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A Recap from Workshop on Forest Conservation, Agroforestry and Livelihoods.

Focali researcher Torsten Krause recaps the main points of discussion from the FocaliLUCSUS (the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies) workshop on June 10 2014. FOCALI and LUCSUS held, in collaboration with SIANI, a one-day workshop on Forest conservation, agroforestry and livelihoods at Lund University. More than 20 researchers from different academic disciplines attended the workshop, some of which came from the Swedish Agricultural University in Umeå, the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Copenhagen. 

The workshop was an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to share information about current research and projects with each other and with a wider range of research and policy stakeholders interested in agroforestry. During the workshop we discussed the potentials and limitations of agroforestry as a means to support forest conservation, increase productivity and address livelihoods challenges. Over the course of the day, the participants listened to the following 7 presentations distributed over three sessions:

  • Welcome & Introduction to the workshop
  • Defining future landscapes: Analyzing the emerging ‘landscape approach’ within REDD+ negotiations (Tobias Nielsen, Lund University)
  • Facilitating effective knowledge systems: disease response capacities amongst smallholder coffee growers in Costa Rica (Barry Ness, Lund University)
  • Opportunities for restoring degraded and vulnerable land with agroforestry systems in Vietnam (Matilda Palm, Chalmers University of Technology)
  • The Socio-spatial Transformations in the Area of Korup National Park in Cameroon (Andrea Nardi & Yahia Mahmoud, Lund University)
  • Carbon stock and tree diversity of dry-zone homegardens in southern Sri Lanka (Eskil Mattson, Chalmers University of Technology)
  • What role for new agroforestry commodities to decrease tropical deforestation and support grower livelihoods in the western Amazon? A study of Ilex guayusa commercialization (Torsten Krause, Lund University)
  • Coffee and Sustainability: A Case Study of Direct Trade Coffee Systems (Molly MacGregor, Lund University)

After each presentation there was ample time for discussion and questions from the audience, which was made good use of. Some interesting and also provocative questions were raised during the discussions, such as the relevance and impact that research on agroforestry has in the making of policies and guidelines at the regional or country level. One of the main points that were discussed throughout the day related to the overall sustainability of different agroforestry systems. Even though the general claim is that agroforestry is more sustainable when compared to intensive or industrial agriculture, can we really say that they are sustainable and if so, in what sense can we achieve sustainability by supporting agroforestry systems?

Sustainability is measured very differently, and should be assessed with regards to different alternative scenarios of land management. Thus, the answer to the question is not straightforward and, as usual, quite contextual. By and large, integrated agroforestry systems can contribute to a more sustainable land management, but the question whether or not these systems are truly sustainable remains highly debated. Sustainability depends on how we define it, and what perspective we take on the social-ecological and economic aspects as well as what temporal and spatial scales we apply. Nevertheless, research on agroforestry can provide some answers to one of the pressing problems human societies are facing, for instance where and how will we grow food in the future while addressing issues such as deforestation and forest degradation, rights to land and food and nutrition and human health.

The attendance of the workshop and the active participation of an interdisciplinary group of scientists during the sessions underlines that the topic of agroforestry and livelihoods continues to be a very relevant research area that is still not well understood. An outcome of the workshop is certainly the confidence and motivation for us to continue with our research and strengthen its relevance for policy makers around the world. Furthermore, this workshop provided the basis for a larger 2-day follow up workshop on the theme “Can agroforestry address food security concerns under a changing climate?” to be held at the University of Gothenburg on November 11 & 12th.

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