Projects funded by Germany make a difference to people, trees, ecology

Grants from BMZ enrich and push boundaries at World Agroforestry (ICRAF)

Each year, seeking ‘innovative solutions for sustainable agriculture that benefit smallholders in developing countries’,  BMZ, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, puts out a call to 17 international agricultural research centres. In recent years, World Agroforestry (ICRAF) has brought home seven of these grants for work that has been pioneering.

A project in Peru explored the concept of ‘agroforestry concessions’, a landholding arrangement for smallholder farmers settled on state forest land but lacking a land title. ICRAF proposed more work on how to implement the concessions which had been promulgated under Peru’s Forest Law in 2011.

A condition of receiving a concession is that farmers commit to agroforestry systems and do not expand land under cultivation or clear forest; the last is a real challenge for smallholders whose livelihoods depend on forest conversion.

‘But we were able to demonstrate that investing in agroforestry can stabilize precarious smallholder farmers and is strategic in meeting national and climate change in biodiversity targets,’ said lead researcher Valentina Robiglio. And it is partly thanks to the project that today smallholders in the Amazon and elsewhere are beginning to receive 40-year, renewable leases.

A BMZ project called Green Rubber in China, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand allowed ICRAF to address conversion of natural forest to rubber monoculture. ‘This single commodity crop increases smallholders’ vulnerability. And how do we restore ecosystems?’ said scientist Su Yufang.