In Ghana, Ripples women stakeholder farmers are reintroducing centuries-old principles of agroforestry to plant 50,000 Shea trees, and 2000 Cashew trees, while farmers in Nigeria have over 50,000 acres of Cashew. This regenerative form of agroforestry mimics nature in a holistic system that unites trees, crops and plants with livestock to create a “self-sustaining production system.”
At a time when half the world’s fertile soil is already lost and, with an estimated 60 years of topsoil left, agroforestry is one aspect of regenerative agriculture that addresses the problems caused by abusive land overuse and the current climate crisis.
“Ripples women are innately in tune with the concepts of conservation and with growing forest crops and medicinal plants, both of which benefit from agroforestry,” Toba says. “Involving them in agroforestry is a win-win situation.”
Through agroforestry, the health of the soil improves, thereby increasing crop yields. Both trees and soil serve as powerful carbon sinks.
Ripples women stakeholder farmers utilize a process known as multi storey farming. Crops are produced on the same piece of land at different levels from tree tops (e.g., cashew trees) to traditional ground crops (maize, millet, crawling crops like soybeans and beans to root crops like cassava and yams.
“The average African woman small stakeholder farmer understands things like climate change from a subsistence point of view,” says Toba. “She might not know the term agroforestry, but she understands that if she grows this tree there will be no erosion and she will be able to make a large sum of money. She realizes erosion is not good for her crops and that changes in the climate impact her daily life and the life of her family and community.”
Ripples is deliberate in the types of trees they select, says Toba. They concentrate on economic trees, such as cashew trees, shea trees, locust bean trees, kapok and baobab trees that grow for over a hundred years. “We call them economic trees because Ripples women harvest the fruits from these trees annually, they’re a major source of income as well as climate friendly. They fruit once or twice a year and can be a major source of income for over 40 years.”
Toba refers to a recent 2021 IUCN and UNFCCC report that points to a 30% reduction in soil erosion and a 20% increase in the carbon content of soil if ½ of African farmers practiced regenerative agriculture, which includes agroforestry. “An investment in regenerative agriculture in Africa is an investment in women. They comprise about 50% of the country’s stakeholder farmers and grow 70% of Africa’s food,” says Toba.