Coming soon: ASEAN Guidelines for Agroforestry Development
The guidelines are expected to successfully overcome institutional hurdles and will eventually lead to the wider adoption of agroforestry in Southeast Asia.
Institutional hurdles perpetuate a string of knotty, interconnected issues not only in the policy sphere but also on the ground, according to Delia Catacutan, former country coordinator of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Viet Nam.
“Institutions are designed in a way that they have walls and borders,” said Catacutan, in reference to issues that the guidelines aimed to address.
For instance, no specific institution is legally mandated to be a regional home for agroforestry research and practice; only one of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a dedicated agroforestry institution. For the most part, agroforestry is a component of programs and projects of government forestry departments. As a result, extension workers, trainers and advocates lack capacity in agroforestry development, which further retards growth.
Compounding this, Catacutan noted that “the language of agroforestry is not common among agriculturists”.
Agroforestry is often understood simplistically as just planting trees on agricultural land. According to Catacutan, who has led major research-in-development agroforestry projects in the region and other parts of the world, agroforestry usually involves context-specific, ‘multi-purpose’ trees — those that yield multiple products leading to diversified incomes — in integrated farming systems with crops and/or livestock and fisheries, such that farmers achieve optimal benefit and environmental services are maintained.
While this might sound simple enough, in reality it usually requires complex negotiations among communities and government departments, training of farmers and extension workers, participatory design and testing of a range of different systems, bolstering of value chains and improved policies.
This is rarely the case in Southeast Asia, said Catacutan. Based on her experience, all the various parties work together only if they are required to do so; intersectoral collaboration is not ‘organic’. Catacutan cited the Philippines as perhaps the only country in the region that is practising intersectoral collaboration but even so has encountered several barriers in the widespread adoption of agroforestry. Such hurdles must be cleared if agroforestry is to flourish in Southeast Asia; hence, the development of the guidelines by member states of ASEAN, led by ICRAF in collaboration with national governments, international and domestic research and development organizations and the private sector.
The ASEAN Guidelines for Agroforestry Development present 14 principles categorized under broad headings such as institutional, economic, environmental, socio-cultural, technical design, and communication and scaling.
The institutional principles pertain to creating an environment for agroforestry research and practice, ensuring organizational capacity, supporting cooperation among agroforestry stakeholders, and fostering participatory decision-making processes. The economic principles recognize the value of agroforestry products and services and support agroforestry investments and markets. The environmental principles tackle the protection and use of ecosystem services. The socio-cultural principles call for recognizing local cultures, gender equity and tenure rights, among others. The technical design principles refer to appropriate agroforestry practices, emphasizing context and participation. Communication and scaling are about disseminating agroforestry knowledge sustainability.
The guidelines will serve as the basis for member states as they develop agroforestry. ICRAF research provides evidence that countries can enjoy numerous economic and environmental benefits with agroforestry. Aside from diverse benefits such as improving microclimatic conditions and diversifying incomes, agroforestry is integral to addressing food security, land restoration and climate change.
The status of the guidelines was discussed during the conference, Harnessing the Potential of Agroforestry for a Prosperous and Resilient ASEAN, held on 26 June 2018, in Da Nang, Viet Nam, and organized by ICRAF, ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry, ASEAN Secretariat, Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, and the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change.
Based on the schedule presented by Catacutan, endorsement by the ASEAN Senior Officials of Forestry will happen in mid-July 2018 followed by the ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry in September 2018 although other pathways for widest recognition are also being discussed.
ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.