“Living with the Trees of Life:” Innovative Solutions to Solve the Food Crisis

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By Katie Spoden

Dr. Roger Leakey, an expert in tropical agroforestry, recently published a new book titled, Living with the Trees of Life, Towards the Transformation of Tropical Agriculture. A mixture of personal narrative and scientific research, Living with the Trees of Life presents a roadmap of simple and inexpensive solutions to hunger and poverty. The world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050; with 1 billion people currently malnourished and another billion overweight or obese, the global system of food production would benefit from solutions like the ones proposed by Dr. Leakey.

Living with the Trees of Life: Towards the Transformation of Tropical Agriculture, a book written by Dr. Roger Leakey, explores the evolution of agroforestry and the possibility to use trees to nourish the planet. (Photo credit: Centre for Environmental Living & Training)

In his book, Dr. Leakey explores a particularly promising innovation—agroforestry. Agroforestry consists of a wide range of practices that integrate trees in farming systems.

Agroforestry is already practiced around the globe. In the mountains of Costa Rica, trees are used as living fences. Live trees replace their dead wood counterparts to serve as shade for livestock and increase biodiversity. In the mountainous area between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, a nonprofit environmental organization began the Tree Bank to encourage local farmers to participate in conservation practices to restore native forests, while cultivating shade-grown coffee exclusively grown by farmers involved with the program. And in Jamaica, Trees That Feed is reforesting areas with trees that produce edible fruit, primarily breadfruit. Breadfruit trees provide both a nutritious potato-like product and provide economic opportunity through the production and sale of breadfruit flour.

In Living with the Trees of Life, Dr. Leakey suggests that farmers in tropical areas of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Oceania domesticate indigenous trees as cash crops to foster both increased biodiversity and economic opportunities. With increased diversification, agroecosystems will provide habitats for wildlife, improve soil erosion, protect watersheds, and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, helping to mitigate climate change. The only obstacle in implementing these agricultural innovations, Leakey argues, is a lack of political will and appropriate policies.

Dr. Roger Leakey is currently Vice Chairman of the International Tree Foundation and Vice President of the International Society of Tropical Foresters. He has served as the Director of Research at the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (now the World Agroforestry Centre) and coordinating lead author of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development. According to Leakey, his extensive background in tropical, multifunctional agriculture and his personal experiences in tropical rural villages are the basis for his new book.

Read more about Living with the Trees of Life here. Also, be sure to read these posts about Dr. Leakey’s work: An Evergreen Revolution: Using Trees to Nourish the Planet, Trees as Crops in Africa, Where Would You Like to See More Agricultural Funding Directed?

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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