Empower farmers to fight climate change and hunger through agroforestry


The world should shift now from words to actions – with the main aim of eradicating hunger everywhere. Vi Agroforestry strongly believe that the solutions lie in the empowerment of smallholder farmers to produce and distribute food, making it accessible and affordable in local markets. Then what solutions can we use to make this happen:

Despite progress in the past two decades, almost one-fourth of children under age 5 are stunted, and many more are at risk of malnutrition and hidden hunger because of the poor quality of their diets. More than nine out of ten of all children with stunting live in Africa and Asia. At the centre of this challenge is a broken food system that fails to provide children with the diets they need to grow healthy.

Climate change, increasing population pressure, loss of biodiversity, increase in energy prices, and land use changes, especially conversion of arable land for commercial and infrastructure development are some of the factors that limit poor and vulnerable communities from achieving their right to food in the developing world. As we celebrate World Food Day, it is important to re-affirm that every person living today has the right to food. In 1966, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights established that adequate food is a human right. This effectively made access to, and affordability of adequate food a universal human right and protected in the rights instruments. The Covenant clarifies that the responsibility for ensuring the right to food lies with the national authorities of each country. And international cooperation plays a key role in guaranteeing a fair distribution of food. Over the years, concerted efforts have been made towards realizing food and nutrition security for all. For example, during the World Food Summit of 1996, the definition of food security was agreed as; “Food security exist when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preference for an active and a healthy life”. The right to food is the focus of Goal 2 of the UN’s 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Achieving Zero Hunger is still elusive! World hunger has increased since 2014. With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is now potentially facing the worst hunger crisis in 50 years. Target 2.1 of SDG 2 states that by 2030, we should have eradicated hunger and be able to guarantee all people access to sufficient, nutritious food, all year round. We are now at the beginning of the last decade to the SDGs timeline. Despite this, the UN projects that hunger will not be eradicated by 2030 unless bold actions are taken to address inequity in access to food.  In September 2020, the UN announced that the world is “far from the target” and is rather trending towards a “deterioration”.  This prediction was followed up a few months back with a UN report (The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021)estimating that nearly a third of the global population (2.37 billion people) did not have access to adequate food in 2020. This alarming number means a sharp increase of almost 320 million people in just one year. The drivers of this rise can be found in the economic consequences of lockdowns and limited freedom of movement imposed to contain coronavirus pandemic, as well as rising prices of food products on the global market. These drivers have had serious impacts on most of the African countries, East Africa included. The UN World Food Programme has reported that by August 2021, there were 30.4 million people in East Africa who were facing severe food insecurity.

In East Africa several factors are causing food insecurity and the inability to attain the right to food. Key among them are vulnerability to climate shocks such as droughts, floods and extreme temperatures, desert locusts, ongoing conflicts, economic instability, and high levels of poverty. This means that we need to refocus and change our agricultural production to a more sustainable and diverse system in terms of quality, variety of species and types while considering the complex landscape in terms of environmental sustainability, gender inclusion, socioeconomic aspects and changing consumption patterns.

What solutions should the world focus on? The world should shift now from words to actions – with the main aim of eradicating hunger everywhere. Vi Agroforestry strongly believe that the solutions lie in the empowerment of smallholder farmers to produce and distribute food, making it accessible and affordable in local markets. To make this happen:

We believe that agroforestry offers a solution to food insecurity. Agroforestry can sustainably help solve most of the challenges to food production posed by effects of climate change. Agroforestry is the deliberate growing of trees and shrubs) alongside other crops and/or livestock in the same land. Agroforestry enhances crop resilience, slows evaporation, and offers livelihood insurance when main crops underperform. For instance, fruit trees offer alternative or complement nutrition, fodder shrubs provide food for animals and   wood fuel – which in turn frees up time for women collecting firewood. It also offers a cost-effective strategy to mitigate and adapt to climate change as it supports carbon storage as well as other ecosystem services.

We urge governments to harness agroforestry’s potential by improving the coordination of national activities. If policies and programmes to do with agroforestry where better harmonized across the departments in charge of rural development, land use, agriculture, forestry, environment, finance and commerce at both national and local level, farmers in East Africa would have better chances to shift to agroforestry. A national agroforestry strategy and or policy could put such harmonization in place.

We furthermore urge governments and global donors to increase development funding to sustainable food production. Steer a larger share of the total funding for international development cooperation towards sustainable agriculture, including agroforestry. Such funding needs to be aligned with countries’ own initiatives, such as the Maputo and Malabo Declarations whereby African Heads of States have pledged to invest at least 10 % of national budgets in agriculture, aiming at 6 % annual growth of productivity in agriculture. This will go a long way in helping low-income countries to attain their obligation to meet the right to food for all.