Tree cover on agricultural land and carbon budgets


Photo credit: Agroforestry World

Faidherbia and tomatoes on a farm in Salima District, Malawi. Photo by Tracy Beedy/World Agroforestry Centre

Trees on farms: the missing link in carbon accounting


While tropical forests continued to decline, a remarkable change is happening: tree cover on agricultural land has increased across the globe, capturing nearly 0.75 Gigatonnes carbon dioxide every year. A new study titled Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land: The contribution of agroforestry to global and national carbon budgets provides insights into the patterns of this tremendous change at global, regional and national scales.

According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agriculture and land-use change account for about 24% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change will also have strong impacts on food security in the long-term. Therefore agriculture needs to reduce its climate footprint. But a recent study has shown that the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from crop and livestock production is limited. At the same time, large forest areas, primarily in the tropics, are still being converted into agricultural land to feed the world’s growing population.

For these reasons, agricultural practices that can significantly reduce carbon emissions are in high demand.

Trees on agricultural lands – also known as agroforestry systems – have the potential to contribute to climate change mitigation while improving livelihoods and incomes and providing invaluable ecosystem services at the same time. The World Bank estimates that globally 1.2 billion people depend on agroforestry farming systems, especially in developing countries. However, trees on agricultural lands are not considered in the greenhouse gas accounting framework of the IPCC.

Read the full article: Agroforestry World

Agroforestry in Brazil



Restoration through agroforestry in Brazil

Agroforestry can reconcile environmental goals and livelihoods and production in restoring degraded lands in Brazil.

This is the key message of this short film, which describes efforts by ICRAF and partners to develop agroforestry options for restoring environmentally sensitive areas on privately owned lands in Brazil. This project is coordinated by ICRAF Brazil in partnership with Embrapa Biotechnology and Genetic Resources – CENARGEN and the Institute for Society, Population and Nature- ISPN through the GEF Small Grants Program/UNDP.

See the film: Agroforestry World


Evaluating indicators of gender gaps in control over productive resources



Small changes for big improvements: Criteria for evaluating indicators of gender gaps in control over productive resources

by Smriti Rao

There is an increasing need for indicators that can track the impacts of agricultural policies and technologies upon gender inequalities at the national and international levels. A recent working paper commissioned by the CGIAR Gender and Agricultural Research Network reviews the body of published research that uses such indicators and recommends a set of robust indicators that can help measure these impacts, either using data that already exist, or data that could be collected through relatively simple additions to existing national and international surveys. The goal is not to measure empowerment specifically – that is done in the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index – but to track changes with regard to two specific outcomes: 1) control over key agricultural resources, and 2) decision making about labor, income, and within groups or collective bodies. Since agricultural interventions are often targeted at a particular point in the value chain, the recommended indicators are disaggregated by resource type, such as land, livestock, or common pool resources.

One of the challenges in writing this paper was clarifying criteria for selecting the indicators. Such criteria relate to both conceptual and measurement issues. For example, if we want to measure how a project affected women’s access to land, we first need to answer the question “how do we define access to land?” (conceptual issue) and then we can ask “are data collected from interviewing only heads of household sufficient?” (measurement issue).

Five conceptual and five measurement-related criteria emerge as particularly significant (see Box 1).  Although many of the recommended indicators do not meet all of these criteria, foregrounding the criteria could help us be more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the indicators we use, as well as help us work on improving them.

Read the full article: CGIAR

Rapid adaptations of sheep to plateau and desert environments.



Photo credit: ILRI

Native Chinese sheep breeds, one of which is seen here grazing on the Tibetan Plateau, are serving as a climate change bellwether (photo credit:

Badass Chinese sheep quickly evolved adaptations to extreme plateau and desert environments—New study

Making land fertile again


Photo credit: FAO

FAO’s Action Against Desertification programme is expanding a successful land restoration model across the Sahel

Land restoration in northern Niger is making degraded areas productive again, providing economic opportunities in a region where migration has become a tradition. Now, under FAO’s Action Against Desertification programme, these efforts are being expanded to six African countries.

When Moumouni Nuhu returned to his village after thirty years, everything was gone, the trees, the animals, everything. In his youth they would chase hares, antelopes, guinea fowl – a bit too much, maybe.

“The harmattan blows with a terrible force now. It takes all nutritious elements out of the soil,” says this 65-year old retired civil servant in Bajirga, his community on the outskirts of Tera, a dusty town in north-western Niger, known for its cattle market that attracts traders from as far as Nigeria.

Who can be surprised that youth are leaving, Moumouni asks, dressed in a white robe and sitting in the shade of a tree. Pointing out the barren field around him where women are digging under a scourging sun, he says: “We have to make degraded land fertile again.”

Travel and see

If you have a reason to stay home, you don’t leave, says Hassan Gado (51), who has just returned after a long life of work abroad. He first left in 1984, sold cigarettes in Lagos, worked in the port of Cotonou and then in a shoe-shop in Lomé.

In 2010, someone offered him a boat trip to Spain, but Hassan was told that the captain of the ship did not know about it. He got scared he would be thrown overboard when discovered and decided not to go.

Being a migrant worker is hard, Hassan says. You don’t have any family. Sometimes you don’t even have a place to sleep. But there are good times too. “I went out to see the world,” says Hassan. “Bob Marley said: ‘Travel and see’. If you always stay where you are, you don’t learn anything.”

Not trees only

A truck has arrived today from the national forest seed center in Niger’s capital Niamey, loaded with seeds for communities around Tera that have been involved in land restoration activities since 2013.

Maman Adda, Director of the center, explains that communities are at the heart of restoration efforts. Seeds were selected based on extensive village consultations. Capacity development of village technician is continuous. Seed collection took place with help of the seed center and, next, seeds are planted in village nurseries. Since 2013, five nurseries were established around Tera, now producing 100 000 seedlings per year.

Today’s shipment from Niamey contains seeds of shrubs and grasses. “Restoration is not only about planting trees”, Maman Adda says. As fast-growing species, shrubs and grasses produce within one year, while the output is fodder grass, not only essential to feed the animals of a population that is predominantly pastoralist or mixes farming with cattle grazing. It sells well on Tera’s market too.

On WDCD, FAO calls for urgent action for a land degradation-neutral world


Photo credit: FAO

Local communities in the Sahel start planting

As FAO celebrates World Day to Combat Desertification calling for urgent action to achieve a land degradation-neutral world, the onset of the rainy season in the Sahel allows local communities to start planting trees, shrubs and grasses as part of large-scale land restoration efforts organised under FAO’s Action Against Desertification programme.

This year, FAO plans to restore 10 000 hectares of degraded land in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal using an approach that puts people at the heart of restoration by focusing on their needs for useful species that can support their livelihoods.

Based on a successfully tested and scientifically recognised model, these efforts show that land degradation around the Sahara is not yet irreversible. At the same time, they are the perfect illustration of collaborative efforts by FAO and partners to halt desertification by addressing its root causes and engaging people.

Read the full story: FAO

And at the end of yesterday …


Photo credit: FAO

More investment crucial to upscale Great Green Wall initiative

High-level event on Africa’s response to climate change and zero hunger challenge

During a high-level event on the Great Green Wall initiative, leaders of African countries called for increased investment in combatting desertification and land degradation to improve the lives of the people of Africa’s drylands.

“FAO is committed to scaling up support to the Great Green Wall initiative,” said José Graziano Da Silva, FAO’s Director-General of FAO. “It offers hope for prosperity and well-being to the local communities at the heart of our efforts.”

Brah Mahamat, Minister for Environment, Water & Fisheries from Chad, speaking on behalf of the African Union that leads the initiative, emphasized the epic ambitions of Africa’s flagship rural development programme. “The Great Green Wall is one of the most audacious efforts in human history,” he said.

Yet the challenges of climate change and land degradation are equally formidable, ministers and senior representatives from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan noted. Great Green Wall countries are faced with conflict, migration, poverty and hunger.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Amina Mohammed, Nigerian Minister of Environment, who lauded the merits of the initiative. “In spite of all odds, it is an initiative of solidarity, it is about a family of countries across the Sahel and the Sahara that are taking collective responsibility.”

To bolster its support to the initiative, FAO builds on recommendations of the recent International Great Green Wall Conference in Dakar and a roadmap for the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, said René Castro, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry.

But the task ahead is daunting, he warned. To rehabilitate ten per cent of the total area around the Sahara desert affected by desertification, estimated at 600 million hectares would require an investment of about USD 143 billion.

“We need to think big and see big,” said FAO’s Deputy Director General Maria Helena Semedo in her closing remarks. “It’s time to scale-up.”