The third Swedish National Agroforestry Conference – Inspiration from the world, practise in Sweden
What’s unique about going to the south of Sweden in the early winter to an agroforestry conference with 200 participants? Is it the poster session or the conference dinner with an agroforestry theme? The live music during the registration? The extensive information that experienced lecturers bombards you with during seminars?
It’s none of the above. What makes this conference unique is the heterogenity of its participants. During two days arborists, hobby gardeners, professional farmers, scientists, agronomy students, international experts in development and politicians met and shared knowledge.
These platforms are rare for agroforestry but increasing in numbers. Agroforestry is gaining momentum in the world, which several of the speakers illustrated during the first conference day. Ingrid Öbron from ICRAF told us that the world’s first national agroforestry policy was launched in India in 2014, and now Nepal is following. Henrik Brundin from Vi Agroforestry explained how they work in East Africa and how Vi Agroforestry has incorporated research into their project. André Gonçalves from the organisation Centro Ecológico in Brazil described how his organisation has created new local value chains for agroforestry products, allowing sustainable farmers to increase their incomes. But what about Sweden, can we learn from these initiatives?
Kjell Sjelin from Vattholma, 100 kilometres north of Stockholm, is a farmer who has taken on the challenge of transforming his farm to a more sustainable system. To do this he uses agroforestry. In one of his fields he grows fruit trees and sea buckthorn in between the rows of annual crops. In the forested areas of the farm, pigs are roaming around helping new trees to establish in clear-cuts. While implementing these new systems he has invited scientists to learn from agroforestry practises in a temperate climate. In the discussions that followed Kjells presentation it became clear that Kjell is a visionary and that more initiatives like this are necessary. We have a lot to learn from agroforestry projects outside Europe. About farming practises and agroforestry policy development. To do this it’s necessary to create more platforms like Kjell’s farm where practitioners and researchers can meet and develop suitable systems for temperate climates and mechanised agriculture.
But more platforms are not enough. Agroforestry is a complex system and one of the conclusions from the many interactive conference sessions was that this complexity should be adressed in multidisciplinary research teams. By doing so the ecosystem services that agroforestry farmers provide can be acknowledged and policies developed to give farmers incentives to use agroforestry. At Agroforestry Network we already look forward to the fourth National Agroforestry Conference. Until then we will use our platform to gather scientists, practitioners and companies to increase the momentum of agroforestry.