Open to researchers, students, farmers, NGOs, and political and economic decision-makers alike, the congress is expecting some 1500 participants from more than 100 countries. This international event is being organized in Europe for the first time, by CIRAD and INRA, in partnership with World Agroforestry, Agropolis International and Montpellier University of Excellence. It will be preceded on 19 May by a day of events for the general public, organized by the Fondation de France and the French Association of Agroforestry.
It is through a public day, organized by the Fondation de France and the French Association of Agroforestry, that this Week of Agroforestry will start on Sunday 19 May at Le Corum. "We wanted, through this general public day ahead of the congress, to make agroforestry better known to civil society" , explains Emmanuel Torquebiau, Agroforestry Project Manager at CIRAD and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry.
Agroforestry, the future of agriculture?
The organizers wanted to anchor this fourth edition of the World Congress on Agroforestry, to be held from 20 to 22 May 2019, in the societal debate on agriculture. "It is time for technical solutions to be discussed within civil society and to become part of public policy ", comments Christian Dupraz , INRA Research Director and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the congress. By combining science and dialogue with society, the congress will be an opportunity to assess the contribution of agroforestry to the agro-ecological transition of agriculture at the global level.
Agroforestry, which involves combining trees with crops and pastures, is now recognized to protect soils, address climate change issues and contribute to global food security. This practice could therefore be the future of agriculture. The fields of application are very diverse: hedges and alignment of trees or shrubs in and around plots, multilayer agriculture, timber or fruit production in cropland, fodder trees, trees for honey, shade trees for perennial crops (coffee, cocoa, grapevines) or livestock, multilayer agroforests and agroforestry gardens.
An International Union of Agroforestry will be created at the Congress, to federate agroforestry innovations on a global scale.
On Thursday 23 May, participants will be able to visit the main European experimental agroforestry site at Domaine de Restinclières in Prades-le-Lez (11 km north of Montpellier) where cereals (durum wheat and barley rotated with protein peas) are grown with many tree species, particularly walnut trees. In more stony soils, Vines are grown with pines and cormiers. This 50-ha experimental farm, which belongs to Hérault County Council, is scientifically managed by INRA Occitanie-Montpellier.
France and Montpellier, 35 years of agroforestry research
The concept of agroforestry emerged in the 1970s in international think tanks seeking solutions to the problem of tropical deforestation. Today, agroforestry has become a subject of international research, which is now part of the agricultural education curriculum around the world.
It was at the University of Montpellier that the first French research on agroforestry was conducted in the 1980s. Research is now conducted within the Agropolis International scientific community, thanks to research teams at CIRAD, INRA and IRD.
France has played a leading role in scientific thinking on agroforestry, with the implementation of a National Plan for the Development of Agroforestry in 2016. Today, more than 15 French research units, bringing together around 120 researchers are involved in agroforestry.