The International Forest Garden Symposium

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No. 4 in an occasional series of articles covering agroforestry-related topics in greater depth

The First International Forest Garden Symposium (see Blog, June 1st, 2021), which ended on June 4th, was a huge success and raised many important issues, and it brought into sharp focus the significance of agroforestry/forest garden systems in the current difficult environmental situation.

The Symposium also marks the coming of age of the temperate forest garden as a discipline (and of online conferences, come to that, a fine job!). Agroforestry and forest gardens in general have been shown to be a realistic alternative for sustainable food production, ecosystem management and biodiversity (in the tropics this has been known for many thousands of years), and those who still consider it be ‘hobby farming’ would do well to think again! The coverage and scope of the event was huge, with speakers and attendees from all around the globe, and the organisers (Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust in Devon, UK, and his team) are already talking about the next one, probably in early 2023.

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The bigger picture

No. 3 in an occasional series of articles covering agroforestry-related topics in greater depth

With all the uncertainties and misconceptions in today’s post-truth, post-growth (see below), post-carbon era, it’s easy to see everything just from the point of view of one’s own locality, country or continent, and not to take into account what’s happening in the wider world. For example, is the view of the farmer in the drought-stricken plains of central Tamil Nadu in India on, say, poverty the same as the French farmer harvesting his irrigated maize? No, in all probability! The bigger picture is relevant to our own situation, in that we can broaden our own experience and understanding, and face the challenges now confronting us, by looking at other approaches from other regions and cultures, and Covid 19 is a stark reminder that the whole world is in the same boat.

Recent world history, let’s say the last 75 years, with the effects of fossil fuel use, corporatisation, globalisation, greenhouse gas emissions, agro-industry, pandemics and climate change, has shown us that the current model isn’t working, and that we need to change course. Indeed, the latest health crisis is forcing us to adapt in ways that we never even dreamed of six months ago – internet home schooling, for example, and all that that will lead to.

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Sustainability: what does it mean exactly?

No. 2 in an occasional series of articles covering agroforestry-related topics in greater depth

‘Sustainability’ has become a buzz-word in everyday conversation. But I wonder how many of us have thought about what it actually means? If we buy food labelled as organic in a supermarket, for example, does that mean we are supporting a more sustainable form of agriculture? Unfortunately, the answer is probably “no”.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘sustainable’, in the context of development or agriculture, as “not leading to depletion of resources or degradation of the environment”, and I guess that the concept of sustainability has been around since time immemorial, in the sense that humankind has always needed to manage its resources and environment to make sure of the next meal. The word itself seems to have originated in 18th century European forestry to mean never taking more from the forest that it can itself regenerate.

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Agroforestry and the Forest Garden

No. 1 in an occasional series of articles covering agroforestry-related topics in greater depth

You may have seen in the subtitle to my site the words ‘Small-Scale Agroforestry’. The Forest Garden comes under the broader umbrella of Agroforestry, so it’s perhaps a good idea to begin this occasional series of slightly more technical articles with an explanation of what this is.

In essence, agroforestry is growing crops or husbanding livestock, or both, in among trees, and although today scientists classify it in several forms such as silvo-arable, silvo-pastoral, agro-silvo-pastoral and so on, the principle predates and includes everything we know today (including the nomenclature) by several thousand years, especially in the form of the forest garden, in tropical and temperate areas throughout the world.

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