What is Agroforestry? And does it help stock carbon?
Agroforestry is recognized as good for sustainable farming, but can it actually help with the carbon crisis?
What is Agroforestry?
Have you heard of shade-grown coffee or cacao (for making chocolate)? If so, then you’re already familiar with agroforestry. The practice of growing crops in fields surrounded by forests or in forests themselves has been used by Indigenous peoples for centuries. But in modern agriculture, the term arrived in the 1970s.
In land management, agroforestry is an approach that blends the planting or preservation of forests with agriculture. The practice notably increases biodiversity in the area and can strengthen the resilience of the land.
The United Nations Development Programme promotes the practice, stating that:
“Regenerative agriculture and agroforestry could provide about a third of our climate emissions solution.”¹
But how? And where?
Where does agroforestry happen?
Agroforestry can take place all over the world, although some regions are developing the practice faster than others. Wherever it is practiced, it brings numerous benefits to the land:
- In eastern Zambia and Zimbabwe, a study found that agroforestry practices improved the soil quality of degraded land. Crop yields and quality subsequently improved.²
- Forest gardens in Sri Lanka increased the financial returns and viability of farmers’ livelihoods³.
- In the UK, agroforestry on previously uncovered cropland is restoring wildlife corridors and providing territory for migratory birds like the yellow wagtail.⁴
Agroforestry and carbon sequestration?
That agroforestry is good for sustainable farming, for farmers’ pocketbooks, and for biodiversity are already great reasons to pursue this climate mitigation solution. But, there is a reason that we at CarbonABLE are interested in the practice: because agroforestry projects can sequester carbon.
A study published in Nature shows how well-planned agroforestry farming can absorb the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of animal production and more.⁵ In the study, the GHG emissions of the animals destined for agricultural use were estimated. A corresponding number of trees to absorb these GHG were planted. It turned out that the trees absorbed more emissions than expected, and therefore they sequestered excess carbon from other sources — making the project carbon negative (more carbon absorbed than emitted).
When selecting projects to finance to drive global restoration of our carbon sinks, the team at CarbonABLE looks for projects that will have the most impact not only on carbon absorption but also on human and biodiversity benefits. Well-planned agroforestry projects offer just that: improved soil quality, financial well-being for local farmers, increased biodiversity and wildlife habitats, and carbon sequestration. It’s a technique that checks all our boxes!
And if you’ve made it this far… here’s a leak: our third project that will soon be available to mint is an agroforestry project!