Agroforestry is a term for practices where trees are combined with farming, as well as for the interdisciplinary subject area embracing land use systems, at a range of scales from that of the ?eld to the planet, that involve interactions amongst trees, people, and agriculture. Put simply, agroforestry is where trees interact with agriculture. There is a long tradition of agroforestry practice in many parts of the world, but it has come to scienti?c prominence, and has emerged as a major focus in international development, only during the last quarter of a century. The term clearly derives from uniting two subject areas, forestry and agriculture, which for a long time, but not necessarily for good reasons, were institutionally separated the world over, in terms of education, research, policy development, and its implementation. As such, agroforestry has been at the forefront of much recent innovation in both farming and forestry.
[...] Agroforestry research and development seek to improve rural livelihoods by producing more products of higher value from trees and associated crops or livestock, while conserving the resource base, in terms of ecosystem attributes like biodiversity and soil fertility, from which they are ultimately derived. Because of their large stature and longevity, trees often make important contributions to the sustainability of productive landscapes. The significance of scale At a ﬁeld scale, trees may be grown in intimate mixtures with crops or grazed pasture, or cropping or grazing may occur in forests. [...]
[...] There was also intensive, predominantly agronomic, research on a few technologies, most notably alley cropping pioneered at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and closely associated and sometimes confused with this, on contour hedgerows. This agronomic research was accompanied by conventional tree improvement of a few exotic, nitrogen-ﬁxing, tree species, used in these technologies, principally Leucaena leucocephala and Gliricidia sepium. As a council, ICRAF did not have a remit to do research itself, but to coordinate research with national partners. [...]
[...] In temperate regions, agroforestry gained considerable credence in the USA, Australia, and Europe as agricultural policy increasingly sought to balance environmental and productive goals. Conclusion Most recently, the scope of agroforestry research and development has on the one hand expanded to encompass landscape, regional, and global issues, while on the other it has concentrated on delivering impact locally. The landscape scale has emerged as a key focus of research and development, requiring explicit trade-offs to be made amongst stakeholders and between the productive, food, fuel, and income- enhancing functions and ecosystem services. [...]
[...] The domestication and commercialization of these wild trees and other NTFPs to ensure sustainable production into the future is a main thrust of international agroforestry research and development. Agroforestry as a science and in development In its short history as a scientiﬁc subject and an international development imperative, agroforestry has developed rapidly and it continues to do so. Recent trends in the focus of agroforestry research and extension are informative. We can chart its entry to the international stage, by the emergence of ICRAF, then the International Council for Research in Agroforestry, now the World Agroforestry Center, in 1978. [...]
[...] Reliance on wild trees in agroforestry Despite their importance to local livelihoods and as foreign-exchange earners for some countries in their range, many valuable agroforestry trees remain essentially wild and hence threatened because their exploitation, without steps being taken to ensure conservation and regeneration, may be unsustainable. There is also a vast untapped potential to obtain higher value from these trees by more controlled production and marketing. Some well-known trees fall into this category, such as the shea butter in West Africa (Vitellaria paradoxa), from which comes a range of local foods, as well as expensive cosmetic products and a cocoa substitute sold in industrialized countries (in 2003 pure shea butter was selling in the UK for over d140 per liter as a skin cream). [...]
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