ICRAF presents: Trees as a means of land restoration

Soil, soil everywhere, but not a spot to plant.

Land degradation is an important global environmental issue in the 21st century and is having a huge impact on agricultural productivity, food security and livelihoods. Moreover, as Tony Simmons, director general of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) stated, economic losses from it account for a loss of $10.6 trillions a year.

Tony Simons

It's not always easy, but land use can be changed, in fact it is both possible and profitable for communities. In Ethiopia, which suffers from extreme drought, an improvement in irrigation infrastructure restored the hills and valleys of the state of Tigray . Restoring land can be an expensive intervention, but as experienced in Yunnan province, planting trees is an affordable solution to restore soil health. Mr. Simmons went on to explain the many advantages from incorporating trees into the landscape. Trees are not just a means to restore land, they can also change the microclimate, fix nitrogen, store water, sequester carbon dioxide, and provide products, among other services. In an agroforestry system tree crops such as palm oil can even perform better than in a monoculture, due to the benefits trees can provide. For this purpose, tree genebanks supported by ICRAF worldwide, assure the conservation and the availability germplasm of indigenous species.

As a closing remark, Tony Simmons referred to technological tools such as VegetationMap4Africa and Africa Tree Finder, which can be helpful to monitor land use and cover changes caused by demographic and climactic changes to help plan interventions.


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