Trees on farms contributing to post-2020 biodiversity framework

Planted timber, fruit, nut and commodity-crop trees and understorey crops on a smallholding in southern Thailand. Photo: World Agroforestry/Robert Finlayson


As countries wrapped up discussion at CBD COP 14 in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, the Trees on Farms for Biodiversity team reflected on what was needed to accelerate action towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and to contribute to the discussions on the post-2020 biodiversity framework.


By Adriana Vidal and Anja Gassner


Increasing sustainable agriculture productivity is a predominant measure to achieve the 2050 Vision on Biodiversity across all the scenarios discussed at the Fourteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP14).

The three scenarios that offer solutions were 1) agricultural productivity is prioritized (global technology pathway); 2) focus on adaptive-management approaches in response to regional priorities underlines the importance of biodiversity-friendly farming (decentralized solution); or 3) production patterns change to support a reduced consumption pathway (lifestyle scenario).

At the CBD COP14, delegates acknowledged that agriculture is one of the largest drivers of degradation and forest loss, especially in tropical forested countries. Growing populations and increasing demand in middle- and upper-income countries for meat, cocoa, vegetable oil and other agricultural commodities is pushing nature to its limits.

The large amount of degraded land is also a threat to the survival of biodiversity yet it, too, also has potential to restore biodiversity, specifically, including through activities that help the survival of wildlife that are critical for agricultural ecosystems and promote the conservation and sustainable use of soil biodiversity; the latter part of the urgent actions to be undertaken by 2020 in order to accelerate action on Aichi Biodiversity Target 7. With 35% of the world’s area under agricultural management, and with one-third of the world’s crops dependent on pollination, trees on farms can substantially help with ‘bending the curve’ of biodiversity-loss in agricultural landscapes.

Trees on farms play a critical role in providing some of the services forests provide because they maintain, and restore, high levels of landscape biodiversity through in-situ conservation, connecting fragmented wild habitat, and conserving soil biodiversity and agrobiodiversity. Trees on farms have attractive co-benefits for climate-change mitigation and adaptation through carbon sequestration, income diversification and adaptive strategies in communities facing increased climate variability and climate-related crop failures. A key message from Sharm El Sheik was that trees on farms are key to support food and nutrition, production systems, and genetic resources.

Trees on farms were consistently brought up during discussions at CBD COP 14, specifically, with relation to the fact that the volume of pollinator-dependent food produced has increased by 300% over the past 50 years, including most fruits, from apple to avocado, as well as coffee, cocoa and nuts, such as cashews. This shows an increasing dependence of our food-production systems on pollinators, like birds.

In this context, the aim of the Harnessing the Potential of Trees on Farms for Meeting National and Global Biodiversity Targets (Trees on Farms for Biodiversity) project, is to work with communities, governments and NGOs in Honduras, Indonesia, Peru, Rwanda and Uganda to make agriculture an opportunity for biodiversity conservation.

Food from the planted forest in Thailand. Photo: World Agroforestry/Robert Finlayson

In a participatory process with experts partnering with farmers, Trees on Farms for Biodiversity will generate information and tools to be used on the ground to increase tree planting in agricultural lands with a long-term vision, responding to different ecological zones, representative agro-ecosystems, and considering spatial tree features found in farms. Also, the project will assess how to construct, or improve existing, incentives mechanisms for farmers to take on board efforts to increase trees on farms; this could include creating payment for ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation, including conservation of genetic resources and threatened species.

Although the value of trees on farms is recognized, it is not necessarily demonstrated, hence, Trees on Farms for Biodiversity will use tools and methods to make these benefits visible, which in turn will influence decision makers to implement the approach on the ground. Trees on Farms for Biodiversity will aim to facilitate the generation of incentives and private-sector investment in the pilot countries of the project, and these experiences can be replicable in other jurisdictions.

The impact of these efforts for biodiversity will be measured thanks to the monitoring tool being developed under the project. This tool will go beyond the indicator on trends in area of agricultural systems under sustainable management (suggested indicator for Aichi Target 7, Sustainable Development Goal 2.4.), by actually identifying the correlation between an increased amount of trees on farms and benefits for agricultural biodiversity, with the help of different indicators, including number of trees in the landscape, land degradation, wild bird index, pollinators, presence of pests, and soil biodiversity.

As the discussions on the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework evolve, the Trees on Farms for Biodiversity team will use the project outcomes, including the monitoring tool, to provide input to generate science-based targets that can be used by countries to reflect their progress in stabilizing trends in species, biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and genetic diversity.

At the same time, Trees on Farms for Biodiversity outcomes aim to support an accelerated progress of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets through 2020. During the CBD COP 14, it was reminded that only 30% of the national biodiversity strategic action plans include concrete actions for agrobiodiversity conservation and sustainable use in connection with Aichi targets 7 and 13, missing opportunities to mainstream agrobiodiversity in countries’ development agenda including poverty reduction, adaptation to climate change and food security. According to the Global Biodiversity Outlook 4, some progress has been done in terms of farmland biodiversity, area covered by agricultural certification schemes, and sustainable management of agriculture in place.



This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.




World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of scientific excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Knowledge produced by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable at multiple scales. 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.


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