Agroforestry – the planting of trees with crops on farms – has great potential for enabling food security in dryland countries. It is an important component of climate-smart agriculture - affording smallholder farmers the opportunity to make best use of their land by: restoring soil fertility, protecting land against erosion, reducing rainwater run-off, boosting crop yields, improving nutrition, diversifying income, reducing poverty, and building resilience to climate change.Josephine Musyoka, a member of the Kumina Wauni self-help group in Kenya

"Since we came together (with ASDF) I have knowledge on farming and digging tree-holes. I know how to germinate tree seeds such as Melia volkensii, and others."

Josephine Musyoka, a member of the Kumina Wauni self-help group in Kenya.

Agroforestry also conserves biodiversity. Two or more complementary plant species grown together creates a more complex habitat that can support a wider variety of insects, birds and other animals.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has published a report highlighting the importance of agroforestry to the livelihoods and food security of millions of people.

Gerard Buttoud, a key consultant to the FAO on the report, said: “The trees are used as a means to sustain the land and thus to sustain the production in the long run. Also, agroforestry is a very good system to both mitigate and adapt to climate change because as a complex system it minimizes the risk.”

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) found, from a survey of over 700 households in East Africa, that at least 50% of those households had begun planting trees on their farms in a change from their practices 10 years ago.

Supporting self-help groups to adopt agroforestry in Kenya is a key part of Excellent Development and Africa Sand Dam Foundation's (ASDF) work. A survey conducted by ASDF in 2012 found that, from 216 farmers we have supported, 89% are practicing agroforestry.

Josephine Musyoka, a member of the Kumina Wauni self-help group in Kenya, said: "In the (tree) nursery we have different varieties: Acacia, Mango, Melia volkensii, Moringa, Neem and other varieties.

"The indigenous tree varieties we are growing, especially the Acacia and Neem trees are for attracting rain because this is a dry land. People have been cutting down trees for charcoal burning. So we have to plant trees to attract rain. The fruit trees we are planting are for eating fruits, for nutrition and selling the surplus to earn income to enable us to uplift our living standards and pay school fees for the children.”

Trees are esential for life. In rural drylands, they are enabling people to overcome hunger and poverty, while protecting the natural resources upon which we all depend.

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