Thursday, August 5, 2010 - 9:35 AM

SYMP 18-5: Agroforestry adaptation and mitigation options for smallholder farmers vulnerable to climate change

Brenda B. Lin, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship

Agroforestry systems provide many benefits for smallholder farmers vulnerable to the effects of climate change and may prove to be especially important in rural, agriculturally based economies with few other livelihood options. Because crops are sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation, management options that can mitigate climate variability and increase resilience for small farmers should be actively promoted and supported. For farmers, the implementation of agroforestry systems may allow for both adaptation and mitigation opportunities under future climate change scenarios.


Agroforestry systems have been shown to increase farm resilience to climate variability by buffering crops from the effects of temperature and precipitation variability as well as strong winds associated with storms.  The buffering effect leads to greater production stability for farmers, and the increased crop variety within the agroforestry systems allows for a greater diversity in food items produced. There are other naturally occurring co-benefits that occur in agroforestry systems including enhanced nutrient cycling, integrated pest management, and increased resistance to diseases, which will additionally protect farm production. Farmers may be able to take advantage of agroforestry systems for greenhouse gas mitigation as well by selling carbon credits from carbon sequestered within tree plant mass and soil organic matter. For these reasons, agroforestry systems may prove to be both an economically feasible adaptation strategy for smallholder farmers vulnerable to climate change as well as a profitable greenhouse gas mitigation opportunity. The optimization of agroforestry systems in smallholder communities can maximize biodiversity, climate change resilience, and on-farm profitability to create win-win situations under climate change.