We’ve been talking about Regenerative Agriculture for awhile now here at Tata Harper. But what exactly does that mean, and what practices have we been implemented to really bring these words to live through our daily actions? That’s where our partnership with Trees for the Future comes in.
Trees for the Future is a nonprofit that is teaching farmers to use regenerative agroforestry and sustainable practices to revitalize their degraded lands, effectively relieving hunger, poverty, and deforestation. TREES has planted over 187 million trees since 1989! Its development is taking place in over six different countries in Africa including Senegal, Tanzania, Cameroon, Kenya, Guinea, and Uganda. We had quite a few questions for Trees for the Future, read on to learn more.
What does Trees for the Future do around the world?
Trees for the Future (TREES) is regenerative agroforestry nonprofit that is training farmers to rethink the way they farm their land for the good of both people and the planet. We work closely with farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa, training farmers in what we call the Forest Garden Approach. A Forest Garden is a sustainable farming methodology that uses trees and regenerative farming practices to restore and protect the land. Over the course of our four-year program, farmers are able to improve their nutrition and income while having a positive impact on the environment.
What is the impact?
TREES was founded in 1989 and has now planted more than 190,000 trees around the world. Today, we are focused on communities in sub-Saharan Africa and have projects running in Cameroon, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Since 2015, we’ve helped hundreds of farming communities transform the way food is grown, assisting farmers in establishing more than 18,000 Forest Gardens - that’s 18,000 farming families whose lives have been positively impacted by agroforestry and TREES.
What are the farming practices used?
Although Forest Gardens (also known as food forests) have been used for centuries and currently exist all over the world, the mainstream approach to agriculture in the last 60 years has been primarily industrialized monocrop agriculture. In monocrop agriculture, farmers clear their land of all trees and excess growth to plant and harvest just one type of crop. This practice has led to desertification and is one of the leading causes of climate change. Beyond the environmental repercussions, monocropping leaves the farmer vulnerable to unforeseen events like drought or disease, if they lose one crop, they’ve lost everything.
What is Regenerative Farming?
Regenerative agriculture and permaculture are key in the Forest Garden Approach. Regenerative agriculture is a long-term strategy that focuses on regenerating land and soil. Shortsighted agriculture techniques like monocropping can leach the nutrients from the soil and leave the land unfarmable. Regenerative agriculture makes sure to use the land sustainably so that soil remains nutrient-rich and that groundwater and wells are regularly recharged rather than run dry.
Permaculture is a farming practice that ensures the land is producing food and resources year-round. A farmer practicing permaculture is likely to plant several crops throughout the year. Permaculture also relies on trees and perennials that are producing crops year after year. Permaculture is a particularly important practice for farmers in the developing world because it helps farmers maintain a steady supply of food and income all year long.
The Forest Garden Approach reverses the damage done by decades of monocropping and crop diversification and permaculture helps insulate the farmer from drought, disease, pests, and other factors.
TREES Forest Garden farmers plant thousands of trees that hold the soil in place and return nutrients back to the ground as well. As the soil improves, farmers plant a diverse array of vegetables and crops and as their Forest Garden matures, farmers grow and harvest dozens of crops and resources to use or sell. We see farming families positively transform their lives in as little as a year because when we take care of the land, the land can take care of us.
How can readers implement this at home/in their own lives?
Forest Gardening and agroforestry can be implemented anywhere in the world, different climates just mean different species are being planted. Readers interested in learning more about Trees for the Future can visit trees.org to read more about our work and how we’re helping people and the planet through agroforestry. Readers interested in Forest Gardening and potentially starting their own should visit our Forest Garden Training Center at training.trees.org. Our training center is free and open to the public and offers plenty of resources on Forest Gardening.