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Evergreen in Africa

Evergreen in Africa

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Farmers are interplanting legume trees and maize with impressive results, reports SIMON WEBSTER.

African farmers are improving crop yields by incorporating legume trees in their maize fields, Science Daily reports.


Farmers in Malawi have increased yields by up to 280 per cent when growing maize under a canopy of Faidherbia albida, an African acacia that sheds its leaves at the beginning of the rainy season, allowing light through to the maize and releasing nitrogen into the soil.


In the dry season, when the maize crop has been harvested, the tree grows leaves again and shades the soil. It also provides edible seeds and firewood.


The technique has become known as “evergreen agriculture”, and it is gaining in popularity.


“We are already working with 18 countries across the African continent to develop national plans for the accelerated implementation of evergreen agriculture,” says Dr Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre.


“Evergreen agriculture allows us to glimpse a future of more environmentally sound farming where much of our annual food crop production occurs under a full canopy of trees.”


Agroforestry? Multifunctional legume trees? Anyone familiar with the works of Bill Mollison, David Holmgren and co might be forgiven for thinking permaculture is starting to catch on.


Picture: World Agroforesty Centre