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Learning how trees on farm can help fulfil national climate change commitments

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Agroforestry can be a concrete solution to climate change, particularly through integrating trees into farming

© World Agroforestry

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A condition of a request by the World Agroforestry for funding to bring delegates to the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry was that the delegates should attend training on the Nationally Determined Contributions to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. What they learnt was not only eye-opening but also life-changing.

A report by World Agroforestry researcher Lalisa Duguma showed that over 85% of 22 countries studied listed agroforestry as an ‘unconditional’ way to meet their commitments to countering climate catastrophe. World Agroforestry also prides itself on going to great lengths to bring delegates from the Global South to meetings, but we needed resources to support them. So, we were pleased to get support from CTA for 12 delegates from ACP countries to attend pre-conference training seminar on ‘Agroforestry for achieving NDC targets’.

The training was eye-opening and changed the life of those who came. The workshop highlighted the critical role of trees in containing the climate crisis, particularly through integrating trees and other woody perennials into farming.

All the delegates came from ACP states including Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Jamaica, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, Togo, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe. What was striking was how little they knew about NDCs. Yet NDCs are critical. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) calls them ‘the heart’ of the Climate Agreement and says they embody the “efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

Inspired to make a difference

After the participants had returned home, ten of the 12 sent copious feedback on what they had learnt, what they intended to do now after learning about NDCs. “I feel greatly moved. My interest in climate change is significantly risen,” said Modou Badjie, who coordinates a GCF Ecosystem-based Adaptation project in The Gambia’s Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources.

“I feel inspired to make a contribution and wrote a report to my boss on what the Kenya Forestry Research Institute can do towards the NDCs,” stated soil scientist Riziki Mwadalu.

“I am very excited. I understand how agroforestry can definitively mitigate climate change, and I’m more engaged to disseminate it everywhere in my country,” emphasised Adden Ayi Kofi from Togo’s Unité Technique Café Cacao.

Only two of the ten participants who gave feedback had seen their country’s NDCs before the training, Fatimata Niang Diop in her work as a lecturer and researcher at Senegal’s Institute of Science and Gambia’s Modou Badjie in the course of his masters. The other seven only read their NDC for the first time as they travelled to the training and many of them admitted that they did not know much or had not given NDCs much thought even though, for some delegates, their country’s NDC office was housed in the very building in which they worked or in a building that they often visited.

I was personally surprised to discover this, particularly as all participants worked in natural resources or agriculture. Clearly, the UNFCCC needs to communicate the urgency of NDCs, and national offices dealing with NDCs need to be more proactive. All individuals working in relevant fields need to take the initiative to propel their country’s NDCs. Happily, the training looks set to close this disconnect.

“Our NDC office is located in our Ministry of Environment office. I have no contact with them at this moment, but I project to meet them soon,” wrote Togo’s Adden Ayi Kofi, and three of the five delegates who knew the location of their NDC office have now made ‘some ‘initial’ contact. In another positive sign, one participant is pondering how to write carbon capture into the new strategic plan for her country’s National Botanical Garden.

Agroforestry for addressing the NDCs

Asked what phrase from the training will stick in their mind, “Tree growing and not planting” won hands down. Coined by World Agroforestry’s Duguma and expanded here, the Ethiopian scientist meant that getting a tree to maturity requires more than putting a seedling in the ground.

There were other eureka moments. Among responses from participants were that “Agroforestry is the surest, most effective and cheapest way to meet the NDCs” and “NDCs can be a major concrete solution to climate change.” Adden Ayi Kofi, who was elected as a trustee of the newly-founded International Union of Agroforestry during the Congress, marvelled “I was struck by the way agroforestry can change the world by reducing temperature.”

Of course, World Agroforestry believes in agroforestry, but these statements are looking increasingly true. A growing scientific consensus holds that trees can lower atmospheric carbon down to pre-climate crisis levels, and that most of the available area on which to plant them is on farms. “We know that putting trees on farms has a great potential, so why not go ahead and do it?” said Zimbwean Misheck Musokwa impatiently.

The training ended on that high note. No one had found the NDCs a yawn, and the delegates had acquired a new mission.

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