Smallholder agriculture in Malawi, Niger, Burkina Faso and Zambia has benefited from the doubling and tripling of maize yields, thanks to a unique acacia known as the “fertilizer tree”, the evidence of which has been presented at a conference in Hague.

And with these findings, agroforestry experts at the conference want decision-makers in Africa to use these findings by spreading them to parts of Africa that are most affected by food shortages and climate change and also find new ways by which the lives of smallholder farmers can be made easier by solving their most pressing problems.

According to Dr. Dennis Darity, Director-General of the World Agroforestry Centre, the integration of these fertilizer trees might be an affordable and easily accessible answer to the production shortages that are currently plaguing Africa’s farms.

He also mentioned that if the target of doubling Africa’s food production capability was to be reached by 2050, then an unconventional approach (such as ‘evergreen agriculture’) will have to be taken up as the continent’s soil has depleted along with farmers having to cope with a changing climate as well.

Evergreen agriculture has been able to provide crop yields in the aforementioned countries due to the fact that these trees are able to trap nitrogen from the air while being able to replenish the soil by transferring nitrogen through its roots and leaf litter. Not only do these trees add nutrients to the soils but they increase food crop yields and the production of timber, fuel and fodder.

Faidherbia albida is one such example which not only provides cover for several crops to grow but does not compete for food, light or soil during the crop-growing period as it remains dormant during that period. In addition, the leaves and pods of the tree serve as animal fodder, and continue to provide these benefits for almost 70 to 100 years.

And what is remarkable is that farmers in Malawi have increased their crop yields by almost 280 percent using evergreen agriculture, this being a sign of the times ahead, which will use this environmentally-sound farming technology that will be developed further to cater to a wider range of smallholder farming systems in diverse agricultural environments in order to increase crop yields substantially.