Benefits of agroforestry for smallholder farmers in Sub Saharan AfricaLinda Mlangeni January 26, 2021 0 COMMENTS
The unprecedented effects of climate change can not just be termed as ‘climate change’ but have now yielded a climate crisis. A good example of such change includes the extreme weather events such as frequent flooding occurrences. . Unfortunately, the impacts of floods are more severe in developing countries, particularly among the poor rural communities dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. In recent years there have been increased efforts to develop and implement policies on extreme weather events such as floods. However, policymakers use the lack of control over the weather as an excuse for weak flood protection policy and decision-making, leading to ineffective flood risk mitigation measures. Nature-based solutions such as agroforestry have been proposed as solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Agroforestry is the deliberate integration of trees or shrubs with crops and livestock in the same land management system and results in social, economic and environmental benefits. Smallholder farmers are the majority of farmers in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) thus have a pivotal role to play in agroforestry. Although agroforestry has excellent potential and benefits, its uptake by smallholder farmers in SSA is slow. A major reason is that in SSA, agroforestry is encouraged as a nature conservation strategy activity and often linked with climate regulation through carbon sequestration. For most farmers, this is not enough motivation to participate in agroforestry. To encourage smallholder farmers’ participation, they have to be aware of direct livelihood benefits, such as food, firewood or fodder and mitigation as a co-benefit of the improved agricultural practice.
Agroforestry offers a wide range of benefits to farmers, including improved livelihoods, increased food security and income, increased resource efficiency and resilience. Several studies have demonstrated that agroforestry helps livelihood resilience by reducing the vulnerabilities and improving people’s recovery after natural hazards, disasters, and socioeconomic downturns. Agroforestry also reduces poverty by lowering agricultural production costs such as fertilizer and increasing economic benefits from tree-based value chains such as Shea butter. Notably, agroforestry provides firewood, lessening the burden on girls and women tasked with firewood collection.
The practice also offers environmental services that can yield both long term and short term benefits for smallholder farmers. Firstly the tree roots help to strengthen soil structure, thus mitigating erosion and preventing possible landslides. Tree plantations also act as windbreaks, helping protect crops and animals from strong winds and prevent wind erosion. The protection of crops and animals allows the maintenance or increase of yield, thus increasing climate change resilience. Agroforestry reduces the need for pesticides as it provides shelter to pests’ natural enemies, which reduces costs for farmers and the negative impacts of pesticides on the environment. The integration of leguminous trees in agroforestry can lead to higher crop yields and restore soil fertility, whilst using less inputs.
Agroforestry can also result in the efficient use of water resources. For instance, the filtering and capturing of water resources by the trees can help improve water quality and quantity (FAO, 2015). Shading by trees also provides a microclimate that buffer temperature fluctuations, leading to reduced evapotranspiration and trees. One of the effects of climate change that is a cause of great concern for smallholder farmers is interannual variability in rainfall and temperature. Due to their ecological characteristics, some agroforestry tree species are resilient to floods and droughts. For example, during the drier periods, trees’ deep root systems allow them to explore a larger soil volume for water and nutrients. The trees can also lead to increased soil porosity and reduced runoff, reducing moisture stress during low rainfall years.
In conclusion, extreme weather events such as flooding continue to have adverse impacts, and these impacts are more severe in developing countries, particularly smallholder farmers. There is an urgent need to come up with strategies that mitigate climate change. However, due to the uncertainty of weather events, it is rather challenging to come up with and implement policies on climate change. Nature-based solutions such as agroforestry are ideal for climate change mitigation because they offer smallholder farmers direct livelihood benefits and also offer environmental benefits. Apart from direct livelihood benefits, tree-based value chains can be a great source of income. By diversifying the source of income, agroforestry aids in livelihood resilience after a disaster.
We need nature more than it needs us
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