Evergreen: restoring diversity and livelihoods

By Bertrand Reysset
Evergreen Agriculture
Side event Rio Convention Pavilion, 12:30-14:00, 2 Dec. 2015
 COP21, Paris

The green revolution- to optimize food production and the use of inputs, has widely promoted ultra simplified systems: annual mono cropping. But these simplistic systems have proven to have many drawbacks: demand for external inputs, simplifying landscapes and biodiversity, sensitivity to minor shocks, and they only produce a single commodity.
But Evergreen Agriculture proposes to change this super simplified approach by recalling what agriculture is: not only a food producing activity but also a partnership with our environment. If we ensure that vegetable cover is there all year round, we can improve the resilience, to climate change, of farmlands and farmers incomes, we’ll improve biodiversity and ecosystem services such as carbon storage and water retention. Evergreen agriculture promotes landscape restoration, multi layer crops and diversification of cropping systems even at the micro level: mix legume trees and cereals to create a micro-climate and free nitrogen supply, mix cotton, shrubby legume trees and maize to get income, food and fodder etc. all at the same time.
It simply proposes to get back to basics and build a solution that will increase tolerance to shocks. As ICRAF’s Ravi Prabhu says “We must phase out the clean field paradigm and restore landscapes, hedgerows and diversity in farmers plots. Evergreen agriculture not only produces food but also energy, fodder, services and increases farmers, and in particular smallholder farmers, independence from external shocks.”
Farmer-managed natural regeneration of Faidherbia albida, a nitrogen fixing tree, in millet plots has been presented as an archetype of what Evergreen Agriculture can provide to farmers and food security. In Niger, satellite imagery proves that this approach has contributed to the recent greening of Sahelian areas, increasing cereal yields, producing firewood and fodder, and then improving and sustaining food security. This agro forestry system is widely recognized and expanded, for instance, by IFAD investments in Niger for more than 20 years. The latest IFAD supported project in Niger will expand this approach on 100,000 hectares. Evergreen agriculture is one solution to the climate change puzzle; let’s help smallholders seize the opportunity and mobilize the resources needed in order to upscale.