February 10, 2014

Zooming in on Tree Based Ecosystem Approaches

In November 2013, we introduced EcoAgriculture’s discussion paper: “Taking Tree Based Ecosystem Approaches to Scale: Evidence of drivers and impacts on food security, climate change resilience and carbon sequestration.” Now, during the 2014 World Congress on Agroforestry, we revisit the study by zooming in on research findings for scaling Tree Based Ecosystem Approaches (TBEAs) to the landscape level.

TBEAs include a variety of management systems and practices that combine trees with agricultural production, with benefits for income generation, food security and biological conservation. Typically, the tangible benefits of trees in agroforestry systems are analyzed at the household or community level, but this approach is too fine-grained to recognize many of the large-scale ecosystem services provided by TBEAs.

In recent years, governmental and nongovernmental support for scaling up TBEAs has increased, but there are no common analytical methods or frameworks for documenting the impacts of trees in these systems on livelihoods and land management. This information is further skewed because national statistics often omit or miscategorize these mixed-use systems, and only recently have global studies by the World Agroforestry Center and UN Food and Agriculture Organization started to collect data and explore TBEAs at larger scales.

However, trends in EcoAgriculture’s review of existing research point towards pathways and best practices that may inform future efforts to implement and study TBEAs. The most frequently scaled TBEAs were found to include natural regeneration practices and fertilizer tree propagation in Africa, silvopastoral practices in Latin America and Europe and home gardens in Asia. These sites were most commonly located in subsistence farming communities, where drivers for change were identified as the need for improved soil quality, income generation and subsistence food and fodder production.

A complex mix of factors influence the land use choices made by individuals and communities. Clearly, no single template can be applied to all cases everywhere, but considering commonalities where TBEAs are scaled up may provide direction and inspire future investments and research. Growing literature on the impacts of landscape-scale interventions through watershed conservation projects and biological corridors suggests this is possible for agroforestry systems as well. The first step will be conducting a diverse set of landscape-scale case studies where TBEAs have been scaled significantly and analyzed within a common framework.

Read the full Tree Based Ecosystem Approaches Report.

Photo courtesy of Sajal Sthapit, EcoAgriculture Partners. 
More In in Staying Current

Comments are closed.