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Agroforestry Wales – making land work for people and nature

Wales’ nature is on the brink of collapse. Some of us will realise, some will not. We can look at our landscape and see ‘a green and pleasant land’, though to scratch the surface is to reveal a deeply urgent, underlying issue.

Growing up in mid-Wales I was lucky to experience an abundance of wildlife and biodiversity. These interactions formed the foundations of my role today as the campaigns officer at Coed Cadw – Woodland Trust in Wales. Without this direct experience, I might not have valued, or realised its decline. In parallel, we’re experiencing the increasing uncertainties of climate change. It’s of deepening concern - who will fight for nature next, if not be shaped by it?

In Wales, the average owner of a farm holding is over 60 years old, and just 3% are under 35. What worked for their parents and grandparents will not work for future generations.

‘Cold terrain’, Wye Valley, Mid-Wales (Photo: WTML / Nigel Pugh)
‘Cold terrain’, Wye Valley, Mid-Wales (Photo: WTML / Nigel Pugh)

A system changed

Agriculture really began to change after the Second World War. A lot more land was turned over to food production, it was mechanised and intensified. Later the Common Agricultural Policy was introduced, and it’s been widely blamed for encouraging environmentally damaging, intensive farming further. It encouraged the removal of trees and shrubs from agricultural land to maximise payments, whilst undermining much of our well-loved nature.

Though please remember, not one person is to blame for this. We’ve all been part of a system that has contributed to the loss of our nature, but now’s the time to change that system. 

Delivering agroforestry

Agroforestry describes farming systems that combine trees and shrubs with agricultural crops or livestock. By increasing trees on agricultural land we can vastly improve how that land works for people and nature, whilst addressing climate change.

In Wales, a massive 84% of land is used for agriculture.

More trees on agricultural land will:

•  Increase wildlife and biodiversity
•  Prevent soil loss and increase soil fertility
•  Enhance farm productivity and contribute to local employment
•  Improve animal welfare
•  Retain water on land for crops, livestock and people
•  Reduce flooding, water and air pollution
•  Store carbon and help landscapes and people to adapt to climate change.

Agroforestry Wales

One of the biggest barriers to transitioning in farming with nature is the worry about balancing the books. All have been subjected to tricky economic times, austerity, or being squeezed by global markets, not forgetting the uncertainties that Brexit brings.

Agroforestry can make a lasting, positive impact on local wildlife, biodiversity, and the local economy. It can hugely contribute to communities' wellbeing and resilience while facing the uncertainties that climate change presents. It can help meet the Welsh Government's local commitments and global responsibilities outlined under the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Stories to tell

Agroforestry is not commonly understood. If more trees are combined into food production, what does it look like and deliver?

We plan to explore the visions, the reasons, the influences and successes. Can we grow pride in agricultural land management decisions that store carbon, reduce flood risks, and create space for our nature again?

Let’s make sure funding supports the expansion of trees on agricultural land, whilst future-proofing food production, for the wellbeing of all.

Ask your Assembly Member to ensure a harvest for future generations

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