Study: Agroforestry may improve planetary health

A new study reports that agroforestry—a method integrating trees with crops and livestock—is linked with more benefits for human and planetary health than previously thought. The study, conducted by a team of 21 researchers from World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, reveals agroforestry’s impacts on food and nutrition security in sub-Saharan Africa. The findings also highlight the impacts of growing trees along with crops on migration, non-communicable diseases, and infectious diseases.

The lead researcher from the study, Todd Rosenstock, tells Food Tank how agroforestry provides stability in food production. Specifically, it increases the availability of micronutrient-rich fruits, seeds, and nuts during lean growing periods. Agroforestry influences “the growth and production of companion crops and animals…affect[ing] food security by generating cash from sales of tree products that enable the purchase of other products,” says Rosenstock. Tree products make up 6 to 17 percent of annual incomes in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. Although enhanced nutrition and financial security may help trigger migration to urban areas, improved soil health and household resilience may create the opposite effect and help keep young people in rural areas.

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