Communities need to be conscientised on the role of agro-forestry for sustainable development.
Guest Column: Peter Makwanya
Planting a tree, even just for the sake of it, has not been the people’s favourite past time as they normally tend to labour to even plant even a fruit tree.
It is now a common practice and one within public knowledge, concerning how trees and forests are vital in shaping community livelihoods and in mitigating climate change too.
The common sight of trees that have been inherent in the communities ever since are fruit trees and forest-based ones, be they indigenous or exotic, as is now being recommended.
Trees are a useful component in transforming community terrains and outlook, as well as bringing forest resources much closer to households.
As has been the norm, people would prefer exotic fruit trees as they grow much faster when compared to indigenous types, whose growth rates are much slower.
For that reason, the growing of trees has never been a favourite of the majority of people and that is why most of us would buy fruits and timber instead.
People would prefer getting into the depleted forests to look for firewood, indigenous fruits, fencing and roofing poles for use at their households.
In as much as they would see the natural forests as fertile hunting grounds of the above, least do they know that they can come up with their own?
This may prove to be cheaper and sustainable in the long run.
Agro-forestry enables communities to have comprehensive knowledge about the nature of trees they can grow favourably, and side by side with their crops, without affecting the growth patterns of their crops.
From the falling leaves and shade provision, communities can come up with their own humus and compost banks, thereby creating their own carbon sinks.
The increase in soils’ organic carbon is what farmers would need to improve soil fertilities as well as the ecological environments of their landscapes.
Rather than teach communities about carbon capture or storage, most of these rural farmers can simply capture or store carbon, without being told to do so.
Of course, they can mitigate climate change and reduce global warming without including lots of scientific details.
It has always been proven that reforestation programmes, which are outside their households, do not actually excite communities. As such, and for these reasons, through venturing into agro-forestry, communities do have the sense of ownership and accountability.
Through agro-forestry, communities can also improve pastures at their household plots, for the sufficient food stocks for their live stocks.
Although the natural forests act as enormous carbon sinks, their current rate of depletion is a cause for concern.
The destruction is rapid, careless and unsustainable in the long run.
In this regard, it is important to strategically shift focus to the agro-forestry community of practice, and at least at a gradual pace, communities can grow their own carbon stocks.
Farmers can also draw motivation in growing their own trees, especially at their own premises. In this way, agricultural productivity becomes integrated and multi-beneficial.
For these reasons, agro-forestry can be realised both in terms of economic and environmental benefits.
This is also important in maximising use of the small plots that they have to comprehensive and efficient levels.
Agro-forestry is important in not only improving environmental sustainability, but also for food security.
It is also important to integrate agriculture and forestry into one in order to maximise sustainable growth, conservation and livelihoods realisation.