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Trees on-farm: removing the obstacles to enterprise - A review of current climate-smart tree-based experiences in Malawi

Malawi faces a precarious future. Challenges include: rapid growth among rural populations; entrenched rural poverty, lack of food security; biomass use – especially for energy – that now exceeds productive capacity in some areas; widespread resource degradation including deforestation at about 100,000 hectares per year; and an increasingly unpredictable climate.

An urgent response is required to this situation in which restoration of tree cover is a central component. Trees are crucial for soil conservation and food security, local energy supply, construction materials and medicines. But they are also critical or diversifying income generation. The Government of Malawi has laid out important policies that should help incentivise the use of tree products in local forest enterprises for income generation through agroforestry, on-farm tree planting and woodlot establishment. But so far these policies have failed to deliver entrepreneurial activity based on trees at any significant scale – either through lack of resources for implementation or through entrenched views that discourage such activities at field level.

This report reviews some of the main enterprise developments around on-farm tree crops, assesses their operational challenges, and suggests ways to strengthen their future prospects.

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To restore forests and get out of poverty, rural communities need the knowledge and connections to build flourishing enterprises. Forest landscapes are among the most isolated and marginalised areas in the world, where land, food and energy security and income generation are pressing concerns. Achieving sustainable development in the forest landscape while addressing those immediate needs is a complex challenge that requires joined-up efforts.

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