03/04/2017 - Article
Montpellier has been chosen to host the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry from 20 to 25 May 2019. Organization of the congress, which is held every five years and has never previously been held in Europe, will be led by CIRAD and INRA, in partnership with Agropolis International. More than a thousand participants from both temperate and tropical zones all over the world are expected. They will be discussing the issues surrounding agroforestry, notably the way in which research results can fuel societal debate and public decision-making.
Agroforestry, a land management method that combines trees and crops, is one answer to the current questions surrounding agro-ecology and climate change. By providing permanent soil cover, agroforestry makes a substantial contribution to carbon capture. How can we ensure that the technical solutions found fuel societal debate and public policy? This question will be at the heart of the next World Agroforestry Congress, "Agroforestry – Strengthening Links between Science, Society and Policy", to be held in Montpellier from 20 to 25 May 2019. Working with land users to design innovative agroforestry practices will make it possible to manage rural areas more efficiently and diversify production and make it more environmentally friendly, sustainable and resilient to climate change", says Emmanuel Torquebiau, the CIRAD researcher who will be chairing the international organizing committee. "Putting "good ideas" into practice is a societal issue, a question of public policy that will involve institutional reforms." And he adds: "One of the challenges is to persuade advocates of conventional a griculture and forestry that landscapes with a mixture of trees and crops are a solution for the future".
France has played a pivotal role in scientific debate on agroforestry: "It was the first European country to implement a national agroforestry development plan", says Christian Dupraz, a researcher with INRA, who will be chairing the scientific committee. Montpellier, for its part, is the only site in Europe working on agroforestry in both tropical environments (CIRAD) and temperate zones (INRA). "The decision to hold the congress in Montpellier is a sign of global recognition that confirms the importance of agroforestry and acknowledges the efforts made in the region over the past 35 years", says a delighted Christian Dupraz.
Several dozen researchers with various research units at CIRAD and INRA have been working on agroforestry since the 1980s. In particular, they are studying the issues surrounding multi-storey agriculture, timber production in crop plots, shade trees for perennial crops (coffee and cocoa), and multi-storey agroforests and agroforest gardens.
The congress will centre on three plenary sessions, covering climate change, food security and poverty alleviation, and lastly the identification of agroforestry research requirements on a global level. Some 24 parallel sessions will look at subjects as varied as agroforestry and agro-ecology, soil carbon capture, the role of public policy, desertification, eco-certification of agroforestry, agroforest landscapes, and gender in agroforestry. Some sessions will be held at Restinclières, near Montpellier, which has a recognized agroforestry experimental infrastructure suitable for field visits. The congress will offer field trips in France and various neighbouring countries and optional side events from Thursday 23 to Saturday 25 May.