Systems science

Maximizing on-farm productivity of trees and agroforestry systems

Smallholder farmers in the tropics have enjoyed few livelihood improvements because agricultural productivity has stagnated, prices for basic necessities and inputs have risen and farmers are poorly integrated into local and regional markets. Climate change, rainfall variability, and degraded land and ecosystem services have kept agricultural productivity low.

Our research focuses on understanding how agroforestry systems can function better, be more profitable and be sustainable in the long term. It includes investigations into nutrient cycling among trees, animals and crops; using local ecological knowledge to develop improved agroforestry management; expanding tree species diversity; developing coping mechanisms for climate variability; enhancing water use efficiency by trees and agroforestry systems; and considering tree-soil interactions to match species to sites and systems.

Our policy-related work includes analyzing the effects of tenure security to inform debates on access, use and rights to land, water and tree resources.

Our objectives are to develop approaches for:

  • Enhanced nutrient cycling amongst trees, animals and crops.
  • Managing tree-soil interactions by matching species to sites and systems.
  • Acquisition, assessment and integration of local knowledge with science to develop improved agroforestry management principles, communication and negotiation.
  • Promotion of on-farm tree species diversity.
  • Coping mechanisms for climate-induced rainfall variability.
  • Adoption, promotion and impact of agroforestry and natural resource management technologies.