What is Agroforestry exactly? You might wonder. It’s all over in the news. Agroforestry is a more natural way of food production. No more mono-crop that needs too much water and chemicals to grow but poly-crop that is closer to nature’s original plan. With natural water and no chemicals. It’s based on simultaneous growing farm crops and fruit trees of all sorts that support each other.
The agroforestry system is based on mixing vegetable crops, fruit and nut trees and biomass species. It can even include mixing with livestock like cattle, chicken and ducks. It ensures a continuous food supply as well as economic returns. Meanwhile avoiding soil degradation and improving ecosystem health and resilience.
How to start with agroforestry?
You need some crucial information to set up an agroforestry system. There are only 9 steps to take.
1. Share your plan before you start
Sharing is caring. By telling everyone about agroforestry you will find support, simply because Agroforestry feels natural. In every project we spend a part of the budget to educate the community that lives close to the project. This way the project will be more successful because natural and human resources can work together.
2. Analyse the soil
It starts with soil because healthy soil is the solution. Soil that’s full of life, energy, nutrition, and water. We are brought up with the idea that we have to plow and feed the soil, yet protecting the bare soil from evaporation the valuable water and respecting the natural balance will get you so much better results.
A soil sample is essential to visualize the characteristics of the soil. It will allow you to have a better idea of the soil properties, the water table, hydrological cycle, and so on. Basically it will tell you what to plant.
3. Research the history of the plot
It is also important to know the history of the land. For example: Was it bare land or over fertilised? The previous usage can influence the design of the system.
4. Observe the ecosystem around
This is a very important step. To observe and analyse the ecosystem of the land will allow you to gain relevant insights for your agroforestry design. Eco-mapping provides the right information on the eco-system and a clear insight of local vegetation and animals.
5. Desk & field research for ‘cash crops’
If you are thinking of planting crops you better chose one that will sell. We go out there and analyse the current market situation. Knowing the true financial potential of your crops is a huge stimulant to make it work.
It’s very important to know which crops will generate cash in short-term while the long-term fruit and nut trees are not providing any food for harvest yet.
6. Design the farm accordingly to the research made
After having chosen which crops to grow, you can start with the design process of the farm by using the previously gathered information. The design process needs some time and effort, to make the right decisions for this long-term farming system. When designing a model farm we use our international resources to check our initial thoughts. Two hundred know more than two.
7. Make a short and long-term production plan
This production plan contains all the elements necessary to get a better picture of how your farm will look like soon, and in a few years from now, so it can meet your expectations.
8. Purchase plants, organic matter, materials and tools
When the production plan is ready, you are ready. It’s time to get excited. You can start collecting what you need. You could go to shops and nurseries to purchase all the plants, tools and materials necessary, it’s better to start at your neighbours and other farmers to exchange what you need with what you got. It’s cheaper and it will get you more smiles.
9. Prepare the site and start planting
This is where your hands get dirty! Preparing the beds, sowing, planting, mulching is all part of this. Gather you family, friends, local community and reNature volunteers and start creating that future.