Forest Gardens: a new way to farm and protect the environment
This year the United Nations launched the Decade of Restoration Program to focus on protecting and rebuilding ecosystems around the globe. Here is how U.S. teams are taking their skills to Africa to help with the effort.
Working with the United Nations, Tress For The Future is teaching smallholder farmers in Africa a new approach to farming, called forest gardens.
According to John Leary, the Executive Director for Trees For The Future, “It’s a training methodology that guides farmer groups through a process where they used the best ideas in tree planting and agroforestry to first protect their fields with thorny things that keep the livestock out and tall trees that forms windbreaks and diversify the food they are able to grow.”
Leary says that the multi-year training program works to create diversified farms that are good for the environment and profits.
“It optimizes the space,” he explains. “If you have an acre ... the farmer learns how not to just plant one row of one crop, but there are things being produced at all levels: tall coconuts, fruit trees, bushes, crops, and also throughout the year, January through December. It’s not one cash crop but diversifying the source of income and nutrition through the year.”
Maria Daniel is one of the farmer educators. She says that it is not enough to just give farmers aid: “We believe that education is very important to our farmers because it’s about making them aware they can’t know anything-- if I bring them money or bring anything but without training them and making them aware, it’s meaningless.”
Trees For The Future is also working with the International Rescue Committee in the Central African Republic to support twelve women’s community groups.
“Historically due to decades of conflict, farmers in this area lack access to resources and focus on topics like natural resource management, soil fertility, and regenerative agriculture. However, with the support from Trees For The Future, we’ve recently planted mangoes, corn, and cowpeas, and nutritional and economical crops like okra and cabbage,” Molly Schneider with International Rescue Committee adds.
According to Trees For Life, each forest garden includes 2-4,000 trees that can reduce carbon emissions and improve income for local farmers.