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“Johnny Pineseed” near Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada.

“Johnny Pineseed” near Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada.

Credit: Jacob Lund / Alamy Stock Photo


Call to action:

Expand the use of agroforestry to restore ecosystem health, produce higher yields of sustainable crops, increase water quality, improve wildlife habitat, and boost soil carbon sequestration.

Agroforestry is the intentional integration of forestry with agriculture. It combines trees, shrubs, and vines with crop and animal farming systems in ways that mimic natural ecosystems. Used by millions of people worldwide both as a traditional source of food, fiber, and wood and a modern regenerative farming practice, agroforestry mixes annual crops and perennial trees and plants in different combinations in order to sustain short and long-term financial and ecological returns. Agroforestry provides shade, protects plants and animals from wind, and builds soil health. It can sequester carbon and help end the climate crisis. It is a strategy for restoring degraded land and protecting against drought. It feeds millions of people. It maintains cultural traditions. Agroforestry is a science that studies the interactions between people, trees, and agriculture at a range of scales, from field to forest.

Action Items


Learn why agroforestry is a productive and regenerative system of food production and land management. Agroforestry is a new word for old practices used by millions of people around the world. It is a type of agroecology, a nature-based food system that views farms as ecosystems (see Agroecology Nexus). It has produced food and wood regeneratively for centuries and combines Indigenous and traditional agriculture with scientific researchTypes of agroforestry include forest farms, alley cropping, buffers, and silvopasture (see Farmers below). In much of the industrialized world, forestry and agriculture have been separate disciplines for research, policy, and implementation. Today, agroforestry leads innovation in regenerative food productioncarbon sequestration, and land restoration (see Regenerative Agriculture Nexus and Degraded Land Restoration Nexus). Benefits include:

Learn about the diversity of agroforestry systems around the world. Agroforestry can be utilized in any ecosystem that can support trees and shrubs. Elements can include trees with edible leaves, freshwater fish, chickens, timber trees, milpas, cactus, pigs, hedgerows, and vineyards. The integration of different elements must be in alignment with an area’s ecology. Examples:

Support agroforestry by buying directly from farmers and ranchers who practice regenerative agriculture or from retailers who support them. Purchasing products from regenerative farms and ranches encourages other farmers and ranchers to adopt similar practices and goals. See Regenerative Agriculture Nexus, Perennial Crops Nexus, Agroecology Nexus, and Plant Diversity Nexus for more suggestions.

Grow a forest garden or food forest at home. Organize your garden to grow like a forest. The idea was introduced by Robert Hart in his book Forest Gardening. In a traditional garden, plants and trees are kept separate, but in a forest garden, they are combined in a manner resembling nature.

Donate to or join organizations that support agroecology. There are many choices, including volunteer projects and other community-based initiatives that preserve biodiversity (see Key Players).


Farmers and Ranchers

Adopt or expand agroforestry practices. Agroforestry enables farmers and landowners, small and large, to become sustainably profitable for long periods of time. It can mitigate disaster risk, including the effects of climate change, by improving environmental conditions. It supports families, communities, and nations. The integration of trees and crops needs to be carefully designed and managed over time so they don’t compete for sunlight and water. Some types of agroforestry are more intensive than others, requiring pruning, irrigating, cultivation, and careful control of livestock. All agroforestry practices take advantage of interactions between crops, animals, and trees, creating a synergy this is productive and resilient (see Regenerative Agriculture NexusAgroecology Nexusand Plant Diversity Nexus).

Adopt new practices and technology. New agricultural technology and training programs have the potential to boost agroforestry yields and make farming more efficient and profitable.


Extend agroforestry research into practices and customs that build resilient and equitable food systems, particularly at scale. Agroforestry needs to expand outside of ecology and forestry and study the interconnections between sustainable farming practices, social sciences, cultural heritage, and their potential for ending the climate crisis. By studying agroforestry’s social, ecological, and economic benefits, researchers can make their work more useful to farmers, ranchers, and other types of agriculturalists. New research includes Indigenous and marginalized voices and addresses how agroforestry can be scaled to feed more people.


Support agroforestry as an economically viable, ecologically beneficial, and resilient system of farming. Companies can support agroforestry in diverse ways, particularly in their efforts to improve access to agroforestry products or onset carbon in their supply chain. Onsets are carbon credits that create a net reduction in greenhouse gases.

  • Investors can directly participate in supporting agroforestry and regenerative agriculture with short and long-term investments.
  • Purchase onsets that support agroforestry projects. Organizations, such as Gold Standard and ClimbCo, provide verified onsets via their financial support of projects that improve carbon levels in the soil through agroforestry and reforestation. Examples include projects in MaliColombiaPanama, and Brazil.
  • Help develop markets for products. Agroforestry businesses often lack access to premium markets, especially in low-income countries. Companies can help by building awareness of the benefits of agroforestry for customers.
  • Companies can bring digital technology to the distribution and marketing of agroforestry products. Here is an example of wholesale suppliers of moringa tree products from Africa who support farmers while delivering high-value products.


Remove barriers to farmers seeking to transition to an agroforestry system, including obstacles to obtaining access to necessary land, water, and crop seed. Policies that support agroforestry, particularly in regions with chronic poverty and hunger, need to be adopted and implemented.

  • A proposed Agriculture Resilience Act would steer USDA funding toward sustainable farming practices, including agroforestry, that help farmers and ranchers adapt to climate change.
  • A group of agroforestry experts and organizations published their recommendations for U.S. policymakers to include in the next Farm Bill.
  • India has a National Agroforestry Policy, adopted in 2014, which aims to increase participation by farmers in agroforestry projects. Nepal adopted a similar policy in 2019.
  • An analysis of a case study from Peru reveals how governments can help incentivize changes in agricultural practices that promote sustainability, including agroforestry.
  • report from the UK examines the policy and economic barriers that prevent wider adoption of agroforestry, particularly the long-standing policy of separating land management practices into different bureaucratic sectors.
  • Policy changes can help foster markets for carbon removal and storage in soils via agroforestry practices.

Increase funding for research, outreach, and education programs. Support on-farm innovation, incentive programs, training, and improved capacity to support farmers transitioning to agroforestry systems.

  • In 2022, the USDA made $60 million available for agroforestry projects in 29 states across the U.S.
  • The USDA has an Agroforestry Strategic Framework that provides a road map for research, implementation, education, and adoption that could serve as a role model for other governments. Here is a guide to USDA Agroforestry research funding opportunities.
  • Recommendations on how international governments can improve policies for the adoption of agroforestry can be found here.
  • A network of agroforestry practitioners has called for proactive governmental policies and financial support to help agroforestry products reach new markets.
  • The UN has an Agroforestry Partnership Fund that invests in smallholder farms.

Key Players


World Agroforestry is a global center for research and implementation.

Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Agroforestry Net is an online library and resource center.

Agroforestry program at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization

CIFOR is a research center.

CGIAR’s research program on forests, trees, and agroforestry

Mighty Earth is an advocacy organization for forests.

Agroecology in Action focuses on implementing research.

Ecoagricultural Partners (Washington, D.C.)

One Earth works to accelerate collective action to limit global warming through a transition to regenerative agriculture and agroecology.

A Growing Culture promotes agroecological innovation through farmer-to-farmer exchange.

Food Tank is a think tank for sustainable food.

World Future Council identifies solutions, policies, and practices that promote agroecology, food security, and biodiversity.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads the UN’s effort to defeat hunger and achieve food security.

CGIAR delivers critical science and innovation to transform the world’s food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis.

Agroforestry Regeneration Communities (ARC) works in partnership with smallholder farms and women to advance food forests in Guatemala and East Africa. 

iGiveTrees plants native species trees within tropical agroforestry projects, primarily in Brazil.


Mark Shepard is farmer and agroforestry specialist.

Leah Penniman is a farmer, author, and activist.

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin is an advocate for poultry-centered agroforestry.

Keefe Keeley is the director of the Savanna Institute.

Eric Toensmeier is carbon farming and perennial plant specialist.

Steve Gabriel is an agroforestry specialist and author.

Olivia Watkins of the Black Farmer Fund.



Tree Crops: a Permanent Agriculture (orig. 1929) by J. Russell Smith

Edible Forest Gardens (2 volumes) by David Jacke and Eric Toensmeier

Farming the Woods: An Integrated Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel

Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice by Eric Holt-Gimenez and Raj Patel

list of books and journals about agroforestry

Civil Eats archive on agroecology

The Overstory, an online agroforestry journal for practitioners, researchers, students, and professionals

Mongabay journalism series on agroforestry

Agroforestry Systems, an international scientific journal.


The Agroforestry Podcast (University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry)

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