France has released its new comprehensive plan for the development of sustainable management of all agroforestry systems. Agroforestry systems bring together forestry and agricultural production in the same location, harkening back to traditional farming techniques that combined mixed crops and livestock.
Due to its many benefits, France’s Agroforestry plan aims to bring this age-old tradition back into mainstream practice. Trees and hedges play many important roles, both economic and environmental – providing wood, shelter for animals, preventing erosion, regulating water supplies, storing carbon, helping to resist climate change and limiting water run-off.
Developing a network of hedges and trees alongside agriculture systems is an important goal for the French Ministry of Agriculture, and it is aimed at performance in three key areas: the economic, environmental and social domains.
The plan is organized around 5 broad axes and 23 concrete actions with the goal of developing and maintaining sustainable agroforestry in France. Here’s a summary of some of the key points:
The first axis is focused on monitoring existing practices and increasing research. Before now, little effort has been made to characterize and monitor the diverse agroforestry systems already in place. Improving the information available on this will help to provide more information on best practices to a wide range of actors in the field. This requires better information and monitoring of agroforestry practices and increasing research programs and information sharing among different players in the field.
Regulations and financing
While there are still significant reforms that are needed, large changes have been introduced into recent EU-wide Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms in order to encourage the presence of trees and hedges and to better take their value into account. Important steps include building proposals for better aid schemes, reinforcing the deployment of tools to farmers and regulators, and encouraging agroforestry projects as part of environmental compensation measures.
Training and promotion
Educating future farmers and other actors in the agricultural sector is key to the promotion of agroforestry practices across France and the E.U. This includes reinforcing the attention given to the importance of trees and hedges in training courses, and strengthening the role and organization of a network of agroforestry advisors nationwide. Additionally, the plan calls for an increase in promotion of the important and beneficial role played by trees and hedges in agricultural practices.
For several decades, hedges and trees in crop fields have sometimes been seen by farmers as constraints on potential economic output, or at best as long-term investments. However, many local experiments show that agroforestry can bring in considerable additional income, either directly or indirectly. This component of the plan is aimed at increasing the value of the agroforestry practices and in promoting their economic benefits to farmers. Examples of actions include supporting the development of supply chains that add value to agroforestry products or co-products, and implementing plans for sustainably managed agroforestry systems and recognition of sustainable managed agroforestry wood.
The final component of the plan focuses on promoting the use of agroforestry tactics on a global scale. This is because France is convinced that agroecology is the solution for the future to allow farming in France and around the world to continue to meet the challenge of food security using methods that offer high economic and environmental performance. Agroforestry plays a key role in France’s overarching agroecological agenda. Some example of key actions promoted by this component include first promoting the use of agroforestry at the E.U. level, then the international level, followed by development of international and E.U.-level research and teaching exchanges focused on agroforestry.