You often come across the term agroforestry but what does it actually mean?

Agroforestry covers the broad range of methods where agricultural production is combined with trees, including woody perennials such as shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc. The crops and trees interact with each other both in an ecological and economic way to optimize the productivity and the economic outcome of the field. An example of the Agrisilvicultural Agroforestry System where crops and trees are combined is illustrated in  the below infographic from one of DFEs projects in Nepal:

The project originated from observing the unsustainable collection of firewood from the local community forests which also were highly used as areas for livestock grazing and roaming – two activities which increased the pressure on the forests beyond the ability to regenerate the removed biomass and thereby continue to sustain the communities. The women collecting the firewood also experienced negative social and health related impacts from carrying heavy loads of firewood and inhaling daily smoke from cooking over open fire. The project has used agroforestry systems to design a sustainable solution to this scenario without compromising the women's access to their daily livelihood necessities upon which they depend.

As illustrated in the infographic, the women are organized into local democratic women growers’ groups as part of the already existing Community Forest User Groups. They have received training and are now responsible for planting, managing and collecting the commercial Non-Timber Forest Products lemongrass, cintronella, and palmarosa which grown under the forest canopy. They also plant fast growing, commercial tree species such as cinnamon, broom grass and eucalyptus trees under the canopy which thereby make up the Agrisilvicultural agroforestry system. 

All herbs and trees are planted in the native forest and generate both cash income for the women and communities and protein rich fodder for the livestock which is harvested to avoid the cattle to enter the forest for grazing. By growing these products in the natural forest, the local forest user groups also have an economic incentive to protect the native forest, take advantage of the beneficial growth climate and fertile forest soil while at the same time leaving the natural trees for carbon sequestration.

The applied agroforestry system is thereby a way to combine both climate mitigation and climate adaptation. In addition, the protein rich fodder increases the local milk production from the cows, which strengthes the household income and improves the family diet. The project is supporting the households to install local biogas units using the cow dung to generate biogas for cooking. This has two major benefits: firstly, the cows are kept out of the forest as the farmers need their dung to produce biogass. Thereby pressure on the forest is reduced. Secondly, using biogas for cooking reduces the need to collect firewood – which further reduces the pressure on the forest and related CO2 release. On top of this, as the women can save time by not walking to the forest to collect firewood, they can invest their spare time in other activities such as income generation from planting and processing herbs for essential oil production. They are subject to much less smoke from the daily cooking activities and they can use the bioslurry bi-product as fertilizer to increase their agricultural production or as a commercial product to generate income. 

As illustrated in the photo above, the women grower’s groups collect their planted lemongrass and process it into commercial essential oil through the use of local distillation units (photo below). The project supports them to produce at an attractive quality and quantity to be able to sell the oil and thereby generate income.       

The project is a partnership between Danish Forestry Extension and the local partner Wildlife Conservation Nepal as well as the commercial partner Himalayan Bio Trade Ltd. who plays an important role in the processing and commercialization of the non-timber forest products. The Danish company Biosynergi helps to train the women in how to design and manage their agroforestry systems to secure optimal growth conditions and production output. The project is financed by the Nordic Development Fund and currently runs in its second phase. 

Danish Forestry Extension
Amalievej 20
1875 Frederiksberg C

CVR-nr. 25096045