Yearly Archives: 2015

Welcome to EverGreen World

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 ( and to our future quarterly issues.

Dennis Garrity

Dennis Garrity
Chair, EverGreen Agriculture Partnership


The riddle of Zambia’s miracle tree

7HjRUMFDVHV8Nrw0YpjXxL4CWH-oxfW5LL4LihUFzbzJQG5HDWI4sYiMtXq4FYuFVRMffbNf8Y7Df8PF5SO-ILitPvWbEpN0-Mv8KHoOJh2UtBXAC1oDWANh5dbkVqLhXAijhs_YLocally known as Msangu, Faidherbia Albida is considered a miracle tree by Zambian locals due to its ability to increase agricultural productivity, improve crop resilience and enhance soil fertility. Joseph Zulu, a local farmer notes that the fertilizer tree is a wonderful example of how climate-smart agriculture can be incorporated into traditional farming environments.

Despite the important benefits, few local farmers follow Zulu’s lead. Msangu only occupies 6 percent of fields in the district and this is attributed to property rights as many rural Zambians live on customary land without formally recognized boundaries to their fields or official documentation of their rights to access, use or own land.

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African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) to be launched in Paris

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.

UNCCD Publishes Brief on Land-Climate Nexus

land_matters_for_climate-150x150The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has published a brief titled, ‘Land matters for climate: Reducing the gap and approaching the target,’ ahead of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Paris, France. The publication states that additional commitments contained in the UNCCD’s Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target − which envisages rehabilitating 12 million hectares of degraded land globally each year − could help close roughly 25% of the estimated emissions gap of 13 gigatonnes of equivalent CO2 (GtC02e), and amounts to “two-thirds of the expected emissions reduction pledges of all INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions] in the year 2030.”

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Poor nations need support to cut emissions from farming

A farmer clears the rice field using a motorized plough, instead of the traditional slash-and-burn method, in Nakhonsawan province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, August 8, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/Files

Developing countries can boost food production while reducing planet-warming emissions from agriculture, given the right technologies and financial support to put them into practice, researchers said on Monday. Wealthy governments and other donors need to invest more to reduce carbon emissions stemming from agriculture, said a study issued ahead of U.N. climate talks in Paris next week.

Researchers analysed 160 national climate action plans submitted ahead of the summit, which is due to agree a new deal to curb global warming, and found 80 percent included agriculture in their efforts to cut emissions. Nearly two-thirds noted agriculture’s importance in strategies to adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas, despite being short on detail, the study added. But agriculture is absent from the main draft text for a new U.N. climate deal, signalling a major disconnect between country planning and global-level policymaking, according to the international CGIAR research programme on climate change, agriculture and food security.

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Restoration agriculture in the corn belt

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.