A woman plants Gnetum trees in Cameroon. Photo by Ollivier Girard/Center for International Forestry Research.

Global agroforestry database supports decision-making for agroforestry research, planting, and restoration initiatives

Global agroforestry database supports decision-making for agroforestry research, planting, and restoration initiatives

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s managing partner, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), created the Agroforestry Species Switchboard, an online resource containing more than 170,000 species and corresponding information across geographies. Researchers and practitioners worldwide have visited the Switchboard more than 350,000 times to support effective landscape restoration.

The ever-pressing demands on the world’s land are driving unprecedented land use change, leading to a high prevalence of degraded land and loss of ecosystem services. In response, ambitious targets for global landscape restoration have been set, such as AFR100 and the Bonn Challenge.

Meeting these targets and addressing the global challenge require well-informed restoration programs that yield environmental and social benefits. However, there are few well-connected, reliable databases available to support the contextually appropriate restoration needed to re-establish degraded land and enhance ecosystem services. This lack of data means that substantial time is required to search for information and leads to inefficiencies that hinder success and scaling of effective restoration projects.

The Agroforestry Species Switchboard fills this gap by connecting reliable species databases that contain ecological information needed to develop and implement suitable restoration programs around the world. The Switchboard, a user-friendly decision-support tool, contains information on more than 170,000 plant species.

The Switchboard provides centralized access to 35 databases through thousands of hyperlinks. Users can look up information by species to increase the speed and efficiency of their search and access high-quality data. The tool is updated regularly and invites user feedback.

The Agroforestry Species Switchboard is a user-friendly tool that provides centralized access to 35 databases with more than 170,000 plant species.

The Agroforestry Network has recognized the Switchboard as a credible and useful resource for those seeking information on goods and services of desired species, including biology, value, and ecology to determine suitability for restoration initiatives.

In partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Switchboard’s content has been expanded and repackaged into a mobile application with georeferenced data on ecological suitability. The app has been piloted to support restoration initiatives in Uganda, with the intention of scaling up to other countries that have committed to the Bonn Challenge, such as Guatemala, Brazil, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.

With more than 300,000 users worldwide and relevance to restoration programs in Africa and Southeast Asia, the Switchboard is a key source of information to empower communities with the necessary knowledge for sustainable restoration.

The Switchboard app directly provides farmers with ecological knowledge. Extension agents can also use the information from the Switchboard to start conversations with communities about which species they can plant to support restoration initiatives. When farmers select the most appropriate species to plant, they can carry out more effective landscape restoration initiatives for sustainable development in their communities.

“The creation of the Agroforestry Species Switchboard was driven by the need for a ‘one-stop-shop’ for good quality, detailed information on species of interest,” says Roeland Kindt, Senior Ecologist at ICRAF who led the Switchboard’s development.

Armed with the information provided in the Switchboard, researchers and practitioners are likely to employ restoration programs more broadly and effectively. Success is scaled up, as more effective restoration initiatives yield more benefits.

Global use of the Switchboard provides the information needed to plant the right trees in the right places to support both improved ecosystem functioning and community livelihoods. Ultimately, using the Switchboard to guide restoration will support progress toward the ambitious targets set by the Bonn Challenge signatories to address the global challenge of land degradation.


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