World's Farms Have More Tree Cover Than Believed: World Agroforestry Centre


Agroforestry plot in Ethiopia. Photo: Trees for the Future via flickr.

The World Agroforestry Centre has just released a new report showing that while farming and deforestation are often linked together -- particularly when talking about the developing world -- in fact about half of all the farms in the world have "significant" forest cover:Globally that's about 10 million square kilometers, but what's defined as significant isn't really that high. Included in that total are areas with just 10% forest cover. Which isn't to downplay how the report is extolling the benefits of farmers planting trees.

Trees Provide Farms Choice...
Tony Simons, Deputy Director General, World Agroforestry Centre:

If planted systematically on farms, trees could improve resilience of farmers by providing them with food and income. For example, when crops and livestock fail, trees withstand drought conditions and allow people to hold over until the next season.

What trees essentially provide farmers is choice. Choice of enterprise, choice of market, choice for diversification, choice for low labor requirement, choice for multiple function.

Developing country farmers are spoilt for choice. Whilst Western Europe has some 250 native tree species and North America has a larger set of 600 trees species--the developing tropics has a staggering 50,000 tree species to manage and utilize. The priority is to find the right tree for the right place for the right use.

In their media release announcing the report, the World Agroforestry Centre points out the benefits of reducing deforestation in combatting climate change, and how they are working with the UNEP to develop a standard method for measuring carbon storage of landscapes, in order to develop mechanisms to incentivize farmers to preserve forests.

For Carbon Storage, 10% Forest Cover ≠ Forest
Certainly a good thing: Creating ways to help farmers financially benefit by preserving forests on their lands is a vital part of combatting climate change --but (at the risk of being too snarky) I can't help but thinking that the differences in carbon storage of a particular area of land when it's an actual forest and when it's only got 10% of its original tree cover is pretty significant.

Read the full report: Trees on Farm: Analysis of Global Extent and Geographical Patterns in Agroforestry [PDF]

Forests, Farming, Deforestation
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Tags: Agriculture | Carbon Emissions | Carbon Sequestration | Deforestation | Developing Nations