Campaigners have called for policy makers to recognize the role of trees in fighting famine in the world’s most drought stricken areas. Trees can provide vital nourishment in times of famine, through fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, sepals, even sap, and often survive when other crops fail.
Miranda Spitteler, chief executive of Tree Aid, urged that the West recognize the important role trees could play in reducing the need for conventional aid. ‘Most often crops are not native and require expensive inputs, significant irrigation and land preparation in order to produce a successful harvest’, she said. ‘They are more vulnerable to droughts and for smallholder farmers in Africa’s drylands, a failed harvest can mean months of malnutrition and hardship.’
Latest research indicates that rising food prices and climate change have plunged an estimated 75 to 100 million of the world’s poorest people into poverty and food insecurity. Emergency food aid has for decades been the standard international response to crises, yet campaigners argue that it is more effective to address the emergency before it happens.
Spitteler explained that policy makers need to target hunger at the epicenter of poverty – smallholder farmers in rural Africa – and provide practical support for a local tree-based solution to food shortages. ‘[Farmers] need support to adopt agro-forestry techniques, which boost soil fertility and provide tree food crops to supplement nutrition. This approach can increase self-sufficiency for both rural communities and national economies.’
‘Groups like the G8 must make a commitment to developing the enormous potential of agro-forestry…They will simultaneously alleviate poverty and food insecurity for people who need it most.’