Agroforestry, or forest gardening, is the practice of growing of trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables together in a group mimicking a forest, or within an existing forest, with each plant providing the others benefits like shade, protection from predators, life-giving humidity and nutrients. The highly climate- and biodiversity-friendly agricultural practice of agroforestry is now practiced widely around the world, but its roots are deeply indigenous.
As a land management approach, agroforestry integrates woody perennial species with annual crops and/or livestock systems, simultaneously or sequentially on the same unit of land by applying management practices that are compatible with the cultural practices of the local population. Said otherwise, it is the intentional and intensive integration of trees into agricultural systems. Production is usually from more than one layer or stratum of the system (as with permaculture).
Agroforestry practice uses specific species that are most appropriate for its bioregion which fill specific eco-social niches. It is best thought of as a technology, one that provides food, fuel, and marketable commodities like fiber crops, medicines, resins, and fruit in a harmonious natural system while providing a host of other benefits.
Agroforestry is a term that covers an enormous range of land uses at all scales of tenure and investment, ranging from subsistence to plantation farming, and from dozens of species to only two or three.
The careful integration of trees with other agricultural activities enhances the long-term sustainability and productivity of many agroecosystems. This is generally attributed to the role these trees play in controlling erosion, maintaining soil organic matter, improving nutrient cycling efficiency, and ameliorating microclimates.
Ecologically appropriate use of agroforestry practices represents the most potent agricultural carbon drawdown strategy.
Agroforestry is now estimated to cover one billion hectares globally and sequester over 45 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere, a figure that grows annually.