala. “The project has issued seedlings in 2 phases, 500 in each, and in the past year, I have planted 1,500 trees on my farm. It’s also my policy to plant ten (10) more trees once I cut one for charcoal production.”

Discussions with Butta sub-county farmers participating in the project's long-term trials. Photo May MuthuriIn addition to the planting recommendations made by the project, Namunyu created diverse innovations to not only suit his needs but also double his benefits. The scientific recommendation as to the appropriate height to cut Calliandra is 50cm, but Namunyu choses to cut at 20cm, noting his innovation increases chances of other branches and leaves to sprout, retain the lower leaves and ensure the tree doesn’t dry up. Mr Namunyu also noted that he has introduced another innovation to his farm which entails reducing the spacing between the trees, applying a space of 1ft between the Calliandra seedlings, prior to the recommended spacing of 2ft by the Project. This innovation came about when he realized wider spacing of Calliandra translates to a bigger stump and roots hence a challenge in uprooting the shrubs when he needed to utilise the space. . However, with a smaller stump courtesy of the smaller spacing, once the shrub is mature, it’s easy to uproot and no extra labour or machinery is required for the same, thus cutting on costs.

In the case of Melia volkensii, Namunyu opts to space at 2 metres (instead of 4m) since it is a fast growing tree and he will require it for various uses therefore when pruning he wouldn’t want the process to interfere with the next tree. Namunyu also noted that he opted to plant some Calliandra trees vertically (along his farm) instead of horizontally so as to form a hedge and clearly define the entrance and boundaries to his homestead and farm. Catherine Muthuri, T4FS project leader, noted appropriate synchrony between trees and coffee on Namunyu’s farm, which he attributed to trimming of the top coffee branches to avoid them getting too close to those of the tree. This ensured each gets ample nutrients and light hence minimising competition.

Namunyu highlighted that farmers usually plant trees without prior knowledge of how they behave towards other crops and the environment as a whole. Through his brief experience with the sap flow instruments, Namunyu explained the tree water uptake, and leafing phenology (shedding and flushing) of the tree solely depends on seasons, knowledge he didn’t have before. “It sure has been a challenge hosting the sap flow instruments as some farmers considered the trees with the instruments as bad. It has therefore taken me time to go around homesteads and LLCs, informing them of the benefits of the instruments, which will guide them in future while purchasing and planting trees, on the suitability of each species on the farm,” noted Namunyu. Through this, farmers around the area have been keen to learn more from him as well as take part in project activities.

“I am very proud of the project and that is why I don’t want it to just be about the activities and recommendations highlighted, but also about a learning and exploring opportunity for my family and I, before the Project comes to an end. I want to enjoy the process as well as reap maximum benefits, and that is why I have tweaked some of the ideas given. Farmers in this area tell me I have more than enough, why work so hard? I however say, I am not satisfied, and since I have the energy and land, there is no reason to stop,” justified Namunyu.

evergreenworldIn today’s world, EverGreen Agriculture is a pretty unconventional concept. Agricultural cropland covers 1.3 billion hectares globally. But these croplands are generally seen as mono-cultures of annual species, such as maize or wheat, with no role for trees or other perennials in these systems. But the evidence has been rapidly accumulating on many continents that the integration of trees into crop fields (i.e. EverGreen Agriculture) may produce all sorts of benefits to farmers, And there is increasing recognition that it could contribute enormously to addressing the big global challenges of rural poverty alleviation, restoring infertile and degraded farmlands to greater productivity, and making farming more resilient to climate change. These systems also have much greater potential for pulling carbon out of the atmosphere than conventional farming practices, and could thus contribute enormously to reducing atmospheric carbon and to significantly enhancing the biodiversity of agricultural systems.

Gradually, skepticism by agriculturists to the notion that trees could play a much greater role in crop production systems is giving way to greater acceptance that such a concept is not far-fetched, but rather that it could be a basis for redesigning global agriculture for the better. Millions of farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America are already practicing EverGreen Agriculture, and monitoring the spread of their successful efforts has shown that the practice is spreading rapidly. Pioneering work in Europe and North America has also demonstrated that the practice is suitable for larger-scale commercial farming operations as well.

Picture1The EverGreen Agriculture Partnership is challenging the conventional wisdom. It is taking the notion of integrating trees and shrubs in croplands into the mainstream. Its purpose is to connect the many ongoing efforts around the world to create an EverGreen Agriculture, from global to local.

The goal of this new newsletter is to keep you informed you about these developments in the realms of policy, technology and development. It seeks to highlight the connections, and to keep you up-to-date on this transformation, engaged in the debate, and appraised of its relevance to your work in government, the private sector, non-governmental development organizations, in the education and research communities.

The launch of the newsletter is timely, in light of the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals in September, the decision of the UNCCD in November to achieve a Land Degradation Neutral World by 2030, and the upcoming Climate Change Convention in Paris in December, where the contributions of agriculture to become a major part of solution to global warming will be vigorously discussed. How we can better care for the land as we intensify efforts to increase its bounty is becoming an issue and an aspiration shared by all of us, both urban and rural.

Thus, we invite you to the community that is seeking to create a more EverGreen World. And we urge your active engagement by contributing your feedback: By sharing your views, blogs and news posts to the web site (evergreenagriculture.net and to our future quarterly issues.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS EVERGREEN WORLD NEWSLETTER
Dennis Garrity

Dennis Garrity
Chair, EverGreen Agriculture Partnership
EverGreenAgriculture.net

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5641584266_4e5080ca16_zAFR100 is a pan-African, country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes in Africa under restoration by 2030. It is a platform for implementation that brings together political commitment with the necessary financial and technical support.
Experience in multiple countries has demonstrated that forest landscape restoration (FLR) can deliver significant benefits. African leaders from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others are stepping forward with commitments to restore degraded and deforested landscapes in an attempt to increase resilience to climate change, develop their economies and help to mitigate climate change.
The AFR100 seeks to realize the benefits that trees can provide in African landscapes, thereby contributing to improved soil fertility and food security, improved availability and quality of water resources, reduced desertification, increased biodiversity, creation of green jobs, bolstered economic growth and livelihood diversification, increased capacity for climate change resilience, adaptation and mitigation. Agroforestry and EverGreen Agriculture have been recognized as critical aspects to the success of the initiative.
What is the origin of AFR100?
In September 2015, representatives from 13 African countries met together with civil society leaders, regional economic communities and donor agencies to discuss the needs and opportunities for a continental initiative to help scale up FLR successes. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) joined forces with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the NEPAD Agency to provide initial funding to catalyze this African-led initiative to restore deforested and degraded landscapes. The EverGreen Agriculture Partnership has been vigorously engaged in the development of AFR100, and is looking forward to supporting the implementation of this visionary program.
How will AFR100 be implemented?
The initiative will help to mobilize financial and technical resources from multiple sources to help support and implement strategies for forest landscape restoration through partnerships with African governments, private sector impact investors, multilateral banks, bilateral donors and technical support providers committed to results-oriented partnerships and projects.
The AFR100 is a direct contribution to the Bonn Challenge ambition to restore 150 million hectares by 2020 and the New York Declaration on Forests to restore 350 million hectares globally by 2030. Interested partners are invited to join the AFR100 initiative by sending a letter of commitment to the NEPAD Agency as secretariat of the AFR100 initiative.

Picture4I’ve got to admit that the Corn Belt of the USA was probably the last place in the world where I thought that EverGreen Agriculture could take root. I knew that the historical trajectory of bigger farms, bigger equipment, extremely simplified maize-soybeans cropping systems, and an industrial approach to farming, all present real challenges to the integration of trees in farming systems. Thus, it was exhilarating to learn that there are pioneers out there who are grappling with these challenges, envisioning fresh, new ways of addressing them, and succeeding. And that they are also writing elegantly about their experiences to guide others along the pathways to the perennialization of agriculture.
Mark Shepard runs a 106-acre farm in southern Wisconsin, that he converted from a row-crop grain enterprise into a commercial-scale perennial-annual agricultural ecosystem. He started from the perspective of combining ecological theory with hard-nosed economics. And in the process he has created a profitable farm based on the concept of developing a farmscape that mimics the original oak-savanna ecology of Richland County, Wisconsin. In his new book, Restoration Agriculture, Real-World Permaculture for Farmers, Mark lays out the theory and the practice. And he has made the effort to show in detail how it works, and how others can do it, too.
Mark’s oak-savanna agroecosystem mimic produces a diversified range of food products that are processed and marketed through the farmer-owned 1600-member Organic Valley cooperative. His book describes the journey, and along the way he shares invaluable tips and insights for all those that might contemplate stepping into the world of a more perennial agriculture, that makes it profitable to produce our staple foods by integrating trees and shrubs into annual crop systems. And doing so in commercial, mechanized farming systems that also dramatically improve the quality of the environment. Such a trajectory could fundamentally change the face of agriculture, and the ecological health of the entire planet.
Diversity, succession and a vertical structure of up to four layers of productive annuals, shrubs and trees are the tools in Mark’s arsenal to use the land effectively and increase profit per acre. He notes that “since farmers and ranchers are in the business of capturing solar energy, wouldn’t it make sense to utilize systems that have as large a surface area as possible in order to capture as much solar energy as they can?”

Picture3Woody crops are able to use an extra two to three months’ worth of sunlight before and after annual plants are able to do this. Their longevity is another obvious advantage. Mark discusses all the ins and outs of growing taller trees, including oaks, chestnuts, beeches, in a four-story structure with understories of woody perennial crops such as apples, hazelnuts, cherries, raspberries and blackberries, and grapes, along with ground-hugging shade-tolerant crops of mushrooms, with the more sun-loving annual crops and forages occupying the alleyways. These are integrated with various livestock enterprises right in the mix. And his restoration agriculture savanna silvo-pastoral systems produce a dappled shade where forage crops have more optimal temperature and light levels for longer periods of time throughout the year.
Mark emphasizes that the perennial polyculture farmer is not striving to get the most out of any one crop. Rather, he is striving to manage and optimize an ecological system: A system modeled after nature. A system designed to optimize its total system yield. He notes that the restoration agriculture farmer is practicing an agroforestry where perennials are directly integrated with annual crops (or what we may also refer to as evergreen agriculture). He emphasizes that the difference between a USDA-approved agroforestry of simplified practices (such as windbreaks or riparian buffers) and restoration agriculture is that the latter is the practice of agroforestry on ecological steroids. Indeed.

The latter chapters of the book advise fellow farmers on getting started in creating a permanent agriculture. They contain abundant practical information about the technical aspects, and about making a profit. It all winds up with a chapter that is ‘A Call for New Pioneers’. The frontispiece of that chapter evokes the words of J Russell Smith, who was the pioneer of a century ago that wrote the classic book, Tree Crops, A Sustainable Agriculture:

“I see a million hills green with crop-yielding trees and million neat farm hmes snuggled in the hills. These beautiful tree farms hold the hills from Boston to Austin, from Atlanta to Des Moines. The hills of my vision have farming that fits them and replaces the poor pasture, the gullies, and the abandoned lands that characterize today so large a part of these hills.”

“The unplowed lands are partly shaded by cropping trees – mulberries, persimmons, honey locust, grafted black walnut, grafted heart nut, grafted hickory, grafted oak, and other harvest-yielding trees. There is better grass beneath these trees than covers the hills today.”

It is gratifying that serious research is now getting under way at universities throughout the Corn Belt to further evaluate and expand on Mark’s ideas. As a complement to reading the book, you will want to pull up some of Mark’s videos on YouTube for further inspiration.

Michelle030The global community has set forth a new goal to tackle the scourge of land degradation and desertification. It could be real breakthrough.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) had a ‘breakthrough moment’ after two weeks of discussions and negotiations in Ankara, Turkey in October. The 195 parties to the Convention agreed to a global deal that set a new environmental target: Achieving “land degradation neutrality” by 2030, and thus maintaining the world’s stock of healthy, productive land at a stable level.

Currently, 12 million hectares of land is being degraded annually via deforestation and forest degradation, the degradation and loss of agricultural land, and rampant infrastructural development. But the new deal at Ankara commits the UN’s members, albeit on a voluntary basis, to restore or rehabilitate at least that much land area every year, which at least will keep things from getting worse. If that goal can be achieved by 2030, then the global community can look toward an even more ambitious target to gradually enable a major net increase in healthy land in future decades.

The Land Degradation Neutrality target had already been included in the Sustainability Development Goals that were agreed by the UN General Assembly this past September. But the UNCCD decision takes that a major step further by setting in motion a framework whereby the target can be achieved through practical actions on the ground by virtually all countries.

The endorsement also entails an expansion in the role of the UNCCD. The Convention had previously focused on attempting to counter the rapid degradation or desertification of productive drylands, especially in Africa. It will now actively promote and assist land degradation neutrality in non-arid areas across the world as well. The scientific definition of land degradation neutrality that was adopted by the conference applies universally to all countries, and thus a significant shift has occurred.

“That is the fundamental change that has taken place,” noted UNCCD executive secretary Monique Barbut.

The agreement is likely to have an impact on the UN climate change conference that is convening in Paris in early December, following close on the heels of the UNCCD meetings. Ms Barbut stressed the enormous climate benefits of reclaiming degraded land. These include not only making farming more resilient to climate change through the adoption of such practices as agroforestry, and evergreen agriculture in particular, and increasing food production in rainfed environments, particularly on millions of smallholder farms, but also in sequestering huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

She noted that the full achievement of the land restoration target could reduce global warming by half a degree C. This will help substantially to close the gap between the sum of what countries have so far voluntarily committed to reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases, and the level of emissions reduction that is needed to limit global warming to 2 degrees C: The level currently estimated to be essential to avoid catastrophic climatic consequences.

The new global deal opens a wide new window of opportunity for EverGreen Agriculture impact in the coming years.