On February 7th TIME magazine posted an article on their website entitled Forests Vs. Food?. The piece examines the relationship between deforestation and rising food prices.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global food prices have reached record peaks this year, and are expected to keep rising. They attribute this rise to increased demand for resource-intensive products such as beef, and poor farming conditions leading to reduced yields in agriculture-producing countries.
As population growth continues, global food supplies become strained and more and more farmland is needed to meet the demand for agricultural products. With yields per acre already having been maximized, forested areas are being clear cut in order to increase the amount of farmland.
Among the solutions identified to help resolve the dilemma of forests vs. food is agroforestry. Agroforestry is a system of intercropping trees with farmland to maximize land-use efficiencies. By combining agricultural and forestry techniques to degraded lands, a more sustainable system is created that can help diminish the amount of virgin forests being clear cut for agriculture. The nitrogen-fixing trees help restore vital nutrients to the soil, thereby increasing fertility and biodiversity to the land.
Planting Empowerment is actively investigating ways to incorporate agroforestry into our own plantations in order to maximize productivity and produce earlier returns to investors.
As part of the 2010 UNDP Small Grants Program project in Arimae we helped field test the integration of cacao between rows of trees in one of the community’s existing timber plantations.
We are also cultivating partnerships for further agroforestry projects in the region, and intend to establish a pilot project within our own plantations in the near future.
By examining innovative techniques to enrich our timber plantations with understory crops, Planting Empowerment will be able to ensure more efficient use of land and labor, provide earlier returns to our investors through the cultivation of agricultural products, demonstrate good land stewardship practices in our partner communities, and help reduce the level of deforestation in the regions where we operate.
"Agroforestry is one of mankind's best hopes to create a climate smart agriculture, increase food security, alleviate rural poverty, and achieve truly sustainable development. And, thereby, better ensure that our world's forests can indeed be conserved far into the future."
- Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre