Recent times have underscored the increasing need for improved natural resources management and sustainable agricultural production. Agroforestry can help meet both needs.
This is according to Dr. Tony Simons, Deputy Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) based in Kenya, during his SEARCA Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) presentation entitled "The Science of Agroforestry" last April 30. However, before these potentials of the field can be harnessed, certain issues need to be addressed.
The most important obstacle to overcome is the disconnect among the existing perspectives of policy, science and development. According to Dr. Simons, the lack of conducive policy to sufficiently link scientific knowledge with action hampers the formation of an integrated approach to answer the world's need for more food production with less environmental degradation. To partly address this issue, he suggested focusing on the needs, problems, and opportunities in Agroforestry. By doing so, improvements in the following aspects can be realized:
Output, which involves changes in policy options, knowledge, capacity, and germplasm or technology availability;
Outcome, which involves changes in stakeholders' behavior, investments, and market conditions; and
Impact, which involves changes in the state of needs, problems, and exploitation of opportunities.
He believes that once problems in the field of Agroforestry are properly addressed, approaches and initiatives aimed at tackling development challenges such as biodiversity and habitat loss, land degradation, water scarcity, and climate change become more viable.
Dr. Simons also pointed out the need for governments of least developing countries (LDCs) to allocate more budget for researches aimed at sustaining food production. This will allow them to better keep up with their rapid population increase, which has made demands for food and production materials greater than expected. However, recent data showed that only 36% of surveyed LDCs consider science and technology as a priority policy for poverty reduction and only 1.7% of the agricultural budget is spent on research.
Dr. Simons also suggested that concerned institutions and sectors consider the valuation of forest trees to raise people's awareness of the forests' importance in agricultural development. He explained that aside from monetary equivalents, the value of trees should be measured in terms of their contribution to biodiversity as well as the amount of food and raw materials obtained from them. In this way, people will see the true value of trees and, as a result, improve their efforts in protecting forests.
There is much potential in Agroforestry, says Dr. Simons. Research in this field will generate knowledge on the role of trees on farms. This makes Agroforestry research, like those conducted by the World Agroforestry Centre, mission-driven rather than curiosity-driven.