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INSAM homepage until March 2012

Last modified March 27, 2012 08:27

INSAM homepage until March 2012.

There is these days a lasting and ever strengthening emphasis in macroclimate, mesoclimate and microclimate related agrometeorology on the use and integration of trees. The International Council for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF, now World Agroforestry Center) defined agroforestry as a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that, through the integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production, enhancing social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels. I stated recently in my book “Applied Agrometeorology” and some derived publications, that we need to foster an agriculture that is inclusive, multifunctional, and built on principles of resilience that are crucial in the process of adapting to climate change. We need farming systems that will increase food security, decrease environmental impact, respond to climate change and provide management alternatives that will enhance natural resource use and provide stable and high returns to the farmer. There is trade-off between agricultural benefits and environmental costs. See

In “Applied Agrometeorology” I have separated “Applied Forest (Agro)Meteorology” (115 pp.) from “Applied Agrometeorology of Non-forest Trees” (117 pp.). We show that some of such agroforestry systems can even play a great role in disaster reduction. See Trees grow outside forests in a variety of ways and uses. They cover a wide range of shrub and tree formations with very many species. Applied fields include agronomy, with practices in agriculture, the environment and livestock production. Studies on “trees outside forests” have come out of numerous domains such as fruit tree cropping, farming systems and apiculture. They are a crucial and core element of agroforestry systems, silvopastoral systems, and urban, rural and community forestry. The best collection of agroforestry publications, in which the above two also appeared is the e-journal “The Overstory”:

There is a small journal, in which trees have always had a lot of attention, that started as the “Institute for Low External Input Agriculture (ILEIA)” Newsletter and grew into the “Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA)” Magazine with Dutch Government assistance. ILEIA stands these days for “Centre for learning on sustainable agriculture” and its journal recently once more changed name into “Farming Matters (FM)”: small-scale agriculture for a sustainable society. You can find back issues from the beginning onwards on You may see there also that in addition to the global edition of “Farming Matters”, there are at this moment related publications in Brazil, China, East Africa, India, Indonesia, Latin America and West-Africa. I had the pleasure in contributing from the early 80s onwards in all three stages of ILEIA, LEISA and FM as well as in LEISA India and LEISA China issues (the latter in Chinese).

ILEIA supports the search for sustainable alternatives to conventional high-input agriculture by collecting, analysing and exchanging information on practical experiences of small farmers, particularly in the South. ILEIA co-operates with many other organisations and individuals in promoting ecologically sound agriculture throughout the world. The main target group is development workers working directly with farmers, within national governments, NGOs, research institutions or other projects. Earlier this year the global edition was on “Trees and farming: Agroforestry as an option” (FM 27(2), 2011). In the “theme overview” it is indicated that over a billion ha of agricultural lands, almost half of the world’s farmland, have more than 10 percent of their area occupied by trees. Over 160 million hectares have more than 50% tree cover. Both can and should be increased.

The most multi-aspect story is that on the “Wanakaset” concept, which means “Forest Agriculture”, as a long term perspective. It is both the name of a farm and of a network of farmers in Thailand. If you are interested in the history, look at the latest URL I gave above to look it up in the FM 27(2), 2011. We here only look at a few striking aspects mentioned. Nowadays they say that “Wanakaset” is focused on developing natural resources to meet their needs and on developing the necessary knowledge to use these resources efficiently. “Wanakaset” takes into account five basic needs: rice, other food, medicines, household goods and soil fertility. Its practitioners differ from most Thai farmers in that they also think that the production of rice is important but that the main emphasis should be on developing their farms into a food and medicine forest. There are many traditional perennial fruit and vegetable crops that continuously provide food but which not require much physical effort after their establishment. Life insurance is obtained by having good quality forest trees.

The reality of a natural forest, the way it is applied in “Wanakaset”, is that there are many layers that co-exist. Up to seven layers are identified and these different levels provide food, medicines, fuel, building materials, and household goods, also insuring the future. This layering approach to agriculture is not limited to food forests. Even in and around rice, a crop that needs a lot of sun, some trees with narrow canopies can be established without much loss of yields. Dipterocarpus species are a fine choice for this, especially because they are flood tolerant. Their deep roots recover nutrients and return them to the topsoil for the rice to use. Organic farmers in northern Thailand grow pineapples, cabbages, and other leafy greens under the canopy of mango and longan trees. Surprisingly, these leafy greens as well as tomatoes do better with partial shading, which is in line with complaints of other tropical farmers that in the presently changing climate with more heat and sunshine, many vegetables in the open do not perform as they used to do. For a comparable approach proposed for India that also covers “forest agriculture”, with carbon sequestration, see

The INSAM triumvirate (Federica Rossi, Massimiliano Magli and Kees Stigter) wishes its 1700 members a very healthy and happy 2012 in work and in daily life.

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