Category Archives: Blog

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

TAGS
COUNTRIES

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.

3The Member States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa have approved a resolution to set up a new initiative to enable their countries to build their capacity to link the upscaling of fertilizer tree technologies with their fertilizer subsidy programs. The initiative will enable COMESA Member States to regenerate their soils and create a more sustainable agricultural system for farmers, particularly the small-scale farmers who are currently benefiting from their input subsidies programmes. At the national level such an initiative can significantly reduce fertilizer importation bills, and save considerable foreign exchange in fertilizer importation, while increasing food crop yields and production, thus generating more rural employment and contributing to food security, particularly for the rural poor, and contributing to more sustainable economic growth and national prosperity.
Fertilizer Subsidy Programmes (FSPs) are a visible means for governments to show support for farmers. But these programs are expensive. Currently, ten African governments spend an estimated US$1.05 billion annually—an average of 30 percent of their agriculture budgets—on FSPs (IFPRI, 2014). COMESA Member States with FSPs include Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, and Malawi. This number will likely increase given that many governments plan to further scale-up their FSP programs.
These FSP programmes were meant to help smallholder farmers invest in fertilizer inputs, overcome limited access to input markets, and ultimately, to increase production. In some countries the FSPs were meant to be temporary, i.e. the subsidy was meant to help farmers out of perpetual poverty and then graduate them; but the hard reality is that most FSPs have not been successful in that respect.
Governments face many choices on how to best spend their limited resources on development projects. FSPs tend to crowd out investment in other important areas of agricultural development, especially in agricultural research, which have proven to have a very high rate of return on investment. But ISPs are politically popular and are thus predicted to be here to stay. However, governments can achieve far greater benefits from these programmes by investing in complementary areas, such as programs to improve soil fertility in an integrated manner, so that the returns to fertilizer use are higher and more sustainable. This will make buying and applying fertilizers more profitable for farmers, which is the rationale for the new EverGreen Fertilizers Initiative.
Agroforestry is the integration of trees into crop and livestock systems. It is one of the most promising approaches to addressing climate change and evolving a climate smart agriculture (CSA) in Africa. It achieves this objective because it increases agricultural production, enhances the resilience of the farming system, and sequesters more carbon in the biomass and soil than other agricultural practices. It is also one of the most effective ways for smallholder farmers to reverse land degradation on their farms, and to regenerate their soils in a manner that requires little or no cash investment.
Practical systems for intercropping fertilizer trees in maize farming have been developed and are being extended to hundreds of thousands of farmers in Malawi, Zambia and other COMESA member countries. The portfolio of options includes intercropping maize with coppicing, fast-growing N-fixing trees, such as Gliricidia sepium, or integrating full-canopy fertilizer trees such as Faidherbia albida into the cropping system. Faidherbia is an indigenous tree that is widespread on millions of farmers’ fields throughout the eastern, western, and southern subregions of the continent. It is highly compatible with food crops because it is physiologically dormant during the rainy season. It sheds its nitrogen-rich foliage at the beginning of the wet season, and only re-foliates at the beginning of the dry season. Thus, it exhibits minimal competition with food crops grown in association with it, while enhancing their yields and improving soil health. Fertilizer trees can be established at medium-to-high densities in crop fields by planting the seedlings, or by farmer-managed natural regeneration of trees that are nurtured from trees that sprout from tree stumps, roots or germinating tree seed in the fields’ soil bank. A meta-analysis of studies on the effects of fertilizer trees on maize yields found that they have significant positive effects. The doubling of yields is not uncommon (Sileshi et al 2008).
The upscaling of these practices will contribute substantively toward meeting the commitment of the African Heads of State in Malabo to ensure that 30% more households in Africa are resilient to climate change-related risks (Malabo Decision, June 2014), and to achieving the 25by25 vision within the context of the Africa CSA Alliance and the CAADP Climate Change Programme (25 million farmers practicing CSA by 2005).
See: http://rea.au.int/en/content/second-africa-dry-land-week-n%E2%80%99djamena-chad
Fertilizer tree technologies (FTTs) have been scaled-up so far mainly through conventional extension programs. However, interest is rapidly developing to further incentivize agroforestry investments on the farm by linking them to government fertilizer subsidy programs in the region. By linking the adoption of fertilizer trees with fertilizer subsidies, countries can provide for long-term sustainability in fertilizer nutrient supply at reduced cost, and build up soil health as the basis for sustained yields and improved fertilizer response efficiency. This will enhance farmer investment in the purchase of inorganic fertilizer. Furthermore, most of the mineral fertilizer received by farmers is usually applied over a far bigger area than that recommended by the extension agents resulting in mineral fertilizer application rates as low as a quarter of the recommended rates. In such situations fertilizer trees complement these small doses of mineral fertilizers.
The establishment of these biological fertilizer factories on the farm will enhance the impact of the input subsidies. Farmers would be encouraged to produce more of the nitrogen required by their crops on their own farms, increasing and sustaining their crop yields and improving their soils. This can foster a gradual shift of investments from short-term fertilizer subsidies to sustainable on-farm fertility regeneration, opening up a subsidy to sustainability pathway.
A successful pilot project to scale-up fertilizer tree technologies is currently being implemented in Malawi that involves 10,000 small-scale farmers. Plans are under way to expand the program to 30,000 farmers by 2016. This is part of the Malawi’s National Agroforestry Food Security Programme that has been implemented in districts across the country for many years. In Zambia, fertilizer tree technologies have been extended on a large scale through the Conservation Farming Unit’s extension programme, and through private sector-sponsored extension programmes, particularly in Eastern Province. Research and extension programmes on fertilizer tree technologies have also been promoted in Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. These provide the base and experience for creating the appropriate models for connecting with the FSPs in these countries.

COMESA Ministers discussed the issue at their meeting in Lusaka in February, 2015, and noted the major economic and financial advantages of scaling-up fertilizer tree technologies. Their resolution stated that:

“It is recommended that COMESA strengthen awareness among member countries of the major economic and financial advantages of scaling-up fertilizer tree technologies, and develop an initiative to assist countries to share their experiences in developing input subsidy to sustainability pathways that will significantly enhance the impact and welfare benefits of input subsidy programs.”

In April, 2015, the Southern Africa Beating Famine Conference (www.beatingfamine.com) convened a special event to to share and discuss the vision and ideas surrounding the initiative, discuss the best approaches to developing the initiative, and to encourage participation in the planning activities to carry the agenda forward.

The key activities envisioned to assist countries in linking their FSPs with the scaling-up of fertilizer tree technologies for soil fertility are:
· Policy analysis and formulation, and policy support to national FSPs in creating links to the scaling-up of fertilizer tree technologies
· Providing technical support to COMESA Member Countries interested to develop EverGreen Fertilizer Subsidy models adapted to their unique conditions.
· Research on the development of EverGreen Fertilizer Subsidy models, pilots and programs suited to the unique contexts of each interested Member Country, including appropriate incentives to accelerate adoption and integration of fertilizer trees and mineral fertilizers.

A number of countries have expressed interest in getting engaged in the initiative. Efforts are now under way to set up the mechanisms to support them and to strengthen the ability to provide support to many others. For more information on the development of the initiative, and to get engaged in it, contact Dennis Garrity at d.garrity@cgiar.org

For more background on fertilizer tree technologies see (weblinks on EVA brief and Garrity et al 2010 and evergreenagriculture.net.)

FMNR-2-Malawi-Oct-2014-e1428739225809Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is the fastest-growing form of EverGreen Agriculture in Africa. It is especially popular in the drylands where droughts are frequent and intense. Because it requires minimal or no cash investment, it can expand rapidly through farmer-to-farmer and village-to-village diffusion. A dramatic case in point is Niger, where more than 5 million hectares of medium-to-high density tree cover has been regenerated on croplands over just a couple of decades (see photo). But Niger is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent study carried out in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Senegal found that almost all farmers are actively regenerating trees on their farms. FMNR is also widespread in Ethiopia and Malawi, and is now being promoted in many other countries through various initiatives and development projects.
This phenomenon is examined in a new book just released by the World Bank that examined this trend and looked at what it means for farmers (insert web site here). More than 100 woody species are currently being managed by Sahelian farmers through natural regeneration. The benefits from FMNR vary from location to location, depending on which tree species are present in the area, and what products and services are valued locally. They contribute products for human consumption (more than $200 per household per year) which is a major part of overall income, and they provide feed for livestock during the dry season, and increase crop yields by 20-25 percent.
These tree-based systems enhance the capacity of households to cope the effects of shocks. Trees are assets that can be cut and sold for cash in times of need. In south-central Niger, where 1.2 million households now sustain many trees on their crop fields, farmers cut tree branches on a continuous cycle for household fuel wood supplies and for sale. Some mature trees are cut down and sold in local wood markets. Export markets are active in shipping wood south to Nigeria. During prolonged drought periods these tree assets may be gradually liquidated to supply the household with cash for food purchases. This process was observed to be an important source of coping capacity during recent droughts.
The accumulating evidence about the role of FMNR as a foundational practice in dryland agriculture was reviewed at the 2nd African Drylands Week Conference that was convened by the African Union. The results prompted the body to propose that the AU establish and achieve an ambitious goal to scale-up FMNR throughout the continent. The declaration recommended and proposed that:

“The drylands development community, through the African Union, and all collaborating and supporting organizations, commit seriously to achieving the goal of enabling EVERY farm family and EVERY village across the drylands of Africa to be practicing Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration and Assisted Natural Regeneration by the year 2025.”

See: http://rea.au.int/en/content/second-africa-dry-land-week-n%E2%80%99djamena-chad
The EverGreen Agriculture Partnership is currently working with the AU Commission to develop a platform that could facilitate, support and better coordinate the many efforts at the regional, national and local levels that are now under way to realize this goal. Such a platform could inspire deeper political commitment to the goal, and provide a mechanism to underpin greater investments to accelerate the process of scaling-up.
For more background the practice of FMNR see: FMNR Hub Website and evergreenagriculture.net.
For more information and to get engaged in the initiative contact Dennis Garrity at D.Garrity@cgiar.org