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Prioritising agroforestry in the policy agenda: six recommendations to scaling
Thursday, 2020/09/10 | 08:22:23

 From World Agroforestry (ICRAF), September 3 2020.


A policy brief from World Agroforestry's Regreening Africa project outlines key findings and recommendations to enhance the enabling policy, legal and institutional environments that underpin increasing the scale of agroforestry in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Figure: Farmers attending to a tree nursery in readiness for the nationwide tree planting campaign in Ethiopia. Photo: World Vision Ethiopia/Habtamu Regasa


Integrating trees in farming and pastoral landscapes, or agroforestry, is one of the most effective tools we have for mitigating and adapting to the climate crises and for restoring degraded lands while also providing nutrition and livelihoods to millions of people, particularly, in sub-Saharan Africa.


Yet the integral role that agroforestry plays is often under-recognised, with policy barriers to accelerated adoption, even in areas with significant potential.


A review of policies and technologies has been completed as part of the Reversing Land Degradation in Africa by Scaling-up Evergreen Agriculture (Regreening Africa) project, which is funded by the European Union. The project is being implemented in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Ghana. The review provided policy and institutional insights and recommendations for how to increase the scale of adoption.


Some of the findings are that, first, agroforestry does not have its own policy space. It is spread across the agricultural, forestry, natural resources and climate-change sectors. As a result, countries often lack policies related to agroforestry or may have existing strategies that limit farmers from cultivating trees on their land or accessing, using and selling tree-based products. In another case, there can be incoherent policies that prohibit one aspect of agroforestry while exalting another, thus, creating an incomprehensible maze!


Second, fragmentation and ineffective coordination among government institutions and others dealing with different elements of agroforestry curtails efficiencies in financial resources, duplication or poor attention to the needed efforts. Third, farmers are left in a haze of uncertainty on whether to make long-term investments in trees, owing to insecure or ambiguous land and tree tenure. Not forgetting the bureaucratic and expensive permit systems that can cripple a farmer's passion to get what he or she rightfully deserves. Naturally, this restricts the success of agroforestry initiatives.


Fourth, any agroforestry technical advisory services that do exist are often underfunded, under-skilled and unfacilitated, yet, this crucial resource is meant to demonstrate and disseminate various technological options for agroforestry.


Last but certainly not least, agroforestry value-chain opportunities exist but they are poorly developed. There are gaps in linking farmers to the larger private sector to take their produce, coupled with poor infrastructure and low market prices for tree-based products.


But, it’s not all gloom and doom. Key findings and recommendations in this policy brief (also in a French version) outline opportunities to enhance enabling policies, legal and institutional environments, to underpin scaling-up of agroforestry in Sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on examples in the eight Regreening Africa countries, it is evident that some steps in the right direction are being made. Legislative approval processes that encompass comprehensive agroforestry strategies and action plans are underway. The roadmap to the destination of a nationwide adoption of trees in farming landscapes contains six sections.


1) Reviewing, aligning and revising policies that can coherently and effectively benefit the accelerated expansion of agroforestry.


2) Ensuring a coordinated implementation of agroforestry development through platforms or mechanisms that function effectively across sectoral ministries, in collaboration with the private sector, non-governmental and grassroots organisations and others who are critical to success on the ground.


3) Reforming rights to access and use trees and land to reflect the needs of men, women, youth and vulnerable groups. This will serve as an incentive to invest in agroforestry, to their benefit and to that of the national economy and environment.


4) Increasing investment in rural advisory services, research and robust monitoring systems to boost farmers’ capacity in implementing agroforestry.


5) Eliminating policies hindering the progression of tree-based value chains may pave the way to investment, credit access and market information that will not only uplift farmers but the country’s economy.


6) Implementing and supporting agroforestry activities at national, sub-national and local levels that contribute to the achievement of national aspirations and commitments linked to international agendas. Through this, countries can be presented with opportunities for leveraging finance, promoting cross-sectoral links and developing integrated monitoring systems at  national level.


There are examples in the countries that align to these recommendations. For instance, Regreening Africa's national oversight and coordination committees in the eight countries link the project to government officials. These could be strengthened to provide a long-term coordination role for national restoration activities. In Ethiopia, a National Watershed and Agroforestry Multi-Stakeholder Platform has been established to facilitate awareness-raising, coordination and harmonization across sectors as well as creating an enabling policy environment within which agroforestry can flourish.


As seen in Senegal, Mali and Ghana, local knowledge when harnessed with the development and promotion of agroforestry options, encourages women and vulnerable groups to practise agroforestry, mostly because of the promising results and opportunities for food security, resilience and income. In Ghana, as in Niger, a reform process is underway that may enhance ownership, access and use of trees by landowners. Rwanda recently developed an agroforestry strategy and action plan to be implemented under the Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority of the Ministry of Environment, with Ethiopia and Kenya on track to follow.


India was the first nation in the world to adopt an inter-sectoral national policy on agroforestry, which has guided the strengthening of research and extension. The national policy has resulted in many regulatory reforms that create incentives for farmers to engage vigorously in cultivating trees on their land. A high-level, inter-ministerial committee monitors implementation of the policy. The Indian experience has demonstrated that it is crucial to have the broadest possible buy-in across the political and ministerial spectrum. It fostered supporters to engage the widest possible audience and to deftly 'choreograph' how the policy would be developed to ensure transparency, trust and broad collective agreement.



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