What is the Forest Garden Approach?
Forest Gardens are a superior farming system with the potential to end hunger and poverty for millions of subsistence farmers struggling to survive throughout the developing world.
The Forest Garden is a locally-appropriate, multi-layered system of farm production. It combines diverse varieties of crops and trees that enable families to fulfill their subsistence needs and access new market opportunities. Forest Gardens provide farming families with sustainable sources of food, livestock fodder, fuel, and forest products to consume and sell at nearby markets. The Forest Garden engages the entrepreneurial spirit and skill of local farmers, allowing them to permanently increase their income and revitalize their degraded lands.
The Forest Garden Approach is a methodology that guides families in planting Forest Gardens over four years. We prioritize doing projects along environmentally-degraded trade routes in order to work directly with large clusters of poor communities with access to local markets. At the onset of each project, highly-trained staff members work directly with large farmer groups to design tailored forest gardens that meet the distinct needs of the families and the market opportunities available. Through a series of workshops, farmers learn to optimize their land. They learn to select, grow and plant diverse trees and crop varieties that maximize yields while also significantly improving the quality of the land being farmed.
All Forest Garden projects are developed with an emphasis on sustainability at both the farm and landscape levels. At the farm level, the Forest Garden is environmentally sustainable because it contains many trees solely dedicated toward serving ecosystem purposes. The Forest Garden design also considers integrated pest management, using trees and vegetation to serve as barriers for pests and sources for natural pesticides. At the landscape level, Forest Gardens are essential tools for reducing pressure on forests, reducing the use of harmful chemicals, and helping to end the battle between farms and forests.
How do you grow a Forest Garden?
The four pictures below show the progression of the same field from different angles over the course of four years.
The first step is to stabilize and protect the field with fast growing trees. Thorny trees, such as the Acacia nilotica seen on the right, form a protective wall. Then rows of fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing trees are planted across the field to stop soil erosion and revitalize tired soils.
Then farmers learn to produce and market a wide variety of fruit trees, vegetables and hardwoods — such as oranges, cashews, avocados, mangoes, guavas, moringa, pepper, lettuce, mahogany, baobab and Gmelina — for consumption and sale.
Forest gardens permanently increase the income of impoverished families by maximizing and diversifying on-farm income sources and products that can be sold throughout the year, while at the same time reducing the risks associated with dependence on one or two crops.
Forest gardens empower hungry families to feed themselves by providing a more balanced and nutritious diet through a diverse food production system which produces fruit and vegetables throughout the year.
Forest gardens revitalize degraded lands and increase productivity of rural landscapes by increasing the soil quality through beneficial tree planting, increasing biodiversity potential and reducing the need for external inputs such as chemicals, fuel wood and animal feed.