Young girl living on a coffee plantation in Cote d'Ivoire (UN-REDD)
In 2014, President Alassane Ouattara signed the United Nations’ New York Declaration on Forests and committed to restore the national forest extent to 20% of the territory by 2030. Following this, chocolate manufacturers launched agroforestry pilots inside Ivorian cocoa plantations as part of their sustainability efforts as agroforestry (associated trees inside plantations) is considered the investment opportunity with the most potential to fight against deforestation. The implementation of these pilots offers solutions to other issues addressed in United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 goals and a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future by 2030.
Here is a list of the solutions that agroforestry could bring:
SDG #1 - No Poverty. Most smallholder farmers have no assets and are below the poverty line. The inclusion of trees and food crops inside plantations brings additional revenue that can lift farmers out of poverty when the value chains are established.
SDG #2 - Zero Hunger. Smallholder farmers suffer from poor food diversity in a country where a lot of land is dedicated to export crops. By growing food crop and fruit trees, farmers benefit from better nutrition while providing food security for the country.
SDG #3 - Good Health and Well-being. Sound nutrition is the principal cause of good health, but access to medicine is also important. In countries with unreliable access to drugs, certain tree species have medicinal properties that can cure basic, local illnesses. Incorporating them in plantations is important for populations.
SDG #4 - Quality Education. Children working in plantations because of poverty is a major issue. With additional revenues brought in by agroforestry and diversification, farmers would be more inclined to send their children to school.
SDG #5 - Gender Equality. Plantations are predominantly owned by men. We have seen that food crops bring additional revenue to farmers, particularly to the women who are in charge of this activity. It provides them with autonomy, independent revenue streams and social status.
SDG #7 - Affordable, Clean Energy. The increasing need for fuelwood is a deforestation driver. Growing fast rotation trees, like acacias, inside plantations supplies fuelwood and discourages cutting forests. It is important to note that the carbonization process should be as efficient as possible to save woody biomass.
SDG #8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth. Slavery and poor working conditions exist in remote plantations. The implementation of good practices and technological upgrades through agroforestry improve working conditions for farmers.
SDG #10 - Reduced Inequalities. The absence of land certificates prevents smallholder farmers from accessing funding solutions necessary to invest to escape poverty. A financing scheme would empower smallholder farmers by leveling the field.
SDG #12 - Responsible Consumption and Production. The use of chemical inputs to grow a monoculture in full sun is not sustainable. To insert trees in cocoa plantations could be beneficial by lowering the need for chemical inputs and creating much-needed biodiversity.
SDG #13 - Climate Action. Deforestation has led to many climate change impacts including a steep decline in rainfall. This threatens the culture of cocoa that is economically crucial for the country. Reforesting the country using agroforestry principles will create shade areas that will play a positive role in favoring water evaporating from the soil and transpiring from the plants.
SDG #15 - Life on Land. The word ivory in the country’s name refers to what was once an abundant population of elephants, now on the verge of extinction. Implementing agroforestry will slow, halt or reverse deforestation and create a more biodiverse environment.
SDG #17 - Partnerships for the goals. With large corporations and investors from advanced economies cooperating with farmers from developing countries in order to reforest for a global gain, the implementation of agroforestry on a large scale is a perfect example of partnership.
Though the primary objective of agroforestry is to restore forest cover, it is not a silver bullet to tackle deforestation, nor is it a silver bullet to meeting all the SDGs. Nonetheless, it is a significant tool in bringing sustainability to a country suffering from mono-culture, deforestation, species extinction and climate impacts.
Ecosystems Programme, Project Coordinator, UNEP Finance Initiative