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A new four-year ‘Trees for Food Security’ project has been launched in Eastern Africa with $5.5 million of funding from the Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC).

It is one of the first projects funded by the newly established Centre, an initiative of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to strengthen the Australian Government’s contribution to food security in Africa.

The Centre is forging new partnerships to accelerate adoption of research, including through NGOs, extension workers, private companies and the public sector.

Increasing crop production

The aim of the ‘Trees for Food Security’ project is to encourage and support farmers to grow trees on farms for improved food and nutritional security. Previous research has indicated that crop yields can be doubled by incorporating the right trees and management practices into agricultural systems.

The project will focus initially on Ethiopia and Rwanda and then scale out the appropriate agroforestry technologies to Uganda and Burundi. It aims to reach large numbers of farmers in rural regions where an estimated 10 million people are facing acute food security problems.

The project is led by the World Agroforestry Centre in partnership with the governments of Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda and key national and international agencies. Other partners include Australia’s CSIRO, the Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Livestock Research Institute and World Vision.

Many benefits

“World Agroforestry Centre research has shown that growing trees on farms, using the right species and the right management practices can help increase crop production, without use of inorganic fertilisers,” said ACIAR’s Forestry Research Program Manager Tony Bartlett who attended the project’s inception workshops in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the 6–7th, and in Kigali, Rwanda on 9–10th August 2012.

“Growing the right kind of trees, such as Faidherbia or ‘fertiliser’ trees offers many benefits, including boosting soil fertility, improving water infiltration, and reducing evaporation, but also provides farmers with valuable products such as fruit, fodder, fuel, fibre and timber.

“The Trees for Food Security project will help address declining crop productivity that is resulting from declining soil fertility, and find low cost alternatives to fertiliser,” Mr Bartlett said.

Long term effects

The ‘Trees for Food Security’ project will gather evidence on the impacts of changing tree cover by quantifying long term effects on water, soil, crop yields and livelihoods. It will:

• examine the barriers to farmers enhancing tree cover on their farms;
• match species and management options to sites and farmer circumstances;
• develop systems for seed and seedling supplies;
• evaluate which extension activities are most successful in encouraging farmers to adopt the agroforestry systems; and
• recommend policies to allow the scaling up of suitable ways of increasing tree cover to help reduce poverty.

Strong support

The Trees for Food Security program, which is receiving strong support from the Ethiopian and Rwandan Governments, complements other major new agroforestry programs underway in the region.

“We are excited that the Trees for Food Security project is one of the first projects to be funded by the Australian International Food Security Centre, and has also attracted an additional co-funding of $2 million,” said the AIFSC Director Ms Mellissa Wood.

“The project is initially aiming to reach some 20,000 farm households, and following successful piloting we hope to extend the results to at least 200,000 farm households with support from governments and non-government organisations,” she said.

Project page:
World Agroforestry Centre films on the benefits of growing trees on farms in Africa:…

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