Invest in climate-resilient futures says ICRAF DG Tony Simons

This blog post was written by Jan de Leeuw

Tony Simons, ICRAF Directo General

As has already been noted in this blog, trees and agroforestry significantly support dryland livelihoods. There is only scattered knowledge and limited insight into the role that forests and trees could play in achieving more resilient drylands development.

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) have convened a week-long ‘writeshop’ entitled “Trees and resilience in the drylands of Eastern Africa,” where some 40 experts on the subcontinent will work to bring together and publish some of this knowledge.

Opening the meeting, Dr. Tony Simons, the Director General of ICRAF, argued that a writeshop is not a purpose per se, but rather one possible way to achieve an objective such as raising awareness or changing policy or practice that affects the livelihoods of the rural poor. “There is certainly a need for this given current challenges to reduce poverty, provide food security and conserve the environment within the context of a changing climate.”

He then intrigued the audience by stepping back hundreds of millions of years, contending that trees in drylands may hold the potential to provide resilience to climate change. “Trees evolved 350 million years ago under 10 degrees’ higher temperatures and ten times higher carbon dioxide concentrations than today,” he said. “And while we acknowledge that there is need for resilience, are we also willing to invest in it?”

He challenged the audience with a question on how to convince our governments to invest in trees for resilience to climate change. (An objective of the writeshop is indeed to produce policy brief aimed at changing opinions and promoting government-level action.) One centimeter of soil takes thousands of years to develop but can be washed away in one rainstorm. Are countries willing, for example, to apply for loans to build resilience in rural livelihoods?

“The challenge is to convince our leaders to invest significantly in trees to achieve climate-resilient futures,” concluded Simons.'

Paul Stapleton

Paul Stapleton is the Head of Communications at the World Agroforestry Centre.

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