Meine van Noordwijk


Agroforestry as a concept has its roots in a critique of a development pathway that segregates functions in the landscape. By building on the multifunctionality of landscapes in which trees serve multiple functions in the provision of both goods and services, agroforestry research aims to enhance the understanding of tradeoffs (at patch, field and landscape scale), find ways to maximise local benefits, provide global benefits through appropriate incentives and challenge the regulatory frameworks that ‘divide and rule’. As the continued ‘agility’ of farmers is crucial for continued adaptation to changing climate, markets and livelihood options, we are interested in ‘sustainagility’: properties of a system that support actors to cope with change, to be adaptive and resilient. Sustainagility complements sustainability at any scale, and contributes to ‘meeting current needs without compromising the future’. Trees and diversity in landscapes contribute to sustainagility. To be effective in this area requires ability to handle ‘conceptual pluralism’ and be an effective communicator and often interlocutor between local ecological knowledge (LEK), the ecological knowledge and paradigms of public policy (PEK) and the ecological knowledge, models and systems analysis of science (MEK). As ‘boundary agent’, the agroforester has to obey the rules of the game of science with its absence of everlasting truths, trust in empiricism, reliance on trustworthy data and continued challenge to ‘predictability’ by maximising clarity of thought.. But she/he also has to obey rules of effectiveness as change agent: understanding, respecting and appreciating the perspectives of multiple stakeholders, optimal ambiguity as basis for political platforms and policy progress, and the relevance of ‘buy in’ through intellectual ownership of self-discovered ideas, rather than being taught. The pursuit of ‘sustainagility science’ is a challenge for African universities as training ground for ‘boundary agents’, as much as for those in Asia and other parts of the world.


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