ILVO and Inagro now participate in the European Thematic Network called AFINET, bringing their expertise on agroforestry to a knowledge cluster of 13 partners from 9 countries or regions (Spain, the UK, Belgium, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Italy, France and Finland). AFINET is funded by the H2020 program of the European Commission for total of €2M. Each participating country chooses a research focus of regional importance. In Flanders we have chosen to continue our work on various types of agroforestry with fruit and nut trees. ILVO and Inagro coordinate the Flemish Regional Network (RAIN), taking care of the relationships within the regional network and ensuring knowledge exchange with the other project partners.
The main goal of AFINET is to encourage knowledge exchange between the people applying agroforestry and other stakeholders (e.g. researchers, policymakers, advisors, extension research centers, etc.) to stimulate innovative agroforestry practices. AFINET works on the EU level to ensure that research results are translated to all parties interested in applying agroforestry, across the EU. A European online archive will be created with scientific and practical knowledge about agroforestry.
Regional and international
In each partner country, a Regional Agroforestry Innovation Network (RAIN) is set up. RAINs are working groups in which farmers and other key actors with complementary knowledge (researchers, SMEs, advisors, extension research centers, policy, etc.) share their knowledge and experiences regarding agroforestry. They also look for opportunities to optimize existing agroforestry practices. Each RAIN focuses on a specific theme, depending on the interests of the RAIN members. In Flanders, the focus is on agroforestry with fruit and nut trees.
Many focus areas
More than 180 stakeholders attended the first RAIN meetings which took place in recent weeks across Europe. The focus in each country or region is different: Italy wants to work on agroforestry with olive orchards, while in Portugal “montado” or cork-oak trees are combined with grazing lands for cattle, sheep or pigs. In Finland, the focus is on silvopastoral systems, where ruminants graze in forested areas. In Poland and Hungary, agroforestry is a completely new idea for the farmers.
In Flanders, 22 stakeholders participated in a RAIN meeting, most of which were farmers. Areas of concern included tree row management and increasing the profitability of agroforestry systems (optimal tree/crop combinations), the need for more information about the nutritional value of feed trees, more insight into the marketing opportunities for agroforestry products, and the optimization of agroforestry legislation. The next meeting is scheduled for January 2018.
In various RAINs, the suggestion for development of a quality label was heard. Another shared concern is the legal context around agroforestry; stakeholders in Hungary, Poland and Spain noted that there are many legislative stumbling blocks regarding the combination of agriculture and forestry. Echoes of the Flemish RAIN meeting could be heard in other RAINS regarding the lack of information about management of agroforestry systems (e.g. optimal tree/crop combinations), costs and profitability of agroforestry, and the need for more demonstration farms. The RAIN members will meet regularly over the next 3 years to share knowledge both horizontally and vertically.
Agroforestry is a climate-friendly agricultural practice (‘Climate-smart agriculture’), where cultivation of woody crops (trees or bushes) is consciously combined with either arable crops or animal production. In this way new products and/or services are created in economic, ecological and social levels. If approached in the right way, agroforestry can improve the profitability of a farm (in part due to diversification of activities) and can help to preserve natural benefits for the current and future generations.
More info and contacts
The RAIN coordinator for Flanders is Bert Reubens (ILVO): firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 9/272 26 70
Funding: Horizon 2020, European Union (Subsidy-agreement nr. 727872).