Over a thousand experts from a hundred countries meeting in Montpellier, France, for the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry called for a ’transformative change’ to tackle the disastrous impacts on our planet of the global food system*. Agroforestry, they agreed, was crucial to that effort. The event was organized by CIRAD and INRA, in partnership with World Agroforestry (ICRAF), Agropolis International and Montpellier University of Excellence.
Over 300 presentations and over 600 posters presented the latest research on the power of mixing trees and crops in agriculture. Adding trees to crop fields and pastures delivers on biodiversity, while maintaining or enhancing food security and nutrition. In addition, it often leads to increased farm profitability and helps mitigate and adapt to climate change, while optimizing water management and restoring soils.
The Congress therefore calls upon decision-makers, both public and private, to ensure transformative change in governance, education and finance to speed up the adoption of agroforestry systems (read Montpellier Declaration below, published on 24 May).
It is encouraging to note that agroforestry has been gaining momentum worldwide. However, so far, this has mostly been a story of the global South. In Montpellier, for the first time, this World Congress saw an equal number of participants from temperate regions, where the surge in interest for agroforestry is more recent.
For Diaminatou Sanogo, Director of the National Centre for Forestry Research of Senegal’s Agricultural Research Institute (ISRA), enabling policies are essential. "The President of Senegal recently expressed the need for a transition to agro-ecology and asked agencies to develop new approaches. Agroforestry can contribute to agro-ecological intensification and climate resilience." She is happy that her research group won the best poster award in the climate change category, with an innovation leading to greater nutrition security and resilience for farmers in the groundnut region of Senegal. Using native tree species intelligently with crops allows yield increases while greatly reducing fertilizer use.
Chad Frischmann, Research Director at Drawdown , emphasized that "12 of the top 20 climate solutions are in the food system, and many of those have to do with trees and agroforestry".
Stephen Briggs, a leading agroforestry farmer from the UK, said "There is increasing interest in agroforestry across the globe and locally in the European Union as a system that provides greater economic and production resilience, which is important to help deal with the impacts of climate change. To help further adoption of agroforestry, what we now need is advice and mentoring from local, regional and global agroforestry networks, as farmers learn best from other farmers".
According to Christian Dupraz, Scientific Chair of the Congress and INRA Research Director: "After the worldwide move towards simplified and artificialized agricultural systems - which came with many unintended negative consequences - agroforestry embraces complexity in agricultural systems". "Faced with this complexity, we may feel that the more we learn, the less we know. This is why we need to collaborate and encourage transverse collaborations on all levels", said Tristan Lecomte, Chair of PUR PROJET, at the concluding session of the Congress.
It is important that tomorrow’s agriculture mimics the processes of natural ecosystems so that some of the services that nature once gave us can be provided by agriculture. "Agroforestry can take up this challenge", concludes Emmanuel Torquebiau, Agroforestry Project Manager at CIRAD and Chair of the Organizing Committee of the Congress.
Learn more : agroforestry2019.cirad.fr