Agroforestry is a dynamic system that uses principles of agricultural science, forestry, husbandry, ecological conservation, economics, and policy to sustainably manage crops through the combination of annuals, perennials, trees, and livestock. By integrating trees, perennials or livestock into a conventional annual cropping agricultural system, agroforestry promotes the efficient use of sunlight, moisture, plant nutrients, and other ecological services for increased ecological, economic and social benefits. The integration of perennial crops, livestock and tree species has implications for sustainable agricultural practices, improved product diversification, improved human nutrition, reduced system risk and instability, labor equity and increased use of renewable resources. The ecological benefits of successful agroforestry systems include improved soil health, reduced microclimate extremes and increased rates of biodiversity. This land management system aims to reduce risk and increase total productivity while also providing specialized socioeconomic services to individual farmers and their communities.
This report defines agroforestry, analyzes its components and actors, and examines its projected environmental, economic and social impacts throughout the world. It briefly discusses the history and evolution of agroforestry from a small-scale agricultural experiment to its potential as a broadly applied high-yield land management system. Information about activities in the United States as well as examples from Ecuador, China, and France demonstrate how agroforestry programs are implemented and evaluated around the globe and highlight governmental, organizational and private partners involved as well as their respective agroforestry-related economic, social and environmental impacts.
Special thanks to co-author, researcher and Dovetail's Responsible Materials and Policy intern Annie Shapiro (2014) for her assistance in developing this report!