Edible Fruit Forests

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Edible Fruit Forests, Carbon Sequestration,
and a Well-Fed World

One thing that we all hear practically everyday on the world news is the lack of food and need of reforestation all across the globe. Well, planting fruit trees is a two-in-one solution that can tackle these and many more other challenges we need to address and get into action to secure the subsistence of all life on Earth – and still get a very good chance to have the world we (the good people wearing the white hats) have been saying we want.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, the following text has been curated by The Noble Peace Tribe Team from “Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition. A Global Assessment Report” and its Policy Brief, published as IUFRO World Series Volume 33 in 2015. 

Despite impressive productivity increases, there is growing evidence that conventional agricultural strategies fall short of eliminating global hunger, result in unbalanced diets that lack nutritional diversity, enhance exposure of the most vulnerable groups to volatile food prices, and fail to recognize the long-term ecological consequences of intensified agricultural systems.

There is growing recognition that forests and tree-based systems complement farmland agriculture in providing food security, contributing to dietary diversity and quality, and addressing nutritional shortfalls. Forests and tree-based systems are particularly critical for food security and nutrition for the poorest and the most vulnerable, including women.

Most forest- and tree-based systems are underpinned by the accumulated traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities. Working with farmers to combine the best of traditional and formal scientific knowledge offers tremendous potential to enhance the productivity and resilience of these systems and the flow of direct (nutrition) and indirect (income) benefits to their practitioners.

However, there is a range of diverse drivers (including climate change, armed conflicts, population growth, urbanization, gender imbalances, commercialization of agriculture and industrialization of forest resources, rising food prices, increasing per capita income, and governance shifts) that affect forests and tree-based systems for food security and nutrition.

The loss and degradation of forests exacerbate the problem of food insecurity. …At the same time the growing demand for food, fibers, energy and other goods produced on the land often leads to market pressures for exploitation. This can result in forest destruction unless managed through appropriate governance systems and institutions.

Managing resilient and climate-smart landscapes on a multi-functional basis that combines food production, biodiversity conservation, other land uses and the maintenance of ecosystem services should be at the forefront of efforts to achieve global food security.

However, in most countries responsibility for managing these diverse elements of the productive landscape is typically fragmented across different government departments and administrative jurisdictions. The complex, overlapping and interconnecting processes that link tree products and services to food security and nutrition are currently not adequately represented in forestry, agriculture, food or nutrition-related strategies at global and national levels. Yet their importance is often well known at more local scales by consumers, forest producers and farmers.

Sustainable land use approaches aim at balancing livelihood security and nutritional needs of people with other land management goals. The contribution of forests to these approaches is of high significance for the implementation of existing international commitments. In particular, in the context of the discussions on the United Nations post-2015 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which seek to establish a more holistic approach to poverty reduction, the contribution of forests to food security and nutrition, and the integration of food production across forests and landscapes are of particular relevance.

Roles of Forests and Tree-based Systems in Food Provision

Forests and trees play an important role in the lives of many people as they provide numerous products, such as foods, medicines, fodder, fibers, fuels, and material for construction, fencing and furniture, which do not only come from trees but also a wide range of (often) “less visible” products from other plants, fungi, animals and insects. Forests and tree-based systems (e.g. agroforestry) are estimated to contribute to the livelihoods of more than 1.6 billion people worldwide. Moreover, forests and tree-based systems also contribute indirectly to people’s livelihoods through the provision of a wide range of ecosystem services, such as provision of genetic resources, habitat, water (quality and quantity), pollination, microclimatic regulation, soil formation, erosion control, nutrient cycling, and pest regulation.

Roles in Food Security and Nutrition

Food security exists when communities “have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life” (Pinstrup-Andersen, 2009).

Globally, it is estimated that 50% of all fruit consumed by humans originate from trees, most of which come from cultivated sources. Many of these planted trees still have “wild” or “semi-wild” stands in “native” forest that are also harvested and which form important genetic resources for the improvement of planted stock. Although apparently wild, some forest fruit tree species have undergone a degree of domestication to support more efficient production […]. (p. 30 of the report)

An example from the Amazon is the peach palm (Bactris
gasipaes) or chontaduro in Spanish. Ancient harvesting,
managed regeneration and cultivation have resulted in
an important genetic diversity, leading to numerous
fruits, colors, and qualities. Peach palms can be
considered the most important domesticated palm species
of the Neotropics (tropics and semi-tropics of South
and Central America), cultivated by smallholders in
agroforestry systems (together with coffee, banana,
pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, maize, cassava and/or
cacao) for their edible fruits (comparable to firm
sweet potato or roasted chestnut), heart of palm and
valuable timber. Pre-Columbian also uses included the
roots as medicine, the spines for needles, the leaves
for thatch and basketry, and the flowers as ingredient
for flavorings.

-reference: Wikipedia

Traditional agroforestry systems often harbor high biodiversity and can deliver a wide array of tree foods including fruits and leafy vegetables that are both cultivated and are remnants of natural forest. When established in agroforestry systems with shade trees, food diversity and sustainability of tree crop systems increase. In Ethiopia, for example, the inclusion of fruit-bearing trees as shade in coffee plantations provides farmers with access to additional foods, such as mangoes, oranges, bananas and avocados, as well as firewood and timber.

Tree foods are often rich sources of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and other nutrients, and in several cases exceed levels of animal sources. However, for many traditional and wild species such information is lacking or not reliable. Increasing knowledge on the biochemical components of indigenous tree species that are not widely used in agriculture internationally remains an important area of research.

Figure 2.2 p. 29 in assessment report (full): Fruit tree portfolio for year-round vitamin C and A supply in Kenya

Trees also provide firewood and green manure that replenishes soil fertility and hence substitute (or enhance) mineral fertilizer application. Tree planting as green fertilizers can stabilize annual crop production in drought years and during other extreme weather events, and improved crop rain use efficiency, contributing to food security in the context of climate change in the region. 

Dietary Choices, Access to Resources and Behavioral Change 

Although trees and other forest plants can provide edible fruit, nuts and leaves, etc. that are often good sources of nutrients, they are not necessarily used to feed populations for reasons such as high labour costs involved in collection and processing, low yields, high phenotypic variability (with large proportions of non-preferred produce), dietary choices/preferences, and lack of knowledge in the community. Domestication can help to increase productivity, quality, access – thus the use of wild sources – and address the complex threats to the use of wild stands through a combination of over-harvesting, deforestation, the conflicting use of resources and restricted (or uncontrolled) access to forests. 

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Recommended Sources

The recently declared UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030) “aims to massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems as a proven measure to fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity.”
Source: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1182090/icode/

Amazon rainforest was shaped by an ancient hunger for fruits and nuts. People living in the area thousands of years ago may have changed the forest around them in ways that are still visible today.
https://www.nature.com/news/amazon-rainforest-was-shaped-by-an-ancient-hunger-for-fruits-and-nuts-1.21576 

The legacy of 4,500 years of polyculture agroforestry in the eastern Amazon.
Our results suggest that, in the eastern Amazon, the subsistence basis for the development of complex societies began ~4,500 years ago with the adoption of polyculture agroforestry, combining the cultivation of multiple annual crops with the progressive enrichment of edible forest species.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41477-018-0205-y

Though conservationists still speak of the Amazon as a “pristine” region, Levis says that its environmental allies should talk about it differently. We can look to it, she says, as an example of how human influence can enrich the Amazon.
“Human societies increased the abundance and distribution of useful species. This can also be used to preserve the forest, I think,” she told me. “We can use this as an opportunity to reduce the impacts of deforestation. Now we have huge plantations of soybeans that are destroying the Amazon—while in the forest we have lots of plants that can be used while maintaining the forest as it is.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/its-now-clear-that-ancient-humans-helped-enrich-the-amazon/518439/

“California’s Central Valley, the richest agricultural land in the United States, which grows the same crops that persist at the forgotten trading post. But down on the valley floor, trees are pruned, sprayed, irrigated, fertilized. Without those measures, their productivity could not be sustained.
The trees of the hidden orchard have remained productive for more than a century without any such assistance. Far from being a lost piece of history marooned on a mountain, the orchard is a treasure chest.”
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/future-of-food/california-agriculture-food-drought-resistance/

Cassidy, Emily et al, “Redefining Agricultural Yields: From Tonnes to People Nourished Per Hectare.” Environmental Research Letters, V. 8(3). IOPScience, September 2013, p. 2-3. http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/3/034015

Smil, Vaclav, Feeding the World: A Challenge for the 21st Century, MIT Press, 2000, p. 145-157.

Yacoubou, Jeanne, “Factors Involved in Calculating Grain:Meat Conversion Ratios.” Vegetarian Resource Group, last accessed October 2015. www.vrg.org/environment/grain_meat_conversion_ratios.php

The Vegan Society and New Economics Foundation have recently launched a ground-breaking report in the next phase of the Grow Green campaign. This important report outlines how climate change can be tackled through plant protein agriculture and what policies could encourage this transition. Read the full report here.

ABUNDANT LIVING in the coming age of the tree, by Kathleen Jannaway.
Properly managed forests, with adjacent integrated forest industries, could be the regional centres of rings of self­reliant village communities. Modern communication technology would prevent isolation and facilitate global cooperation. Such developments would both require and foster fundamental changes in human values and habits and lead to an era of abundance, peace and spiritual evolution.

Food Forests and Forest Gardens
The forest garden is the ultimate, perennial Permaculture system.


High-yielding planting regimes, food forests and gardens use perennials that need not be planted each year. They produce a larger percentage of biomass (per acre?) than conventional farms and gardens, and, by design, are diverse and complex ecosystems. Forest gardens have the capacity to restore health and balance to the landscape.

https://www.permacultureproject.com/permaculture-consulting/food-forest-and-forest-garden-planning-design-and-development/

“…how do we dismantle and replace industrial and animal agriculture with systems that are life-sustaining and liberatory? Another theme that emerged was whether a vegan permaculture (vegaculture?) needs a ‘fourth ethic’ in addition to ‘Earth Care, People Care and Fair Shares’ – one of ‘Do Least Harm’. Is it enough to simply ‘care for’ our non-human fellow earth-citizens whilst our relationships with them continue to be exploitative, or should we actively promote their recognition as self-willed beings with an intrinsic right to exist free from unnecessary harm?

Not all permaculturists or permaculture projects are vegan, and I’ve often been asked whether a completely animal-free permaculture is even actually possible. My response is, of course not, and neither would it be desirable. For example, how would we fence out the earthworms that build our soil and maintain its fertility, or the bees that pollinate our fruit trees and vegetables, and why ever would we wish to? In fact, we actively design in features that are intended to attract wildlife: Ponds for frogs, toads and dragonflies, and flowering plants to bring in the ladybirds and hoverflies that keep populations of potential pests like slugs and aphids in check, and are essential to maintaining healthy productive ecosystems. What we don’t include are those ‘system components’ that we believe perpetuate exploitative relationships with our non-human earth co-citizens, such as pigs, goats and chickens, whose primary function is the production of meat, milk and eggs.”

https://spiralseed.co.uk/vegan-permaculture/

“Our food and seed gardens and reforestation project are elements of our strategy to promote regional food autonomy for a culture of peace. As we grow our food, we don’t exploit but enhance the soil’s vitality. Our vision is that biotopes of abundance will arise all over the world, nourishing the biosphere and all of humankind.”

Tamera’s ecology team
https://www.tamera.org/events/introduction-and-gardening-april-may-2019/

Properly managed forests, with adjacent integrated forest industries, could be the regional centres of rings of self­reliant village communities. Modern communication technology would prevent isolation and facilitate global cooperation. Such developments would both require and foster fundamental changes in human values and habits and lead to an era of abundance, peace and spiritual evolution.

Kathleen Jannaway,
ABUNDANT LIVING in the coming age of the tree

Humanity faces multiple global dangers created by the human race itself. Fortunately, intentional communities have been formed across the globe to cope with these dangers COOPERATIVELY.

https://www.ic.org/planet-community/

“Human health must be linked to planetary health, and how we feed ourselves has a major impact on the planet.”

Dr. David J. Jenkins, developed the glycemic index

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